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October 1, 2015

15 5-Minute Fillers for Focused Fun

By Meghan Everette
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    When I’m asked my number one complaint about teaching, I generally say “time.” There is simply never enough, whether it is time with the kids, time for professional development, time to explore student interests, or time to prepare materials. That’s why it can really throw a teacher for a loop when an extra five or ten minutes opens up. It’s hardly enough time to start anything new or get students engaged in work, but it's too long of a time to let idle chatter take over. Q: What’s a good teacher to do? A: Print a set of task cards (I use the free Word Workshop tool!) and keep them handy for any extra minutes that surprise you.

     

    printable task cards

    Click on the image above for a PDF version of my fillers. Read on to find out how you can use them to keep students learning while maximizing every spare second of the day!

     

    English

    1. Have students play a quick game of charades to identify a popular piece of literature. Young students can act out child playing charadesscenes from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" while older students can tackle Shakespeare or any current reading.

    2. Direct your students to line themselves up alphabetically by first, middle, or last name. Young students will only know their first names, while desk nametags can help with last names. Not knowing each other’s names is half the fun, especially for older students revealing their middle names. For an extra challenge, ban speaking and encourage hand signing or using environmental text to help get the point across.

    3. Play “Sparkle” spelling. Have all students stand, and the teacher calls out a spelling word. One at a time, each student contributes one letter until the word is spelled. When the word is spelled, the next student says “sparkle.” I have my students stand in a line or circle for this activity. Missed letters or not knowing the word is over means you sit down while the game continues.

    4. Create an oral story one line at a time. Say one line, such as “It was a dark and stormy night,” and have each student add on a line. Students can raise their hands to add on, or you can move around the room in order. I have my students go in order by their seating assignment or class number.

    5. Play a fill-in-the-blank game with common idioms and expressions. Prompt a student with, “Like a bull in a __________.” and challenge students to fill in the blank. Older students can take turns tossing out expressions for others.

     

    Math

    1. Skip counting isn’t just for young students. Have students start on non-standard numbers, such as 1,124, and count up by hundreds. Switch it up and have students count backwards from large numbers or by unusual intervals, such as 7.

    2. Keep a chart showing non-standard measurement in the room. When time allows, have students use a non-quick math activitystandard tool, such as their hands, pencils, or erasers to quickly measure an object and add it to the chart. Students can measure the same object using different tools to compare measurements.

    3. Quickly do an elapsed time story, such as “If I wake up at 6 a.m. and we go to PE at 1 p.m., how many hours do I have to wait for PE?” Challenge older students with time to the minute or counting backwards to find a start time.

    4. Get in line by birth order without talking. Student will have to use numbers to represent months. Older students will also be challenged to add the year they were born.

    5. Complete a mental math problem. Start with a number and give students a series of operations, having students complete operations in their head. The older the student, the tougher you can make the directions.

     

    Brain Games

    1. Have students complete a fun challenge such as rubbing their head while patting their belly. A few other challenges include:

    • Shake your head yes and no alternating between shrugging shoulders up and down.

    • Tap one food up and down with your heel on the floor while turning your other foot in and out with your heel on the floor.

    • Make backwards circles with one arm and forward circles with the other. Then switch.

    2. Have students give a set of walking directions to another student and see if they can follow them. For example, student working“Take five steps forward, make a quarter turn right, and then take three steps back.”

    3. Play a quick round of “I Spy” with students. Make it academic by adding vocabulary words such as, “I spy an inclined plane,” or “I spy a blue quadrilateral.”

    4. If you have a map in the room or one that is easily accessible, give students a starting point and a series of directions. See if they can end up in the proper location. Older students can have less specific clues such as, “I’m starting at the capital of the largest state in the U.S.”

    5. Give students five terms and have them tell how they are related. Younger students might use categories such as animals, while older students might use categories such as herbivores. Allow students to create their own list and challenge classmates.

    Brain breaks and movement activities are great, but every once in a while you need an activity that isn’t aerobic, but keeps kids focused. Five-minute task cards can help fill the void without wreaking havoc on the rest of your day, requiring supplies, or depending on technology. Keep a box full and add to it to keep it fresh and fun in your classroom.

    Five minutes a day is fifteen hours over the course of a school year. Two days of instruction time can be saved with easy, focused activities.

