Easy Anchor Activity Ideas for Elementary School

As you are planning for the new year, or even just preparing for upcoming lessons, having some easy anchor activities ready is a great way to ensure that your students are engaged and learning all day long.

Before we get to the activities, let's first define what anchor activities are and why they’re important for your elementary students.

What are anchor activities?

Anchor activities are tasks that are designed to keep your students engaged, occupied, and focused on meaningful learning outside of your usual lesson plans. For example, students can partake in anchor activities when early finishers complete their tasks ahead of others, at the beginning of the day while students are still getting settled, or when students have extra time before the end of the day. 

These types of activities are called anchors because they ensure that students have something purposeful to return to and work on while their classmates catch up or work through other tasks.

Remember these activities shouldn’t be seen as another to-do but instead should be a reward for completing their assigned work.

Easy anchor activity ideas for elementary students

Independent Reading

Create a designated area in your classroom with a variety of books and comfortable seating. Allow students to go and participate in quiet reading time to help students build reading skills, their vocabulary, and to foster a lifelong love of reading! 

This anchor activity is one that you can set up at the beginning of the year and use as a choice for students all year long.

STEM Activities

Having a classroom learning center set up in your room with some easy to use STEM activities for students to participate in is a great way to reward students for their hard work. It also allows you to easily swap our activities on a regular basis while still having students easily understand the general process of how to access and use these resources.

A great addition to any learning center is Kodable! We’re an educational game that helps teach K-5 students how to code in an engaging and fun way with self-paced learning and unlimited creative opportunities. Learn more and sign up for your free Kodable educator account today to get started and bring this anchor activity into your classroom!

Journal Writing

If your students are old enough to be writers, encouraging journal activity is a great anchor activity to have students reflect on their daily experiences. This makes for an easy activity because every student can have their own journal, or you can have public paper to use in a common area for students to grab from. Then, you can have a daily or weekly journal prompt on the board for students to use if they choose journaling as their activity after normal lesson.

Journal prompts by grade level

Kindergarten - Draw a picture of your favorite animal.

First Grade - If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go and why?

Second Grade - Invent a new flavor of ice cream, what would it be called and what ingredients would it have?

Third Grade - If you could have a conversation with any historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Fourth Grade - Write a letter to your future self. What advice would you give yourself in 5 years?

Fifth Grade - Write about a person you admire and look up to. What qualities do they have that you admire?

Vocabulary Work

Having vocabulary workbooks, vocab worksheets, or a word of the day is another easy anchor activity for students to dive into. Plus, these types of activities are easy to set up and maintain for you, which is an added bonus!

Problem of the day

Display a problem on the whiteboard for your students to work on after completing their other activities. These problems can be math, science, language arts, or cover any topics that you think would be beneficial for students to get more practice in. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Pattern Puzzle - Provide a sequence of shapes or colors and ask students to identify the next element in the pattern.

Counting Challenge - Present a group of objects and ask students to count and write down how many they see.

Picture Riddle - Show a picture with hidden objects and ask students to find and count specific items within it.

Educational Games

Having some easily accessible digital and physical educational games for students to play make for a great anchor activity. While your students are having fun and playing you can rest assured that they are still learning! Plus, students love this anchor activity because it’s definitely seen as a reward to get to play a game!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Play a game of classroom coding bingo!

Play a conditionals game to help understand how computers work.

Or play one of Kodable’s Hour of Code activities.

Implementing anchor activities

Anchor activities can either be a consistent option throughout the duration of the year or can change on a regular basis such as putting a problem of the day on the board.

However, when it comes to implementing these activities it’s best to follow these best practices:

  • Go over the entire activity with the class
  • Model all of the games and activities
  • Clearly show where materials will be kept and how students should access them
  • Be clear on your expectations for these activities

As you start implementing these activities, be sure you think about how use or misuse of these activities will affect your behavior management system and consider using other differentiated instruction strategies to help meet the needs of all of your students. Happy teaching!