As teachers, we know that our days are full of unexpected changes, disruptions and obstacles. No matter how much planning we do, it seems inevitable that we have to pivot. In the words of Marcia Brady “Something suddenly came up.”
- Your lesson went too long or too short leaving you with awkward time to fill
- An unannounced fire drill sends your class into a tizzy, when you finally get back to the room, you have 5 minutes until lunch
- You forgot about the early dismissal or there was a 2 hour delay due to weather.
- You are the first class on the bus waiting for everyone else to load up for the field trip and the kids are going out of their minds (this was always me)
- Your guest reader is late and you need to keep your students attention so they don’t lose focus before they arrive
Adjustments are constantly being made to our days. This is why having a few quick activities in our back pockets to fill up 5-10 minutes can be a crucial classroom management tool.
1. Guess My Number
This one is pretty basic and self-explanatory but really requires number sense and strategic thinking. I think of a number from 1-50 or 1-100. Students can only ask yes or no questions. I don’t allow them to guess a number until at least 5-7 questions have been asked first. This takes some practice. I encourage asking about even/odd, digits in a particular place value and higher/lower. This is my go-to time-filler because it is quick and can go on for as long or short as I need (usually 2-10 minutes).
2. Book Talks
Book talks are like mini-commercials about a book (think Reading Rainbow). This would be something that should be modeled first. There are some samples on YouTube you could show students. But, once they know what a book talk is, you can use it as a time-filling activity all year. Students tell about a book they read, what it’s about (without giving too much away) and why you should read it. It should be less than 2 minutes. It helps if they can show off the book so if you have book boxes or library books nearby, this can be a great last minute activity that is fun and promotes ready! #winwin If you use Seesaw, students could record a book talk as an activity. Then, you could play them whenever you need to!
Digital Memory Games are a great back-up activity to keep on hand. Display one of the Memory pictures on your interactive board or display screen. Students have 3-4 minutes (or as long as you’d like) to study the picture. Then, switch to the questions page. See how much they have remembered and reveal answers by moving the checkmark. Some teachers like to play a song while students study. I like to have students jot down notes on scrap paper or a notebook. This works on vocabulary, attention to detail, focus, memory and so much more! It’s a great activity that can take less than 5 minutes.
4. 5 Second Rule
This is a quick, fun game that gets students thinking. You can come up with your own ideas, get 5 Second Rule Jr. or use these Free cards form Quizlet. The object of the game is to be able to name 3 things within 5 seconds. For example, name 3 types of cereal. You could have one kid on the spot or partner students up and have one partner try to say 3 things while the other keeps time.
5. Still as a Statue
This is the perfect activity when you need your students to wait quietly! I’ve used this one during whole group bathroom trips, waiting to get school pictures taken or if we are a minute or two early for our special class. Tell students to stand “still as a statue”. Pick the student who is standing the most still. They get to step out of line and judge the other students stillness. They wait 5-10 seconds before picking the next statue. Continue this for as long as you need!
The next time you find yourself with some awkward time to fill, keep these ideas in your toolbox for a quick and fun time-filler. Your students will be less likely to start acting up if they have a focused activity to occupy gaps in your day.
Stay safe & sassy,