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5-Minute Fillers: Graphing and More

Volume 26

Quick Survey and Graph
Builds graphing skills

Have prepared index cards or construction paper (cut to the size of index cards) in two colors; you should have as many cards of each color as you do students. Quickly go around the room and stick a small piece of tape on each student's desk. Then pose a survey question of fact or opinion that has a simple yes or no answer. [See sample questions below.] Direct students who answer "Yes" to the question to come and get a card of one color and tape it to the board so that each card rests directly above the one below it; students who answer "No" do the same with a different colored card. The cards have formed a simple bar graph that illustrates students' responses to the question. Have students explain the survey results by looking at the graph they created.

Alternate ideas: You could provide sticky notes to students. With older students, you might ask questions that have more than two responses; you will need to have cards of as many colors as there are response possibilities.

This activity lends itself to taking a survey before or after (or before and after) a discussion about issues in the local, national, or world news headlines. Following are some sample questions that are general in nature:

  • Do you have an older brother?
  • Are leash laws for pets a good idea?
  • Were you born in the first half of the year (January to June) or the second half (July to December)?
  • Do you think students should wear uniforms to school?
  • Do you have a TV in your bedroom?

Builds classification and vocabulary skills

Pose the following question to students to start a lively discussion, or use is as a prompt for a quick journal-writing activity:

What if your brother or sister caught you doing something you were not supposed to do? How would you convince them not to tell your parents?

Provide students with a sheet marked off into 25 squares (5 squares on the vertical and five horizontal squares).
Going across the top row of the page
Leave the first square blank. In each of the other squares going across the page list four categories. These categories could be teacher- or student-generated. (The first couple times you do this activity, it might be best for the teacher to generate categories.) Sample categories might include:

  • Types of Pets
  • Author Names (Last Names)
  • Names of Cities
  • Types of Sports
  • Games
  • Book titles
  • Famous People (Last Names)
  • Things Found in the Kitchen
  • Baseball Words
  • Types of Snacks

Going down the left column of the page
Write four different letters. Those letters might be randomly drawn or they might form a simple word the students know, such as one of the following:

  • D-O-W-N
  • M-A-K-E
  • S-T-O-P
  • S-O-N-G
  • P-A-I-N

Once the grid is set, give the students a set amount of time (for example, 3 minutes) to fill in the chart. They must write a word under each category that begins with the letter in the left column.

As the year goes on -- or if you teach older students -- you might use a larger grid of 36 squares or 49 squares.

Builds vocabulary and memory skills

This is a fun activity to do with spelling or vocabulary words; the game provides multiple exposures to the words. Provide each pair of students with a set of prepared cards. The cards might have on them letters of the alphabet (Scrabble game tiles make a good substitute for letter cards), spelling words, vocabulary words, or words related to a current unit of study. Each set of cards should have each word on two different cards.

For older students, you might provide blank cards, supply the word list, and have students write each word on two cards.

The students turn the cards upside own in a grid or simply spread randomly on a desk. They take turns trying to turn over a pair of cards that have on them the same word. If they make a match, they get another turn; if they do not make a match, they flip the cards back over and try to remember where each word was on the playing surface.

If you want to emphasize vocabulary or spelling skills in the game, each time a student turns over a word have them say it and define it or say it and then look at their partner and spell it.

The secret -- and the skill -- to this game is memory. Are students able to remember exactly where they saw the word cards? At the end of the game, the player who has made the most matches is the winner.


Picture puzzles such as the ones below are a terrific tool for stimulating students to think critically. Write or draw the following puzzles on a board or chart. Challenge students to study the puzzles to see if the words -- and the way they are written -- give them clues to the common expressions the puzzles illustrate.





Answers: 1. Man overboard; 2. split-second timing; 3. arm in arm; 4. backwards glance

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World






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