The thing about teaching is that every day is a new lesson, a new topic, and in general, a large amount of prep work. Some days, class consists of a matching activity that has been differentiated based on each students’ individualized MAP score. #winning There are other days when I need something quick and easy to implement. **Today’s post is all about how to turn any worksheet into an activity with little or no preparation time!**

# Turn any worksheet into an activity

## 1. Tic-Tac-Toe

- Prep Time: 15 seconds
- Materials: Whiteboard and Expo marker

First, assign one half of the classroom as Xs and the other half as Os. The goal is simple: get three in a row before the opposing team does. **I sketch 4-5 tic-tac-toe boards and explain to students that after their table finishes two problems, one person from their table can place an X or an O. **

In order to place the X or the O, they have to be correct, they have to have shown their math strategies, they have to include __________ (units, formulas, etc), and everyone at their table has to have it complete. They show me the symbol for done, I come and check, and if everything looks good, then they can come to the board and place an X/O. They compete on one game board until there is a win, and then students will play on the next game board.

## 2. Magnet Race

- Prep Time: 1 minute
- Materials: whiteboard, number line, two different magnets

To set it up, you need to either draw a number line on the board or project one on a whiteboard. This activity is fashioned much like tic-tac-toe. Students have to complete a few problems with the criteria for success that I have explained; then, as tables finish the allotted number of problems, I check their work and tell them to “make a move.”

The two magnets begin at 0. **As students make a move, they can choose to move their team’s magnet in the positive direction two spaces or they can move the opposing team’s magnet one space in the negative direction.** Whichever team has their magnet at a greater value by the time the timer goes off wins.

This is a very engaging activity that does tend to get a little heated, so I usually don’t introduce moving the opponent’s magnet in a negative direction until I think students can handle it. Some classes never get to do that, and that’s okay. **You can also make more challenging problems worth more spaces to give it more variety.**

## 3. Math Dates

- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- This is best with a study guide/review or when you need to practice word problems

In my classroom, students are almost always assigned to a table and/or a partner to work with. So, math dates are a fun way for them to have choice. **Students will draw a clock (circle) and label the times 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.** Then, I set the timer for two minutes and students move around the room to set a date at each time slot. At the end each student should have four different partners. Inevitably the first time you do this, someone will mess it up and write down the wrong name at the wrong time, but it’s an easy fix.

Once students are back in their seats, you will call out a time, and students will move to that partner and work on whichever problems you assign.

For example, “Find your 3:00 partner and work questions 3, 7, and 9.”

At that time, I might have a student who doesn’t have a date, so they come see me and I set them up on a “blind date.” **Your students may or may not be able to handle the word “date,” so you can always call these math appointments! **

## 4. Grafitti!

- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Materials: butcher paper and markers

Cover tables with brightly colored butcher paper. Then, provide various markers to students. Project math problems on the board, and have students complete problems grafitti style on the paper. ** This allows students to feel like they are doing something really special when actually all they are doing is math! **Who am I kidding? Math is really special!

Many of my students will write larger since they have lots more space, and many will even incorporate colors into their strategies. It also makes checking work easier because you can see it by just walking by. To be honest, I have not done this activity in my classroom, but my fellow math teacher (shout out Ms. Henry!) has had success, so I plan to try it ASAP. She used it during independent practice to prepare for STAAR.

Do you have any go to activities? What are your students’ favorites? I would love to hear your other ideas for how to turn any worksheet into an activity.

Nancy says

What great ideas! I love the speed date idea, a great way for struggling students to get peer tutoring as well!

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks, Nancy!

Jennifer says

I use Atari flashback. I assign a problem to the teams. If both teams get it right they play each other. If only one team has it right they play me (Maze Craze was one of my favorites growing up in the students can’t beat me!)

Similarly, instead of Atari, sometimes I use tanagrams. Teams that get a problem correct get 20 seconds to work on completing the tanagram picture their team selected from my poster.

Noelle Pickering says

I love these ideas! Anything to mix it up and provide some competition!

Courtney says

These ideas are great. I can use them with my basic level high school students. 🙂

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks, Courtney!

jennifer stockard says

Great idea’s …really like the graffiti and tic tac toe…I keep my students arranged in groups, but this allows a little more movement…Thanks

Francis says

Noelle,

A couple other things I’ve done in my classroom to make a worksheet into an activity are to have post a problem(s) and have student copy the problem onto a piece of paper. When they are finished they either make a snowball (by crumpling the paper) or can make a paper airplane and stand up. Once everyone is done they then get to throw the snowball/paper airplane. Then they retrieve a paper to check the problem a peer did.

Tyne Brack says

This sounds so fun!

Stacie says

Great ideas! I like to do musical chairs math. I play music and the students walk around the room and find a chair to work in. Key is they can only do 2 math problems in one seat. Then they have to jump up to find the next empty seat. They love it and they’re just doing their regular WB for the day!

Tyne Brack says

That is brilliant! I’m going to try this when I return from the summer! Thanks for sharing!

Brittany Brown says

My students love the puzzle activity we do. I normally do groups of about 4. Each person has a role: reader, runner, writer (everyone writes but this person makes sure everyone is writing), on task person, and puzzle maker if there are 5 people. I have the worksheet printed off in a different color for each group so we can keep the pieces together easier. I cut up the page into pieces so each problem is on its own. The runner, (or person getting new questions and puzzle pieces) comes and gets a problem and takes it back for them to work together. Once everyone has an answer, the runner brings it back to me and if they get it correct, they get a new problem and a puzzle piece. The objective is the finish the puzzle. They love this!

Tyne Brack says

I love this! In fact, I am going to try this in my classroom. Thank you for sharing!

Chris says

I use something similar to the graffiti example. An idea from another teacher (shout out to E. Willard) Write a problem on their desk with dry erase markers. Then let the students solve their problem. I can see their answers as I walk around, if it is correct I give them a baby wipe to clean their desk. (Double duty)