Earlier today I finished up a few posts that I had been working, so I was putting off this post for a bit. Tonight, I got to thinking about my Extension/While You Were Finished Board. I implemented this last year to help with some of the idle time that students may have. On a daily basis, I try to run my class from bell to bell-we only have 46 minutes. However, especially because of how diverse our school is, students finish certain things at different paces. We have been a 1:1 school for several years now, and so the tendency for students when there is any sort of down time to play games, chat, watch YouTube videos, partake in social media, etc. With moderation, I don't think most of these things are terrible for students, but I don't think that these particular activities generally serve a positive purpose during class time.
So, put up a bulletin board with pockets and had index cards with various activities in them. I intended to also put a Symbaloo on my website with some of the internet-based activities, but I didn't quite get that worked out. Unfortunately, my board is at school, and I don't have it up yet because of the unfinished state of my room, but I'm going to list/talk about some of the items. As many of you are aware, coloring books have been all the rage in the last couple of years, so I purchased several and make copies and put them in file folders. Free reading is an option that I have. I am pleased that I have quite a few bookworms that take advantage of this option. I also have pages that I have copied from various puzzle books. These are mostly logic-type puzzles. I have purchased several sets up task cards for different topics that I have available for students to choose from as well.
My classroom is able to participate in a pilot program called MySciLife and there are some options that are really great learning activities, but we can't necessarily get to all of them. I also let students work on other homework as an option. I have included Genius Hour as an option, but I haven't had many students seriously take that on this year. I had wanted to have students to be able to use Foldit, which is a game about protein folding. Basically, it allows many people to work on solutions for how the protein folds. This can help with drug research and learning more about how diseases work. There is a related projected called Nanocrafter, which focuses on DNA. Anyway, I couldn't get the particulars worked out with Foldit, so I temporarily abandoned it. I just recently emailed someone related to the game, so I hope they can help me get that worked out. Nanocrafter was just starting, and I wanted more experience with that, but it looks like it is mostly up and going now. These games are types of citizen science projects, and another site for citizen science I used was Zooinverse. This has a lot of different project types that students could help with. Not all of them are strictly science projects but many of them are. Another site I included is SpongeLab. I haven't used this site a lot, but it does have some educational game and other types of extensions for students.
That's all I can remember off-hand. I was part of another pilot program, YouthAstronet, in which students had access to remote telescopes that could take pictures of various space objects. I ran a small group for students that taught them how to use the telescopes. At the end of our group, they had time to do some projects. I had a student create a moon journal and several students enjoyed making true color images of different space objects. I would like to use this tool more extensively with students this year, but also include it for that extension time.
What sorts of things do you have for students to work on during unstructured time?