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7 Ways to Incorporate Activity-Based Learning with Almost No Supplies!

I am always telling my tutors that we should strive to make our tutoring sessions different from “normal school.” I tell them that their students should want to stay after school to be part of the program, and not only for the biscuits! Exponential Education has a strong focus on activity-based learning. However, unlike schools in the U.S., classrooms here are not equipped with shelves full of supplies waiting to be used in activities. When first creating lessons I drew inspiration from talking to my mother (a teacher of almost 30 years), other program associates, the internet, and sprinkled in a few ideas of my own. Exponential Education regularly shares curriculum and teaching strategies with Peace Corps volunteers and other NGOs, so feel free to contact us!

Before I begin, there are a few supplies that would be helpful. These supplies can be found almost anywhere and can be purchased for very little money. You probably already have some lying around! These supplies include paper, pens, decks of cards, dice, a board to write on, and your imagination. That’s it!

Tutor Sharifa runs a card game with her students from Antoa JHS to practice multiplication.

1. Step Forward If. No Supplies Needed.

This game can be used for anything. When studying integers, for example, the tutor can say: “Step forward if -2 is greater than -4 or step back if -2 is less than -4.”

This can also be used in English: “Step forward if the following word I say is a verb, step back if it is a noun.”

This activity can result in students looking around and doing as everyone else does, so I have my students close their eyes and then my tutors follow up with the ever important question: Why they stepped in the direction that they did.

2. Family Feud. Materials needed: Something for the students to grab.

Family Feud is a classic American game show, and a fun classroom activity! Divide students into two teams and have the two teams line up in single file on opposite sides of a table/desk. On the desk should be something that the students can grab (an eraser from the chalkboard, a piece of paper in a ball, anything will work!) The tutor then asks a question related to the day's topic. The two students at the front of their line compete to be the first one to grab the eraser. Whoever grabs it first has the opportunity to answer the question and earn a point for their team, but if that student is wrong the other team can steal! The first team members go to the back of the line, and the next two students step forward to play. Kids love this one! It gets them out of their desks and competing and they quickly forget they are still in school.

3. Two Halves/Three Sections/Four Corners. No materials needed.

This is another movement based activity in which the tutor divides the classroom into two halves, three sections, or four corners. In an English lesson, the four corners may represent nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and students must move to the appropriate corner based on the word given by their tutor. This activity can be used for almost anything, and once again must be followed up with the question of Why?

4. Slap the Board. Materials needed: Chalkboard/whiteboard.

This game is also great for lessons that can be divided into categories, but with a competitive component. The tutor divides the board into two to four boxes. Two students are given the same question and must race to be the first to put their hand on the appropriate box. For example, when studying order of operations the tutor may write the various operations in the boxes and then ask questions like, Do you complete multiplication or addition first? The students race to be the first to identify the multiplication box.

Students from Adanwomase JHS play a version of Slap the Board to practice verb tenses.

5. Dice and Card Activities. Materials needed: at least one die per student and several decks of cards.

Students love utilizing dice and cards in math lessons. Use either to practice addition or subtraction facts, times tables, etc. With cards, flip through a deck after indicating the red cards are negative and black cards are positive numbers and see who can add/subtract the longest. When studying integers students can be given a small hand of cards which they then plot on a number line. I bring these supplies to every math lesson and the tutors always find some way to use them!

6. Race to Solve the Problem. Materials needed: chalkboard/whiteboard or notebooks.

This is another competitive based game that can be used for any lesson or subject. Give students and example problem based on the day’s lesson and make it a race as to who can solve it first. If the classroom is big enough, use the chalkboard to get the students out of their seats. If that is not possible, have the students race to solve it in their notebooks.

7. Jeopardy. Materials needed: chalkboard/whiteboard.

Based off of another classic game show, students love this game! It works wonderfully as a review game and students don’t even realize they are studying as they get so caught up in the game.

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