Workboxes for older kids

Workboxes for older children
We only use 6-8 workboxes each per week for my older two children.  When I have Montessori preschool time with my 3 and 5 year olds, workboxes are the perfect solution to keep my 2nd and 5th graders on task and working independently.
When I found myself looking for workbox ideas for my 5th grader, though, I had little luck.  I wanted ideas that would stimulate his interest and creativity, but we weren’t using workboxes for our entire school time so I didn’t need the typical tasks and activities.  I needed to think up ideas on my own.  Here is a list of activities that I have found stimulate his thinking and imagination, and give him extra practice in areas where he might be lacking:
  • Memory work- a poem, states and capitals, grammar definitions, word roots, etc- and the promise of a chocolate chip for every correct one.  :)
  • Solitaire- there are so many types!
  • Magazine article to summarize- I choose from magazines like Cobblestone, Cricket, Faces- all from Cricket publishing
  • Thesaurus work- I copy a passage from a good book (Dickens, C. S. Lewis, etc, rich in vocabulary) and underline words for him to find a substitute for, and give him a Thesaurus or hook him up online with Word Central.
  • An open-ended puzzle like this Izzi puzzle or 9-piece puzzles like this.
  • A coupon for 20 minutes of reading time, computer time, or free time.
  • A page from an art magazine, cardstock, and good quality colored pencils.  Then I ask him to copy it as closely as he can.  I have gotten some wonderful renderings by asking my kids to do this!
  • A page from an art book- I ask him to freewrite a paragraph about the picture.  It could be just his impressions, a story based on the picture, or a description of what techniques he thinks the artist used. 
  • A game to play- we love Set, Bananagrams, Blokus, and many others.  These games often have solitaire versions.
  • Tangrams- with a challenge!  Find one that Mom can’t do and you get 5 extra minutes of media for the day!
  • Prefix/suffix scavenger hunt- give a magazine or book passage and see how many different types he can find.  You can also do this with word roots, adjectives, etc.
  • Cuisenaire rods- we have this book with some great puzzle challenges
  • I have a couple of these scratch off art drawing books that the kids love.
  • A language packet- with a page of analogies, editing work, outlining practice, etc.
  • A logic packet- with pages from the Critical Thinking Co..  We love these books!
  • A writing assignment such as a picture prompt (writing about a picture I find online or in a magazine- I sometimes specify by asking for 1st person, or a poem, etc.), word prompt (I pick 2 words from random out of the dictionary- the last time I did this I chose “parrot” and “grotesque”.  The story was quite funny!), or freewriting for 10 minutes.
I enjoy being creative with these ideas.  Our normal academic time doesn’t always allow for the fun-educational stuff, so this combination has been a win-win for us!
What do you use in your workboxes?