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I like to do cupcake mining when we get to our rocks and minerals unit. This works well for middle schoolers and high schoolers like it as well because it is fun. Cupcakes are made but two different cake batters are used. The kids use a straw and "extract" a core sample from the cupcake. They have to get 6 different samples and draw them, etc. Then they get to eat their cupcakes afterwards.
Riddles are good for almost any age, you know the kind where you propose the scenario and the kids can only ask "yes or no" questions. This is a tried and true time-filler that actually teaches kids a couple things: to listen and follow rules (they care so they do, and I don't let them ask unless I call on them), to think outside the box, and to build off others' ideas. LOVE IT.
Improv 30-45 second speeches are also usually a hit, especially in the middle school grades where they still like to get up and be the center of attention. Sometimes I let them pick topics, sometimes I make them up. I usually role-model first.
Any kind of get to know you games are good, especially in classes that are reluctant to talk. "I Never" is an easy one. Someone says something they've never done (or had) that is probably somewhat common (example: I've never had a cavity, broken a bone, etc). All the kids who HAVE done it or had it get a point. The object is to keep scores as low as possible. This one eliminates the desire to go off on a tangent of personal story telling.
One activity that has been successful involves every student in the class being given a small paper bag. Then, the students draw items that have some connection to them and their personality--but not an obvious one. They also can include a small verse inside, but it cannot list any names. Bags are submitted to the teacher, who distributes them the next day and students guess whose bag is whose. The student who guesses correctly the identity of the bag given to him/her wins a prize or bonus points on the next test.
Students love when learning is fun. In our classroom we study sentence writing by creating silly sentences. The students are give 7 letters. They must make a sentence using each of the letters to start a word in the sentence. The words in the sentence have to come in the order the letters were written on the board. They can go left to right or right to left. They cannot use more than two items in a list, and they can not add any other words except coordinating conjunctions.
It sounds like you might need this for subbing. I found that having some educational games in my head helped. For example, kids love hangman and it's actually very educational if you choose the words carefully. I also did math contests.
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