Tried-It Tuesday: Magic Piece of Trash

Confession time: my classroom is often a mess.
Not disorganized, just messy.
Messy classrooms can sometimes be a good thing :)
The students' desks are often exploding (no matter how many times the "desk fairy" comes to visit), their shoes track in mud, grass, and wood chips after each recess, and a myriad of pencils, pens, markers, etc. like to fly out and congregate on the floor each night.
At the end of each day, I ask my students to clean up their floor space, but undoubtedly, once everyone has filtered out to where they need to go, the floor is still a danger zone.
Today I decided to try something to help with the clean-up process.
I'm linking this idea up with my bud, Holly, from "Fourth Grade Flipper"
We had done a major art project this afternoon.
You bet!
Creativity is Messy and We are Very Creative Kids Playroom Wall Decal, Craft room decor sign, Classroom art studio, Create Words on Etsy, $15.00
At the end of the day, I rang my bell and told the students to "clean up."
Five minutes later, the students were seated, ready to go...and the floor was still a mess.
So I picked out (im my head) a MAGIC PIECE OF TRASH!!!
I didn't tell the students WHICH piece it was, but I did challenge them: whoever picked it up would win the game! Well if there's one thing about this class, it's that they're competive! They jumped out of their seats and started picking up (and throwing away) construction paper, pencils, food wrappers, etc. I kept an eye on my chosen piece (today it was a goldfish cracker) and at the end of 3 minutes, I announced that no one had picked up my piece. So they zoomed around again, cleaning the carpet with uncharacteristic veracity :) Finally, one of my boys picked it up and threw it away, winning the competition! I announced that he was the winner - and he beamed :)
Note: even if a student picked it up in the first minute, I wouldn't announce it until the end, because then the kids will stop cleaning :)
I wish I had taken before and after pictures - but you can use your imagination!
It's simple.
It's fun.
It's motivating.
It works.


  1. I do this with my first graders (I call it "Mystery Piece"). It is AMAZING how clean the floor gets in just a few minutes!

  2. This is awesome! Even my middle schoolers would have fun with this. :)
    Amanda at His and Her Hobbies

  3. I've done this before, but have forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. I picked that up in my student teaching days and still use it today. My kids go crazy. They try to follow my eyes to see where it might be. Sometimes I pick two items, the item might not be trash but an area that needs to be straightened. I even change the object midstream if some one gets the magic clean up item too quickly or we just play again. Another game they like is 30 second pick up. You should see the stuff they round up to pitch in the can...So much fun and my classroom is left so clean the custodian wouldn't have to vacuum if he didn't really want to!

  5. I've heard of this before but, like Diane, forgot about it! I hate a messy classroom too! Thanks for linking up, friend! I didn't see your link on the linkup but found your post catching up on my blog reading. :)
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  6. I used magic piece of trash in my classroom too! My kids absolutely loved it, and it always made me laugh to see them scrambling to find that one piece of trash. Too funny!
    Southern Fried Teachin’


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