Saturday, July 18, 2015

Matching Tablecloths and Tags to Organize Activities: A Bright Idea!

WOW! It's been so long since I posted something, I almost forgot how to BLOG! There are some big changes happening here soon. No... I'm not switching to WordPress. Perhaps I should, but Blogger is more my speed, at least for now. So, before August, you will see a new look--with, of course, lots of purple!

Today I am sharing a Bright Idea that I use with our end-of-the year activities. After thinking about it, and a comment from a colleague, it occurred to me that this is an idea that can be used at any time of the year. If you have groups of kids who need to make choices about activities, this is an easy organizational tip!

For this tip, you need several different colors of vinyl tablecloths--one for each game or activity. I get mine at Party City, but I've also seen them at Target and WalMart. You could also use colored butcher paper. You just need a different color for each activity you are planning.

You also need some name tags that allow for "inserts." Instead of name tags, you will insert colored paper to match the tablecloths. I've used the hanging kind (on strings), but you could also use the clip kind... as long as your kids can remove them independently.

Put a colored tablecloth on each table or "station." Decide on the maximum number of students you want to participate, and put that many tags at the station. In this case, we had three checker boards on the "red table," so we put out six "red tags" for six kids.

We used this system at our Game Day, one of the events planned for the fifth and sixth graders who were moving on to middle school. We had sixty kids in the auditorium and twelve different stations. Ten were at tables and two were on the stage--Legos and Jenga. And each station had a different colored tablecloth and matching set of tags.

As the students came into the auditorium, I assigned them to one of the four corners of the room. I told them I would look for the quietest group to determine which group would choose an activity first. This was a great motivator for good behavior! Students could sit at any of the twelve stations, as long as there was still a tag available.

I was surprised to see that the "chess table" was filled on each rotation.  See how the tablecloth matches the tags? 

The students were reminded to be welcoming to everyone who joined their table.  We had kids blended together from different rooms, including some students who were deaf. It was heart-warming to see how they made things work. We had interpreters to sign, but many groups just figured out how to communicate in the context of the game.

The students played for twenty minutes and then I rang the chimes. This signaled that they needed to clean up the area, and restore the game to be ready for the next group. Tags were removed and placed back on the tables and the kids returned to their waiting places... knowing that they would be able to choose another game as soon as they were quiet.

Here's the "green table" ready for a new group. One group had already played and they had organized it for the next set of kids to play.
(Don't even get me started on how unhappy I am that I took this picture with the word, "Monopoly," upside down. I tried rotating it, but then it looked like it was flying, so I had to go with "not upside right."  Sorry!)

There was a variety of different activities so that everyone could find something they enjoyed. We had puzzles and Legos and CandyLand and chess. We had partner games, team games, whole group games and games you could play independently--in a group. Some kids chose the same activity two rounds in a row, but most chose different games at each rotation.

The Mancala players were sitting at the "blue table." There were five kids in this rotation.The kids figured out (on their own!) that the waiting player would simply rotate in each time a game was completed! I didn't think of this, they did!

One of my favorite games is Blokus. It's a little like an off-skew Tetris morphed into a board game... with multiple players. Fun! These students were playing at the "silver table." Many kids found a game they had never played before. And some of the teachers and parent volunteers found games they wanted to buy to play at home!

I have accumulated a lot of games over the years. Some years, I have also had kids (and colleagues) bring games from home to provide variety. I was amazed at how the kids cleaned up their tables so perfectly. Every table stayed intact--except the table where the kids (and sometimes the teacher) were playing Spoons. That tablecloth looked a little tattered when we--I mean they--were finished.

Silly me, I forgot to get a picture of a child WEARING a tag. You can almost see the tag on this student. But I promise, it's light blue to match the light blue tablecloth.

Management was so easy: Wait quietly so that your group can be selected to choose a game. Sit only at a table where there are still tags available. Be kind and welcoming to all players. Stay at the table until the rotation is complete. Clean up when the rotation is over. EASY! As I mentioned, we had sixty kids playing for two hours--and there were NO behavior issues. The room was controlled and cheerful, and I went home without a headache! 

I think this tag-and tablecloth strategy could be used for any collection of activities where students have a choice of activities across a few (or more) rotations. Art projects? Social studies activities? Science stations? STEM tasks? So many possibilities!

Speaking of possibilities, each of the bloggers listed below is sharing a Bright Idea. Just browse through the link-up and find a topic or a grade range that interests you. It's like a bloggy buffet! I'll be perusing the links too--I'll wave if I see you!

Thanks for visiting!


  1. This is such a great way to organize! I can definitely see this as an organizational tool for stations in class as well! Love it!
    Curls and a Smile

  2. Absolutely LOVE this idea! I moved my kids OFTEN, and this would save so much time and confusion!

  3. This is a great idea! I could use this for Fun Friday.

  4. Great organizational tip and one that can be used for so many things!
    Deb at Fabulously First

  5. What a great idea! No fuss, no arguing! I like it!

    Krazy Town

  6. I love color coding, and this could be used year-to-year easily!

  7. I love organization and color coding! This is right up my alley. I can't wait to try this out in my classroom!
    Mrs. Pauley’s Kindergarten

  8. This is an excellent way to mix up groupings! Thanks for sharing!


  9. I could totally use this for indoor recess and Fun Friday! Thanks for sharing! :)
    Happy Teaching,
    Adventures in Teaching (A First Grade Blog)

  10. Color coding is so brain friendly! The brain easily adapts to matching colors! :) Easy Peasy! I also love the games your kiddos are playing! They probably didn't even realize they were practicing a multitude of skills since they were having so much fun!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

  11. What an easy way to manage chaos! I'm all for giving kids choice but sometimes I get overwhelmed by the little details-- this really simplifies it!

    My Bright Blue House


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