For writers a blank piece of paper can be overwhelming. But for an educator, a blank piece of paper can be the spark for learning. I will share a number of ideas that you can use in the classroom that come from a piece of paper.
Have students write something on the paper, then crinkle it up into a snowball. Have a snowball fight. After a few minutes, randomly choose a few snowballs to unfold to read and discuss what is written.
I use this mostly as an introductory or review activity. I will ask a question that relates to the lesson and then facilitate the discussion that follows after reading the responses. I would have another activity planned in case the discussion doesn’t go as planned.
Draw. Stick people are OK. Color pencils, crayons, or markers are great tools for this activity.
Any lesson or subject can be drawn. For every book I teach, I have a least one drawing activity for a lesson. Honestly, there are so many ways to incorporate a drawing activity. One year, for The Outsiders groups worked together to create a visual timeline of important events. Each student drew a picture of an important event, then the group taped their pictures together on the wall to create the timeline for the book.
There are two main benefits to adding an drawing activity into a lesson. 1. Helps students visualize the concept. 2. Drawing is an act of creative creation. Be ready to hang the pictures up on the walls, or allow them to take a picture of it and share on social media.
Paper Slide Presentation
Video from DMSFlippedMath
Here is a student example for a character analysis of Boxer from Animal Farm.
A Paper Slide Presentation can be a great option for students to share what they know.
Each student gets one piece of heavier stock colored construction paper. Present the students with an idea and ask them to construct their interpretation of the idea in 3D. Tape, scissors, and markers are supplemental materials for this activity.
Be prepared for resistance the first time you try this. It makes the students heads hurt. But you will be amazed at what they construct. I use this activity to introduce abstract ideas before a unit that will have the idea as a centerpiece to the unit. For example, one theme I cover in Lord of the Flies is leadership. So, I ask them to construct something in 3D with their single piece of construction paper.
(I tried to find examples, but could not find any photos of my students’ work.)
A Word Carousel can be used to introduce new vocabulary or new concepts. In the example above the activity is used to brainstorm better word choice. For other subjects or ideas you can ask students to list what they already know, or questions that come to mind, or different ways to solve a problem. Part of the purpose is to collaborate while generating ideas. The switching of paper and the time factor add a level of suspense for the students.
Once the carousel is over, you are free to use the information in different ways, continue with a class discussion, collect answers on the board, draw the answers. That is the fun part of teaching, designing the activities to meet your objectives.
Think – Pair – Share (With Paper)
This activity takes some work from you. You want to have an even number of pages for the class. Half with images. Half with important text related to your lesson. Students randomly pick a piece of paper. You give them a minute to consider (think about) the content on the piece of paper. Then students find a partner to share their understanding, opinion, or questions regarding the content. Give each partner a minute or two to share their insight. Instruct the other person to listen. Next, let the other partner share their content from the paper. When time is up the partners switch pieces of paper and then find a new partner to share with. When they are done sharing they will switch papers. Repeat for as many rounds as you want. An alternative is to not have a time limit. Let the pair decided when they are done sharing. After they switch papers they hold up their paper to find someone else to share with. Either way, this allows all students to simultaneously engage with the topic, but in unique ways.
I have used this activity to do reviews for literature. For example, with the book Lord of the Flies I used quotes from the book and images that correlated with the book. I use a picture of a conch and an island. For characters I would use movie stills but would have the character’s name at the top so students would know who was in the picture. The goal was for the students to help each other review important aspects of the book. You can do this activity with any subject. Another example could be to introduce the civil war. Half the pages would have images and the other half could have statistics and other snippets of text to introduce the unit for students.
So, you have a blank piece of paper in front of you. If you are a teacher it is already filled with great learning possibilities.