Do you students ever complete center or independent work? I betting yes. How would you like a chance for children to practice an ELA or math skill AND be able to provide THEMSELVES immediate feedback WITHOUT ever interrupting your small groups?
Sounds impossible, BUT I have found the magic solution: Self Checking Puzzles. Even better, these puzzles are simple to prep for you as well!
How Does it Work?
Here is the idea. Students are given a work mat. The work mats vary depending on the skill or concept. They can also be different depending on subject area. Students are asked to answer the questions or problems on the work mat. Does this sound like an everyday worksheet? Well, yes and no. Here is where the no comes in….
After students complete the work mat, they can check their own work using puzzle pieces. The work mat turns into the bottom of the puzzle. Students match their answers to the puzzle pieces. If they have all the answers correct and matched, a hidden picture will appear! So simple!
Teach students to circle and incorrect problems and ask them to rework the math problems. The puzzle pieces have the answer, but do NOT show how the problem is solved.
But Don’t the Kids Have Access to the Answers?
Well, yes and no. It all depends on how the puzzles are presented. I know some teachers like to pass out the puzzle sheet and allow students to cut out all the pieces. Then, students can complete the work mat after the pieces are cut out. Personally, this is not my favorite method for two reasons. First of all, it is simply a waste of paper. It is unlikely that all the students working on the work math will finish at the same time. Second, students will see the completed hidden picture and all the answers, before ever even completing the work! It seems to defeat the purpose, right?
So How Can I Make This Easy on Me and Engaging for the Kids?
I suggesting creating about 6-8 (depending on how many kids are using the puzzles) master sets of the puzzle pieces. Keep the puzzle pieces SEPARATE from the work mats if students are working in centers. For example, have the puzzle pieces store in a spate basket away from the work mats. Then, when students complete the center, they can walk over to the puzzle pieces and take the pieces back to their seat to solve. After students solve the puzzle, they clean up the puzzle pieces, put them back in the baggie or envelope, and return to the basket. The work mats can be turned in. I prefer this method for several reasons:
*I am a huge fan of providing PURPOSE for students getting out of their seats at any opportunity that isn’t disruptive. Too much sitting isn’t good for anyone! Students are less likely to wander around if they have a purpose for moving.
*Less copies! That is always a win! Instead of a class set of puzzle pieces, you only need 6-8 sets. It is unlikely that all 22 or 25 kids will finish at the same time
*Students do not see the hidden picture or answers ahead of time so it is a surprise- and more engaging!
Any Tips for Making This Simple?
We all love simple and easy. That is the beauty of these puzzles- that meet both of these! There are a few ways to easily organize and manage the puzzle pieces.
- If you choose to print color puzzle pieces, make sure to laminate the pieces for durability. Color ink is expensive! Before laminating, mark each of the BACKS of the puzzle pieces with a color marker. Each puzzle set should have a different color. This way, students can make sure to keep puzzle sets together by matching the marker on the back if they get all mixed up. This can be as simple as drawing long, colored line on the back of each piece, or even just a dot.
- For black and white puzzle pieces, consider printing each puzzle set on a different color paper. This way, students can easily keep all the red puzzle pieces, green puzzle pieces, etc. together.
- The puzzle pieces can be easily stored in zip lock sized baggies.
- The puzzles can also be stored in small manila envelopes. I have included a final picture of the solved picture and directions for each individual puzzle that can be included in the envelope or baggie if the teachers wishes.
I have several different puzzle available. I have a seasonal ELA set (Thanksgiving is the last set and will added soon). I also have a seasonal math set with nine different SETS of puzzles-. The bundle contains over 100 different puzzles!
Each puzzle is also available individually. I also have a few puzzles that a concept or skill based.
I just completed the Thanskgving ELA Puzzles. Now BOTH bundles are complete! YAHOO!
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Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught Kindergarten- 4th grades in both the general education and inclusion settings. She is currently a 1st grade Special Education teacher. She is the owner and creator of Mandy’s Tips for Teachers website (www.mandystipsforteachers.com) and has over 13 years of teaching experience. She is married with two beautiful children.