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Quick 5 Minute Filler Activities and Games for the Classroom

Five Minute Filler Activities

We all have them ... times in the class when the students are done their work and they are threatening mutiny. An effective teacher has a plan for everything and this includes a repertoire of filler activities for those times.

Here are some quick and fun sponge activities that promote teamwork, quick thinking and creativity, while also keeping order and staving off chaos! All of them are great for all age groups and any subject areas. You can modify as you see fit, for your particular class and use them according to your teaching style.

These three choices are ones that I have used in my classroom several times, with a variety of age groups and found them to be effective. I have also found these are great social skills activities, as well, helping to build a better classroom climate and encouraging students to listen to one another.


1. Compliments

This is a simple game where each student is asked to say something nice about the person or two persons on their right, on their left, or behind them, whichever works best for you.

This little activity is good because all of us like it when someone says something good about us. And you have to make the rule that everyone must say something about their assigned person. You may find many students saying something like "nice shirt," but at least it's not an insult!

As a teacher, be sure to participate, too. It is actually good to start the game, so that you can model the compliments for the rest of the class. Students will get better at this when they are exposed to the idea of giving compliments.


Social Skills Activities -- Benefits, Variations, Extensions

All of these activities are excellent for promoting social skills.



Classroom climate, Self-esteem, Teamwork, Creativity, Social Skills

Ask for specific types of compliments, Say something good about yourself

Journal about the experience, Teach Explicit lesson on giving compliments






Classroom climate, Writing Skills, Social Skills, Creativity, Enrichment

Do a quote of the day, Use a quote from your lesson, Write first and then speak, or Speak first and then write

Write an essay from the quote for a longer writing assignment





One Word

Classroom climate, Social Skills, Creativity, Sequence, Logic

Allow the words "a, the" to not count, Do one sentence instead of one word, Allow for a "pass" for shy students

The teacher writes down the stories and have students create a longer, written story from it.


Books on More Classroom Activities


Great Places to get Great Quotes Online

Quote Books

2. Quotations

Write a quote on the board, and have the students respond to it, either through writing, or by discussion. The great things about quotes is that there is endless variety in the types of quotes, and everyone sees something different from the quote. This is an excellent way to encourage creativity and thinking.

You can use quotes everyday as "quotes of the day," or you can just use it once in a while in order to get a good discussion going. Quotes are also a good way to reinforce the lesson that was learned that day. For example, if you discussed a short story, you could insert a quote from the story, and have students discuss it, and see is they recognize it.

Other sources of quotes are from famous people in history, from celebrities that the students might recognize, from quotation websites or from a book that you are reading yourself.

thanks to dok1 for use of this image.

thanks to dok1 for use of this image.

3. One Word

The activity "one word" is a great way to help students learn about narrative and logical thinking. It is a very simple activity and great for those few extra minutes before class ends. The activity goes like this: each person says one word and the next person adds to it, and son and so on, and it turns into a story. For example, John says "The," and Ashley says "cat," and Pat says "ran."

This is very simple, but it is fun and requires that everyone pay attention, so that they follow the story, and don't say a word that doesn't fit in. The rule is that it has to make sense. The great part about this game is that it really doesn't matter when the bell goes; you just keep it going until the end of the period. Also, if it gets too silly, you can start the game over, and try again.

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Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on November 20, 2011:

Mary, I love it! That is a brilliant idea! Like you say, they leave in a good mood, no matter what happened that day in class. Thanks for adding that suggestion.

mary-lambert from Charlotte, NC on November 19, 2011:

I like to show a funny or viral clip from YouTube. Often I download clips that they may not have the background to be exposed to. (Abbott and Costello's Who's on First, I Love Lucy's candy line etc.) I've heard the expression, "Always leave them laughing." I play the clips as students pack up at the end of class, during the time when there is no instruction. No matter what they've struggled with during class, they always walk out of the room with a big smile. It's my spoon full of sugar.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on June 10, 2011:

Suzanne, I love it! You sound like you were a kid after my own heart. I was always entertaining myself during school days, too. But not all kids are as independent as we were! Thanks for the comment -- you made me laugh! :)

justmesuzanne from Texas on June 10, 2011:

I used to write Haiku during that time, but it wasn't an organized class activity. I also read novels during class and wrote my own essays and still made A's & B's, but I guess you probably wouldn't want to promote that! :D Voted up and useful! :)

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on June 08, 2011:

Ken, I am so glad that you found this helpful. You always need new ideas when you are subbing, because it's hard to keep those guys busy the whole period. Thanks for the comment!

Ken Barton on June 08, 2011:

Nice Hub. The last 5 minutes of class can be a rough few minutes if you don't have something to keep the children busy. I like your ideas and will try to remember them when I am subbing. Have a great day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on March 23, 2011:

Middlespecialist, so true! That's why it's better to do "something" than let things just happen ... always a very dangerous thing to do! Thanks so much for your kind comment.

Middlespecialist on March 22, 2011:

These are great, and you are right...5 minutes of nothing is an eternity in a classroom!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on February 12, 2011:

Thanks for the comment, JimmieWriter! I know ... five minutes of nothing is an eternity in the classroom, and you always have to have something up your sleeve when it comes to kids. Take care!

Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN USA on February 11, 2011:

When I taught in public schools, I had file folders full of these kinds of ideas. Even five minutes of "free time" can turn into chaos in the classroom.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on January 06, 2011:

SJerZGirl, thank you so much for the comment! I agree with you, that these types of exercises can help you re-focus your mind. Take care!

SJerZGirl on January 05, 2011:

I always liked non-academic exercises in class when we'd have them. They were a nice break from the norm and a way to refocus our minds.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on December 20, 2010:

Mark, ha ha! I bet you they would like that game! It's great to have a few tricks up your sleeve with bored teenagers in the car for a long trip! Thanks for the comment!

Mark Ewbie from UK on December 19, 2010:

One word story, play this in the car with teenagers. Another game although not for the classroom is the Parsons Cat - adult version. The proper version is using alphabetic adjectives in sequence - person one the parson's cat is an Able cat, person 2 the parson's cat is a Beautiful cat. The teen version is simply to replace the adjective with a swear word of their choice. Ok, not everyone's cup of tea, but the miles pass and barriers break down.

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