    What mini-activities do you use to keep kids learning in the “lost minutes” of the day?

    When I’m asked my number one complaint about teaching, I generally say “time.” There is simply never enough, whether it is time with the kids, time for professional development, time to explore student interests, or time to prepare materials. That’s why it can really throw a teacher for a loop when an extra five or ten minutes opens up. It’s hardly enough time to start anything new or get students engaged in work, but it's too long of a time to let idle chatter take over. Q: What’s a good teacher to do? A: Print a set of task cards (I use the free Word Workshop tool!) and keep them handy for any extra minutes that surprise you.

     

    printable task cards

    Click on the image above for a PDF version of my fillers. Read on to find out how you can use them to keep students learning while maximizing every spare second of the day!

     

    English

    1. Have students play a quick game of charades to identify a popular piece of literature. Young students can act out child playing charadesscenes from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" while older students can tackle Shakespeare or any current reading.

    2. Direct your students to line themselves up alphabetically by first, middle, or last name. Young students will only know their first names, while desk nametags can help with last names. Not knowing each other’s names is half the fun, especially for older students revealing their middle names. For an extra challenge, ban speaking and encourage hand signing or using environmental text to help get the point across.

    3. Play “Sparkle” spelling. Have all students stand, and the teacher calls out a spelling word. One at a time, each student contributes one letter until the word is spelled. When the word is spelled, the next student says “sparkle.” I have my students stand in a line or circle for this activity. Missed letters or not knowing the word is over means you sit down while the game continues.

    4. Create an oral story one line at a time. Say one line, such as “It was a dark and stormy night,” and have each student add on a line. Students can raise their hands to add on, or you can move around the room in order. I have my students go in order by their seating assignment or class number.

    5. Play a fill-in-the-blank game with common idioms and expressions. Prompt a student with, “Like a bull in a __________.” and challenge students to fill in the blank. Older students can take turns tossing out expressions for others.

     

    Math

    1. Skip counting isn’t just for young students. Have students start on non-standard numbers, such as 1,124, and count up by hundreds. Switch it up and have students count backwards from large numbers or by unusual intervals, such as 7.

    2. Keep a chart showing non-standard measurement in the room. When time allows, have students use a non-quick math activitystandard tool, such as their hands, pencils, or erasers to quickly measure an object and add it to the chart. Students can measure the same object using different tools to compare measurements.

    3. Quickly do an elapsed time story, such as “If I wake up at 6 a.m. and we go to PE at 1 p.m., how many hours do I have to wait for PE?” Challenge older students with time to the minute or counting backwards to find a start time.

    4. Get in line by birth order without talking. Student will have to use numbers to represent months. Older students will also be challenged to add the year they were born.

    5. Complete a mental math problem. Start with a number and give students a series of operations, having students complete operations in their head. The older the student, the tougher you can make the directions.

     

    Brain Games

    1. Have students complete a fun challenge such as rubbing their head while patting their belly. A few other challenges include:

    • Shake your head yes and no alternating between shrugging shoulders up and down.

    • Tap one food up and down with your heel on the floor while turning your other foot in and out with your heel on the floor.

    • Make backwards circles with one arm and forward circles with the other. Then switch.

    2. Have students give a set of walking directions to another student and see if they can follow them. For example, student working“Take five steps forward, make a quarter turn right, and then take three steps back.”

    3. Play a quick round of “I Spy” with students. Make it academic by adding vocabulary words such as, “I spy an inclined plane,” or “I spy a blue quadrilateral.”

    4. If you have a map in the room or one that is easily accessible, give students a starting point and a series of directions. See if they can end up in the proper location. Older students can have less specific clues such as, “I’m starting at the capital of the largest state in the U.S.”

    5. Give students five terms and have them tell how they are related. Younger students might use categories such as animals, while older students might use categories such as herbivores. Allow students to create their own list and challenge classmates.

    Brain breaks and movement activities are great, but every once in a while you need an activity that isn’t aerobic, but keeps kids focused. Five-minute task cards can help fill the void without wreaking havoc on the rest of your day, requiring supplies, or depending on technology. Keep a box full and add to it to keep it fresh and fun in your classroom.

    Five minutes a day is fifteen hours over the course of a school year. Two days of instruction time can be saved with easy, focused activities.

    What mini-activities do you use to keep kids learning in the “lost minutes” of the day?

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