‘Puzzle Week’ in your Upper Elementary class could be the perfect way to piece together the skills you’ve learned this school year!
If you are an upper elementary teacher who loves a good theme week, then this may be just the post you need to inspire your next great idea!
Puzzles have always been a favorite of mine, and I have found over the years that students like them too, especially if those puzzles help to gamify the types of lessons we are already doing.
For example, I use digital puzzles like these Free Math Facts Puzzles to help my students work on math, but the puzzle element acts as both an interesting feature (as the students love trying to guess what the pictures will be) and as a strategy for scaffolding as students who need the extra help can use the pictures on the answer cards to help them narrow down their potential answers!
Personally, I love the challenge of a good puzzle, but when it comes to figuring out how to piece the perfect ‘Puzzle Week’ together for your students, I know that it may be helpful to have a few tips to get started.
Here are some of our suggestions for creating the perfect ‘puzzle week’ in your upper elementary class!
Plan ‘Puzzle Week’ in your Upper Elementary Class at the End of the Year
Although ‘Puzzle Week’ will work any time of the year, we recommend doing this theme week toward the end of the year as you can find a lot of great resources for reviewing previously-learned information and the more physical activities that go along with ‘Puzzle Week’ can help work out some of the end-of-the-year fidgeting that starts to happen as the weather warms up again.
Look for Ready-to-Use Puzzle Resources
There are many ready-to-use resources you can find to help set the foundation of your ‘Puzzle Week’ activities. In fact, you can get our Free Math Fact Digital Puzzles right here, right now, to help get you started.
To create a full week of activities, you’ll want to find a couple of puzzle activities that you can use in different subjects each day.
In addition to our digital puzzles (you can see all the digital puzzles in the store here), we also have a few other puzzle-like activities that would fit in well with a ‘Puzzle Week.’
With all the different topic options available in our Close Reads with Mystery Picture sets, you’re sure to find something there that will fit with the puzzle theme (since that is essentially what a mystery picture is…) but also something that is timely with other events going on during the month or season you are hoping to set your ‘Puzzle Week’ in.
We also have some other resources that could work with your ‘Puzzle Week’ activities. For example, this Prefix and Suffix (Affix) Puzzle would also be a good one to sprinkle in throughout the week during centers if you have previously practiced these skills.
Going All-In with the Puzzle Theme
As you set up for a theme week, we all know the importance of having a solid decoration and activity strategy that will really push the theme home.
We have 3 ideas below to get the wheels of creativity turning!
1 | Class Picture Puzzle
A week or two before the theme week, take some pictures of your students doing different activities, but specifically, take a full-group picture of your students at some point sitting at their desks. Then, blow the picture up onto bigger paper, and cut out each individual student in a random pattern.
To start off puzzle week, give each student their image, and ask them to complete the puzzle on the bulletin board or on your classroom door to recreate the image.
2 | Decorate with Actual Puzzle Pieces
Go to the dollar store, purchase a few puzzles with large pieces, and string those puzzle pieces around the room like a garland. On the last day of puzzle week, have students pull down the garland, sort the pieces, and attempt to put all the puzzles together.
3 | Use Different Types of ‘Puzzles’ to Make the Classroom Interactive
We already suggested using Close Reads with Mystery Pictures, but you can do other types of puzzles as well. For example, you can put up a brain teaser on the board or on posters around the room, or you can use escape room-style activities!
As an idea for those early finishers or for the moments between activities, set up puzzle stations around the room using folding tables and larger puzzles. As students finish work, they can go over to the station and try to add some pieces to the puzzle with the goal of finishing it before the end of the week. Make it a class goal to finish a certain number of puzzles by the end of the week!
4 | Add Puzzles Pieces to Typical Classroom Procedures
For some extra classroom decor ideas, consider adding puzzle pieces to your typical classroom manipulatives…
- Using some string and some random puzzle pieces, you can have special ‘Puzzle Week’ passes to the restroom or nurse’s office.
- You can write students’ names on puzzle pieces instead of popsicle sticks for the week as you decide on groups or call on students during lessons.
- Rather than just telling students what activity you are going to do next, give them a list of hints and see if they can figure it out.
- Create inexpensive ‘Puzzle Week’ erasers for students to use with whiteboards by gluing random puzzle pieces to the back of cheap erasers or sponges from the dollar store.
- Hand out puzzle pieces for positive behavior incentives throughout the week, and give students the chance to earn a prize by completing their own personal positive behavior puzzle.
Create-Your-Own Puzzle Projects
Get students really thinking at the beginning of the week by asking them to create a list of different types of puzzles. Then encourage each student to create a puzzle by the end of the week that connects to something you’ve done in class. It can be a puzzle, like one of the digital puzzles, or it could be a picture that connects to a text the class has ready.
Try not to set too many guidelines for this activity, as students will approach it in different ways, and that is perfectly okay. Let them be creative! They may even create something you can use during ‘Puzzle Week’ next year!
Note: If you’ve been consistently doing Close Reads with Mystery Pictures throughout the year, then a fun activity for puzzle week may be having students create-their-own close reads with mystery pictures using this blog post as a guide!
A ‘Puzzle Week’ could be the perfect theme week for these coming months, and hopefully, this post has got your wheels turning. When I am considering implementing a new idea, I have a couple of unexpected places where I look for inspiration. Check out that blog post here. I also strongly recommend looking into what’s available at the dollar store because they are sure to have some puzzles you can use to get started!