Thursday, November 7, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Sponges

Hi all!

I have two questions for you:

1. When do most discipline/classroom management issues arise?


2. What is the commodity of which teachers do not have enough?

Here are the answers:

1. During Transitions

2. Time!

I was a band director for 15 years and I took my bands all over the country on trips. We bused or flew to places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and many other destinations that small town Nebraska kids might never get to see again. Many times, parents and community members would be in awe that we didn't have discipline problems on those trips.

"What's the secret?"

Pack the itinerary. Give them lots of interesting, structured things to do. Kids always want to just hang out at the hotel and swim. Nope. Not gonna happen.

We would run them until they were nearly dead by 10pm. Once bed check would happen, many times we would be waking them up. We controlled the minutes and hours of the day!

The same is needed in the classroom. Video your class some day and keep track of the wasted minutes due to transitions. Transitions are everywhere! You might be opening a new slide deck, having kids get books, or just changing activities. All of those transitions, while necessary and unavoidable, are eating away at that precious commodity known as TIME!

So what do you do about it?


Sponges are activities that "sop up" the wasted minutes and turn them into instructional time that might otherwise be lost. They are activities that could be used to:

1. Review material

2. Act as closure for the previous activity.

3. Prepare them for the next activity (Anticipatory Set)

Sponges should not require additional set-up, materials, or anything that will waste the time you are trying to save. KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Some ideas:


  • Count to 100 by 2s, 5s, etc. (written or spoken)
  • List things you can touch, things you can smell, big things, small things, etc.
  • "I Spy" - find something in the room that starts with the letter "M."
  • Think of animals that live on a farm, in the jungle, in the water, etc.
  • Put spelling words in alphabetical order.


  • List as many states as you can. 
  • List all the foods you can think of that contain protein.
  • Why were these dates important: 1492, 1606, 1776, 1812?
  • Share with your neighbor the steps to solving quadratic equations.
  • Write 3 things you have learned so far today, 2 questions you still have, and 1 thing you would like to know more about.
Obviously, these activities are not for learning new information and they might not be aligned to the day's objective (if they can be, all the better!). They are for creating set, closure, or review. Most importantly, however, they help in reducing discipline problems and getting the most out of instructional time.

Go ahead! Video yourself and find out how many minutes go by. Then, see what you can do to "sop up" those moments!

Have a happy day!

Mr. S

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