6 Ways To Learn With Sidewalk Chalk
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
I've spent countless hours this summer watching my son, Adrian, play with sidewalk chalk. He's obsessed! If there's one thing I've learned watching him - sweat dripping, chalk flying across the pavement - it's that sidewalk chalk can be an extremely powerful learning tool! Since we bought our first box of chalk a few months back, he has learned to write several letters, numbers, and symbols, draw smiley faces and penguins, and identify pretty much every shape I could think of (not to mention colors)... and he's only 2 1/2! Sidewalk chalk is super engaging, gets your students outside, and can be adapted to teach just about anything. Here are 6 of my favorite sidewalk chalk learning ideas (psst... I saved the best one for last!).
One: "Chalk Cards" Task Cards With Chalk
Like task cards, but with chalk! Task cards are great for getting students up and moving. The basic idea: spread cards with different questions or math problems on them around the classroom, hand out a response sheet on clipboards, and off they go. Task cards are a great way to turn a worksheet into a hands-on, engaging activity that requires movement and cooperation. Instead of spreading out cards, write the questions or problems with sidewalk chalk! A traditional sidewalk works well for this because each square segment of the sidewalk is like a different "card." If you don't have a sidewalk, any traffic-free paved surface will do. I've created a "Chalk Cards" response sheet that you can grab for free here. Just add sidewalk chalk and clipboards!
Two: Math Drawings
You had all the fun writing the chalk cards in that last idea, let's give your students a chance to get their hands a little chalky this time. Drawing math models is great for building conceptual understanding. Sidewalk chalk just makes it way more fun. Some ideas: fraction models, geometric shapes and figures, multiplication/division arrays and equal groups, illustrating word problems. Check out my Mathtionary game here to snag some cards you can use to inspire math drawings and even turn this idea into a game!
Three: Sight Word Practice
This idea works well for reading or writing sight words. It's also great for practicing spelling in the upper grades!
For reading practice: write some of the most common sight words (or whatever words you want them to practice reading, really) with chalk all over your paved area. Have students find a partner and walk around together. As they discover new words, they take turns reading the them aloud to one another. Partners provide accountability and allow students to build collaboration and participation skills.
For writing practice: spread students out on the pavement and give them each a piece of sidewalk chalk. Call a word aloud and have them try their best to write it with the chalk. This can be adapted to work for upper grades spelling word practice as well!
Four: Handwriting Practice
This one is simple but effective and has worked wonders for my toddler! Lower grades can practice upper and lower case letter writing while upper grades practice their cursive letters. Spread out some cards with examples of how to correctly form the letters, hand out the chalk, and let them have at it! If you need to differentiate this activity, consider drawing lines to help particularly sloppy writers stay neat and organized.
Five: Illustrating the Curriculum
I love this one because the possibilities are endless! Just give them chalk and let them draw! But find a way to relate it to whatever you are learning.
Draw a character or scene from a book you are reading
Draw a concept you are learning in science - the solar system, moon phases, the rock cycle, types of clouds, etc.
Play sidewalk chalk Pictionary - write down anything your class has learned about on index cards (think: dinosaurs, states, weather, historical figures, book characters, fractions, shapes, holidays... whatever your curriculum covers) and hand them out. Students take turns drawing what's on their card while the rest of the class tries to guess. So. Much. Fun.
Six: Create a Life Sized Board Game
This one is my all time favorite. Draw a life sized game board with chalk (or have your students do it). You can even add special spaces like "move ahead," "roll again, "go back to start," etc. Find a dice (preferably a big one) and let the games begin! This can be played just for fun, like at recess, but there are also many ways to make it educational.
Here are some ideas:
Write math facts on each space. Students roll and move. When they land on the space, they must answer the math fact correctly to stay. If incorrect, they go back to where they started from.
Write sight words (or any words you're working on) on the spaces. If read correctly, students can stay and if incorrect they move back.
Ask any comprehension question that applies to your curriculum or print them on cards to give students. If answered correctly, the student gets to roll and move. If incorrect, they do not.
The first student to reach the final space labeled "FINISH," is the winner.
This post is dedicated the the world's biggest sidewalk chalk enthusiast, Adrian. Pictured here with his loyal audience, Jules.