Five Minute Fillers
Every teacher dreads that time of the day when they don’t have enough time to start a lesson, but have a few extra minutes to spare. This “wait time” or “lull” is the perfect opportunity for teachable moments, and the students won’t go “bonkers.” What’s great about time-fillers is that they require absolutely no preparation and the students think of them as “play” time. Don’t waste any time: Use the following teacher time savers when lessons finish early, filling in that gap before specials or in-between lessons.
Grade Level - Kindergarten, First, Second or Third Grade
- Mystery Box – This five minute filler is a terrific way for students to develop their thinking strategies. Place an item into a closed shoe box and ask the students to figure out what is inside the box without opening it. Allow them to use all of their senses to find out what is in the box; touch it, smell it, shake it. Suggest to them to ask “yes” or “no” questions such as, “Can I eat it?” or “Is it bigger than a baseball?” Once they figure out what the item is, open the box and let them see it.
- Sticky Notes – This quick time filler helps students build their vocabulary and spelling skills. Write compound words in advance on sticky notes. (For example, write “base” on one note and “ball” on the other.) Place one sticky note on each student’s desk. Then encourage them to go around the classroom and find the classmate that makes the compound word.
- Pass the Ball – A great way to reinforce fluency is to have the students sit on their desks and pass a ball while saying anything, from rhyming words to naming the capitals of the United States. This is a fun time filler where students will enjoy playing while reinforcing important learning concepts.
- Line Them Up – This is a great five minute activity to take your time lining the students up for lunch or a special. Have all of the students remain in their seats and each student stands when they think you are talking about them. An example is, “This person wears glasses.” So all of the students that wear glasses would stand up. Then you say, “This person wears glasses and has brown hair.” Then whoever has glasses and brown hair would remain standing and then line up. Then you move on to another description and so on. You can modify this activity to last two minutes or even 15 minutes. Line them up is a quick way for children to reinforce their listening skills and comparatives.
- Hot Seat – This game is similar to Twenty Questions. Randomly select a student to come up to the front board and have them stand with their back facing the chalkboard. Then choose another student to come up and write a word on the board behind them. Limit the word that is written to a site word, vocabulary word, spelling word or anything that you are teaching. The goal of the game is for the student to ask his/her classmates questions in order to guess the word written on the board.
- Silly Story – Challenge students to take turns making up a story. Have them sit in a circle, and one by one add a sentence to the story. For example, the first student would say, “Once upon a time there was a little girl that went to school, then she…” Then the next student would continue the story. Encourage children to stay on task and use appropriate words. This activity is the perfect opportunity for students to develop and use their imagination and creativity.
- Clean Up – Have a clean-up count down. Set a stopwatch or alarm and assign each student a specific number of items to clean up. Tell students, “Let’s beat the clock and see how fast we can clean up the classroom.” Make sure that you set rules ahead of time, and every student understands exactly where each item goes in the classroom. As an extra incentive, choose one item be the “trash of the day” and whoever picks up that item wins a small prize.
- Keep it Simple – Think of the skills you want your students to grasp and prepare activities that correlate with that, then use those five minutes to practice those skills. Younger children can practice printing or coloring and older children can practice journal writing or do math drills. Whatever the concept is, prepare for it ahead of time and have it ready for those awkward in-between moments.