Fancy a SODA?

Recently, I’ve been sharing puzzles and quizzes with you. These have been what I have used in the past for SODAs. What are SODAs I hear you ask? – well the acronym stands for Start Of Day Activity. These were activities which were on the board when the children first came into the classroom in the morning. So what are SODAs and when can they be used.

There are always times throughout the day, that you suddenly find that you have a quick five or ten minutes to fill or that moment when it is declared a wet playtime or even when a visit or speaker decides to finish early. This is when the SODAs come in. They are quick five or ten minute activities that can promote ‘thinking skills’ for the children. The only time that I would not use these activities would be at the end of the day – that was always story time – reading to the children is something I strongly believe in.

So what are thinking skills? Well to me they are activities that allow the children to think and engage their imagination and problem solving skills. They are not assessments, or marked activities, they are a starting point that are open ended and encourage the children to think – rather like the name suggests. When preparing to use thinking skills, there are some steps that I would encourage you to use.

  • Thinking Skills Book – I always think it is important to give anything that you want the children to engage with value. To promote the value of these activities I always provided them with a book for their thinking skills activities. This was a plain page book, with no lines or squares – rather like a sketch book. I always found that these were purchased and not really used a great deal in the exercise book store. I always wanted the pages to be blank to allow the children a clean and open ended starting point – they could draw their answer/thoughts or write it, or even just doodle. The other important point for me, was that their thinking book was theirs and not mine. This meant that I never collected it in or marked it. They were used as a support for them to discuss things with me at the end of the activity and, if they wanted to, they could share what they had done, or show me it and ask me my thoughts. Initially you may think that this would encourage the children not to engage with the activity, but this became less and less frequent as they progressed throughout the year. Encouraging ‘magpie-ing’ also allowed them to make use of their books in the discussion time.
  • Thinking about the activities – It was always important to try and design the activities to be as open ended as possible. This meant that I would try to create an activity that required no prior knowledge or I would give them the knowledge. The example of this would be I would not ask them to identify all the prime numbers – since this would require them to understand what a prime number was. This also leads me onto the next point that I thought about when considering the activities – I tried not to make them subject specific and, if I did, I tried to vary them across the term. This hopefully, allowed the children to engage with them all rather than thinking – oh no this is a mathematics activity and I am not very good at mathematics.
  • Collaboration – One element of all the activities was that the children were allowed to discuss and engage in small groups with the activities. This allowed them to think through their thoughts and, in expressing them aloud, refining them. Again, this was not a time for me to question or engage with the children in their discussion, unless I was asked to. When I did engage I always tried to be one of those annoying people who always answers a question with another question. I also tried as hard as I could not to provide a judgement on anything that the children were discussing.
  • There are many advantages of this form of activity. Engaging the children with their imagination improved their creative and narrative writing, and the use of the discussion skills including reasoning and refining their ideas, promoted the use of explanation skills in their discussions. However,I think the main reason I did these activities was because the children enjoyed them and never thought it was actual ‘work’. If I ever forgot to put one on the board in the morning, they would always be keen to remind me.

    Over the next few weeks I will be providing some ideas and resources for activities that I have used in the past – so please keep an eye open for them and use them if you want, feedback is always welcome.

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