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5-Minute Transitional Activities for Busy Days

Teachers share their best ideas.


PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

A Game of "Statue"
We love to play Statue while waiting in line for lunch or specials. One person is "it" and says statue. All of the other kids freeze and try to look the most like a statue. The person who is "it" selects the one who looks most like a statue to start a new round. This is a fantastic, imaginative, and quiet game! —Ruth Ewell, Lone Tree, CO, First grade


Begin a Snowball
I play Snowball with my class when we have a few extra minutes. The rule is that everyone must remain quiet unless they are pointed to. I begin by pointing to one student and giving him an addition fact such as, 7+9. He can think all he wants, but must not say uh, um, or anything other than the answer. When the student replies 16, I quickly turn to another student, point, and say plus 5, and that student must add five to the previous student's answer. If a child did not hear the other answer, was not following along mentally and therefore cannot correctly reply, or if he or she says anything other than the answer (i.e., I didn't hear what he said.), the game starts over. The goal is to reach 100 with no mistakes and nothing spoken other than the correct answer. We keep track of how far we get without a mistake and always strive to at least surpass our highest score.

It is a nice game because students struggling in math can be called upon early on in the game and given simpler problems, while the math wizards can be challenged. This can also be transferred to subtraction (where you begin at 100 and try to reach zero) or multiplication. —Debbie Herman, Fowler, CA, Fourth grade


Moving to the Music
An activity I enjoy is called Milling to Music. It gets the students up and moving, reviewing information, or just getting to know each other better. I put on a CD (slow paced music) and I ask my students to pretend that they are slowly ice skating around in the room. When the music stops, they face the closest person (allow some time for this), and tell that person a piece of information, such as their favorite food. As soon as each of the children has had a chance to share, they stand back to back. The music goes on again, and the activity is repeated. You can ask that the class give each other an addition fact, name the main characters of a story you have just read, or tell the ways to make nouns plural that end in the consonant Y. The ideas are limitless. —M. Taylor, Columbia City, IN, Third grade


Let's Boogie
I enjoy using the Greg and Steve's Volume 2 CD. Our class loves to do the Boogie Walk, Popcorn Dance, and the Freeze Dance! The songs are lively and hip. We dance while others are cleaning up centers, getting ready to go to the cafeteria, or to the library. —Cindy, San Diego, CA, Kindergarten


Tall Tales
I enter my class laughing hopelessly and then ask my students to guess what might have triggered my laughter. They take guesses and in doing so, each one supplies a line to form a complete story. This happens once every week. We bind this storybook, complete with the author's name and hobbies, and present it at the annual parent-teacher meeting. When the students see it for the first time, they are extremely excited. —Shafina, New Delhi, India, Fifth grade


My class has a problem corner where my kids and I sit together to discuss student problems. I do not participate; I simply encourage the students to share. After listening to all of the problems, one problem is chosen and a discussion begins. I keep noting the minutes of the meeting and log the suggestions for that problem put forth by various students. At the end of the year, the class can actually see how much they have helped their friends. —Shafina, New Delhi, India, Sixth grade


What's That Trophy?
My class and I play a game in which we discuss what a trophy is. I encourage students to think creatively by asking them what they would look like if they were trophies from various events. First, I ask students to spread themselves throughout the room. I then say, Show me what you would look like if you were a trophy for miniature golf contest (or bowling league, etc). Students pose themselves accordingly and must hold that position. It is surprising how many ideas emerge and the students will also offer many great suggestions. Play as long as you want or just for five minutes. —Name withheld, Cincinnati, OH, Kindergarten

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Susan Cheyney

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