Sponge activities are great fillers and intentional activities, for that time in the class when you still have some minutes to spare or are at that juncture where you wish to capture the thoughts of the students to evaluate their learning. Sponge activities work brilliantly for reflection time and critical thinking.
As teachers, depending on the age of our students, we could use those few minutes that are left over from the class, or those days just before the vacation when no ‘new teaching learning’ takes place for sponge activities.
In fact, students should be encouraged to identify their favorite sponge activity which they don’t just use as fillers, but actually engage with them in a deliberate way when ever they have loose time on their hand. For example, when traveling on the school bus. In fact, I have noticed many children, specially middle school, invent their own little games!
- Reflective writing: Students could write about the most interesting class they had that term or the most interesting moment of a class.
- Gratitude notes: Get them to write personalized thank you notes for school staff, peers and parents.
- Review tasks: They could use the few left over minutes to review their class notes, speak with the teacher individually to get their doubts cleared.
- Build a story: Another interesting activity that they can do is ‘pass the story’. They could start with a prompt and then each one would write a line, an example or not-an-example for it and pass it to the other member in the group. A similar activity can be done with ‘pass a sketchnote’. The teacher can pick up one concept or topic and the students in turn draw their learning.
- RAFT writing to learn prompts (Santa & Havens, 1995; Simon, 2016) can be used for quick writing assignments as formative assessments to check understanding. You can read more about this here.
- Role: What is the role of the writer ( Author, traveler, plant cell, organ system, triangle etc)
- Audience: Who is the intended audience (students, a passenger, judge, general public, angles of a triangle, tissues-cells-organs in the organ system)
- Format: What is the format of writing. ( a note, tweet, journal, position statement, poem, song, court appeal, poster etc)
- Topic: What is the focus of the writing ( any critical thinking question, example from the organ system- ‘Our relationship’
But what about those times in the day when we, adults, are caught between two events and have some time to fill in? What do we do at that time? What sponge activities do we have in our repertoire that we can engage with?
My daily sponge activities:
- I carry one small diary and few colored pens always. If I have a short waiting time anywhere, I just sketchnote my surroundings, simply practice, or ‘draw my day’ etc.
- Hear a podcast and make short notes on Evernote, that I would elaborate upon later or research more about.
- Prepare my schedule for the next day.
- Use that time for reading on kindle, sending off emails, check twitter and bookmark articles for reading later.
The in between time matters.