No matter how awesome and engaging our lesson planning is, boredom is going to enter our classroom, so we have to be prepared. Here are 9 easy ways to conquer boredom in the classroom.
After 23 years of teaching, one thing I have learned is that when a student says they are bored, they are actually bored.
I remember feeling insulted as a new teacher if a student told me they were bored. After all, how could someone feel bored in my classroom that was filled with engaging lessons and activities? It took many years for me to come to the realization that boredom is a real feeling that some students experience at school, especially our advanced students.
The problem isn’t that our lessons are boring. These very same “bored” students would have thoroughly enjoyed our lesson plans, perhaps one, two, or even three years prior when the content and skills were a better fit.
When students are bored, it often leads to misbehavior. Bored students sometimes shut down and refuse to do anything at all. They may even act out to seek attention in negative ways.
As teachers, we often go to great lengths to differentiate for our low-level students, working tirelessly to bring those students up to speed. In the midst of it all, the needs of our gifted students become less of a priority. As a result, those students at the higher end of the group tend to get overlooked.
So, let’s talk about some easy ways to offer enrichment to high-level students to prevent boredom in the upper elementary classroom.
9 Easy Ways to Conquer Boredom in the Classroom
#1| Open-Ended Activities
One of the biggest opponents to creativity is closed-ended activities that have one ‘right’ way to complete the assignment.
Open-ended activities give students a chance to approach an activity in one of many different ways. Students who need enrichment may even find a lot of pleasure in coming up with more than one way to solve a problem. If your goal is enrichment, give students the freedom to explore and (I mean this in the nicest possible way) try to stay out of their way.
#2| Student Choice in Assignments
Providing student choice is another way you can allow students to expand on their own interests and create their own challenges. You can go about offering student choice in a variety of ways; however, one of the best options is to try not to limit their options.
You can create a menu of ideas and activities, but even a menu can feel limiting to a student who needs enrichment. Instead, try pitching the problem or topic to the student/students and asking them to come up with their own project or potential solution. Their creativity may surprise you!
#3| Alternative Projects Based on Interests
Don’t be afraid to give some students something completely different from what other students are studying. If this is something that you don’t feel would work in your classroom, I strongly suggest that you read through this post on teaching your students to expect differentiation.
To get started down this path, ask students what kinds of topics they enjoy learning about, researching, or creating from, and then find activities or projects that fit those interests, or give them the task of researching projects related to that topic to work on.
#4| Genius Hour
Another option, that may provide a little more structure, is incorporating Genius Hour into your week. Genius Hour is setting aside time to allow your students to explore passion projects. You can read all about Genius Hour in this blog post. I have also created a lapbook to specifically help in the organization of Genius Hour that you can take a look at here!
#5| Enrichment Task Cards
If you want some tasks that will look a little more like the ones your other students are already doing, you may find these Curiosities Task Cards to be a fun addition to your classroom.
Curiosities is a resource that encourages students to research, write about, and create based on some fun, unexpected topics like Bigfoot and shipwrecks. Each set of task cards takes students on an exploration of the chosen topic and encourages them to complete a series of tasks focused on these unusual topics (and more!). You can take a closer look at our Curiosities Task Cards in this blog post!
Another fun way to challenge students is by giving them daily tasks that are meant to be a challenge.
Puzzles, like these Puzzles of the Day or these Digital Math Puzzles, will challenge students to think creatively in an attempt to find solutions to each puzzle, but they are also difficult enough to provide a challenge to most of your upper elementary students.
Since puzzles are intended to be solvable, but not immediately obvious, using puzzles is a good way to get students thinking even when you don’t have a lot of time. You may even want to have a bunch printed out for those moments when you know a specific student needs something a little extra intriguing to do.
#7| Super Sleuth (Daily Clue Challenge)
I love Super Sleuth for enrichment, but also as a way to encourage research and family participation.
When participating in the Super Sleuth Challenge, students receive a new clue each day about a mystery person, place, or thing. They research the clues and then submit an answer by the end of the week. The answer is then displayed on the following Monday.
#8| Digital Escapes Activities
Sometimes students just need to feel like something is a little hard. Often we try not to provide tasks that are ‘too’ difficult to our students, but some higher-level students may appreciate the increased difficulty. These Escape Tales are filled with tricky patterns and number puzzles and may be just the right amount of difficulty to provide good, prep-free enrichment for some of your students.
#9| 3 Truths & a Lie (Research Challenge)
Another fun way to engage students is to ask them to research and learn about a new topic. This 3 Truths & a Lie resource asks students to do exactly that as they try to figure out which listed fact isn’t true. This activity is fun because it is a challenge but also because it gives students the motivation to learn about a whole new topic they may not have known much about before!
To sum it all up, we need to be prepared for our higher-level students to be bored. It is going to happen, and it is not a bad thing. It is just another challenge that we need to be prepared to manage.
By implementing some of these easy ways to conquer boredom in your classroom, and having some of these resources downloaded and ready to go, you will be ready when that dreaded ‘B’ word is said in your classroom.