30 Low-Prep Ways to Make Worksheets Engaging

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I’m here to tell you there are ways to make worksheets fun for your elementary students.

As much as we’d love it to be the opposite, teachers can sometimes have no say in not only what they teach, but how they teach it.

Sound familiar? (I hope it doesn’t.)

In my last district, we were forced to teach a third grade math curriculum that was simply dry and not engaging for my students (there were also many other issues with it, but I’ll save those for another day.) However, teaching from a curriculum “with fidelity” doesn’t mean your delivery has to be dry.

Third or fourth grade student working on a boring, dry curriculum math worksheet

Over the years of teaching both third and fourth grade, one of my superpowers became making anything fun and engaging. Mandatory worksheet full of the same type of math problem? Cool, let’s cut it up and make it a puzzle. A lengthy review page that would normally make students groan? Okay, let’s rewrite the problems on desks and have them go desk surfing.

I realized that so many of these ideas I could pull out quickly and simply do for my students didn’t exist in writing or on the internet. So I’m changing that right now.

I created a free list of 30 ways you can make any worksheet more exciting for students, but let me give you a few of my quick favorites as a preview.

Here are a few ways you can take any worksheet and make students beg for more.

  • Breaking News: One of my go-to tactics was simply to add music, play the part, and interview students. When my fourth grade students had to fill out a worksheet simply for practice and informal assessment, I would turn on “newscaster” music (you can truly find anything on YouTube.) I would walk around watching students solve the problems, then would call up a student who got it correct to solve it in front of the class. As they solved, I would ask them interview-style questions and played the music softly in the background. Small change, big engagement.
  • The Unfair Game: I loved playing games with my students, but I also put a twist on every game so having more points didn’t necessarily mean one team “was smarter” than the other. I would split the class into two teams, but they still worked independently. As students solved a problem, I walked around the classroom with a Mystery Student in my mind. If the Mystery Student from Team A got the answer correct, they would get to try for points. If not, Mystery Student from Team B got to steal and try for points. And any “mystery student” that got it wrong? They were never revealed (and in turn shamed by their team.) To make this The Unfair Game, they tried for points by pulling a sticky note off of the whiteboard (or wall.) The other side could have positive points or negative points. (You can also just do this with positive points if you’re in a nice mood.)
  • POP!: I used reusable popcorn containers for this one (hence the name,) but any bag or container will do. Cut up the problems and fold them individually into the container. Also write “POP!” on a couple slips of paper. One at a time, students choose a piece of paper. If they receive a question, they answer it. If the rest of the group agrees they are correct, they keep it. If a student draws “POP!,” they must fold all papers they have collected back up and put them back into the container and keep going. Play continues until time has run out. Whoever has the most pieces of paper when the time is up wins. 
  • Be the Teacher: Here’s a less game-based option. Partners take turns being the student and teacher. The “teacher” will tell the student every step how to solve a problem. The student completes it exactly as the teacher instructs them to. At the end, they give them feedback and switch roles.
  • Roll a Problem: Give each student enough dice to correlate to the number of problems (i.e. give students 3 dice if there are 15 problems.) They must roll the dice and add them up to see which problem they are going to solve. They can choose to roll just one of the dice or all of them (this helps ensure even the first couple problems are chosen.) This continues until all problems are solved.
  • Grade the Teacher: Fill out a worksheet with your own answers and work–and make a few mistakes. Give copies to the students and have them grade your work. 

Want more low prep, high engagement ideas to amp up worksheets? I put 30 ideas just like these into a packet you’re going to want to keep at your desk!

Click here to download The Curriculum Companion for free! I promise this will be one of your best friends for easy lesson planning moving forward.

30 fun ideas for elementary worksheets

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