George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Assist Students in Skills Practice Outside the Parameters of the School Day

How to Assist Students in Skills Practice Outside the Parameters of the School Day

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I am presently in a Masters of Education program in which I wish to begin gathering input for my culminating capstone. I am interested in inventive ways in which children can practice academic skills outside the parameters of the classroom and school day. The children I serve have many things to occupy their time after school which are of much more importance than finishing a worksheet; a comfortable, safe place to be or a meal are among the most prevalent. I have thought of creative ways to connect disciplines such as math and reading to real-world applications instead of worksheets, but could use some insights from my colleagues from around the country for other disciplines.
Some of the ideas I have presented to my students follow; please feel free to use the ideas as presented or put your own spin on them to serve your specific students’ needs. Please be sure to send any of your ideas my way as well. It is my hope through this forum we as a profession can establish a renewed look at student challenges once they leave school in relation to what is asked of them for skills practice. Through this renewed lens, we are able to tailor practice needs to student needs in their own environments which do not include worksheets.
Depending on the level of the children asked to do the tasks, some are asked to do several for an evening’s practice or one task for an evening’s practice. Other times the children are asked to do the same item 3 out of 4 evenings. I give the children exit cards with each task requested as they are dismissed at the end of the day. The exit cards turn into entrance cards for the next school day.
• Find an item in your home where a weight is displayed such as a can of soup. The weight of the soup is the number to work with: for example- 4.25 oz.
• How is this number stated in words? Four and twenty-five hundredths.
• How is this number represented as a mixed number? 4 25/100
• How is this number represented as a fraction? 425/100 or 17/4 in lowest terms which is an improper fraction?
• How do you take the improper fraction of 17/4 and create a mixed number? What is that number? 17 divided by 4 which is represented as 4 ¼
On the way home, look at the license plates of the cars. Using the numbers on two plates do the following:
• Find the sum
• Find the difference
• Round the numbers the tenths place and find the sum and difference
• Round the numbers the hundredths place and find the sum and difference
• Using each of the liscence plate numbers, determine which one has the greatest value if all the numbers are added for each one. For example, one plate has the numbers 1, 4, 5, and 2 for a total of 12. The other plate has numbers 7, 5, 2, and 0 for a total of 14. Write a mathematical statement for the plate’s sums: 12<14, 14>12, 12≠14, or 14≠12

• Find a box or bag of a food item in your home and do the following:
• Read the package and make a list of nouns
• Read the package and make a list of nouns. Using the list, categorize into person, place, thing, or animal
• Read the package and make a list of adjective
• Read the package and make a list of verbs.
• Read the package and make a list of verbs. Using the list, identify the kinds of verbs are represented. Do the verbs have multiple meanings? If so, use two of the verbs in two different ways.
• Read the package and make a list of adverbs
• Read the package and make a list of adverbs. Using the list, categorize into time, degree, frequency, manner, or place.
• Use some of the words from the package to write a short story where the bag or box is the setting
• Read the back of your cereal box
• Read the bag of your favorite chips
• Read the signs on the way home from school
• Read directions on the side of a box of mac and cheese or any other boxed meal
• Read the labels of items in the refrigerator

Thank you all for your time and courtesies.

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Mrs. J. Love's picture
Mrs. J. Love
Indianapolis Public School Teacher

I think that these are wonderful ideas. The students that I service enjoy working outside of the classroom (worksheets). They sometimes ask for more work when it is more applicable to them and their lives. If students can take the opportunity to facilitate personal learning, they should be able to create goals for themselves. Once the goals are met, that will instill in them a greater victory both in and out of the classroom.

Lori's picture

Thank you for posting. Look for more skills practice ideas in the coming weeks.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

These are some really wonderful ideas. Children must be taught by making things interesting for them. It has been scientifically y proved that visual and real life examples leave a huge impact on the kids thereby making learning a much much easier process.

Lori's picture

Thank you for posting. I hope to post additional ideas in the near future. Have a wonderful day!

Nina Smith's picture
Nina Smith
Mentor, Teacher Trainer

Hi Lori,
Very nice take on homework! And the reality is that whatever takes the student to think about things s/he learnt at school advances the learning process. Unfortunately we often have to apply unnecessary control on that process, to get some documented/graded results. Simply sharing with your students how revisiting the class topic at home helps them learn better makes students more involved in their own learning and education. Why not ask students design some of their own homework? Or choose from a pool of different type homework? I am a bit sneaky here: it is also much harder for students to explain why they didn't do the hw they go to choose... :)
But, in general applying less control over students often increases their cooperation - and students who know how they can advance their own learning are also more likely to feel more positive about their education.
More about meaningful learning at

Lori's picture

Thank you for your post. I will be sure to check out the link which you attached. I appreciate any new ideas to assist the children. Enjoy the remainder of your school year.

Allauds's picture
LAP eductational assistant, third grade internship, certification in June

Thank you for the great ideas. Working in LAP we seldom send practice work home, with the exception of paper take home books to be read to an adult or older sibling. The list of possible activities in the Reading you have listed, could be adapted for our LAP program giving students alternative and more authentic reading opportunities. We have a cereal box scavenger box activity we have done in the past. I think it may be time to pull it out and use for a home practice activity. Thanks for the ideas and reminder.

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