When will I EVER learn?
Student-centered activities are where it's at. Give the students a structured and goal-oriented activity that they manage. You as the teacher can correct and referee disagreements, but the students interact with each other, not with you.
Example 1: This is for my fourth graders. I printed out five pictures each of living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. (I'd like to thank Pottery Barn Kids and my now empty ink cartridge.) This is a fun and stupid easy review activity. Each kid gets a picture. I do an example, and then pick one of the better students to start.
Kid 1: What's this!
Kid 2: The kitchen!
Kid 1: (counts the objects in the room out loud) Three! What's in the kitchen!
Kid 3: A stove! Is in the kitchen!
Etc. I love it. I don't have to say anything.
Example 2: This is for my dim group of third graders. The bright third graders did the flyswatter game. I colored all six shapes in ten colors, so there were sixty shapes in all. (I am an idiot.) I passed out the shapes to the kids. I did an example and picked C* to do the example because he's the only kid with a clue in this class.
Kid 1: What shape is it!
Kid 2: It's a...purple...square!
Kid 1 sticks his shape on the wall and Kid 2 gets up and presents one of his shapes. First one to get rid of all of his shapes wins. And would you believe it but this was the best lesson this group has ever had? I was smiling from ear to ear. I can plan a decent activity but shy away immediately from implementing them in my lessons. It's a newbie teacher's fear of "losing control" of the class.
The exclamation points are direct quotes. Everything is exciting for them.