These sponge activities are geared towards grades 3-5 but can easily be adapted for younger or older students.
During my teacher training at Washington State University, I read Madeline Hunter’s Mastery Teaching (1982) where I was introduced to the idea of sponge activities. Hunter coined this term and described sponge activities as “learning activities that soak up precious time that would otherwise be lost”. She pointed out that these sponge activities give students practice in reviewing or applying past learning while they wait for fellow students to arrive, for administrative tasks like taking roll, or any number of typical classroom experiences where time is typically wasted and where a lot of time is spent trying to gain student attention once it’s lost. Hunter wrote that “sometimes waiting is inevitable, but lack of learning while waiting is not”. So for my nearly 30 years of teaching, I have used these short, intense activities that have helped my students develop not only academically but also socially and emotionally. Some of these activities I invented; others I have borrowed from colleagues over the years. Most of these activities involve smiles and laughter which I have found to be so important in creating a positive community of learners. All of these sponge activities have become favorites in my classroom over the years and have raised the amount of available time to learn significantly. Students request them and look forward to them and are always anxious to learn a new one.
If you’ve been using sponge activities for years, you are likely to find some new ones in this collection. If you’ve never used sponge activities before, you should read through the ideas and pick out your favorite ones to start with. You’ll figure out ways to tweak these ideas and to personalize them to your own teaching situations. I hope you enjoy these activities and that the peace, joy and learning they bring to your classroom are immeasurable!