5 Minute Classroom Time Fillers: Fun Activities for Short Periods of Time

As a teacher, it’s essential to have some quick classroom time fillers on hand. Do you ever have an awkward few minutes of time in your classroom until the bell rings for recess? Or a few minutes at the end of the day that needs to be filled before chaos ensues? It’s not enough time to really get in to any deep learning or catch up on assignments, but you also want to keep this time productive. Having a “grab bag” of ideas that you can do in short periods of time will help you keep these transition times manageable and ensure that learning is still taking place.

classroom time fillers

The Um Game: Practice Public Speaking Skills

To play the Um Game, one students stands in front of the class (not all students will be comfortable with this, so make sure students are volunteering to come to the front). The teacher or another student gives students a topic. Keep the topics general, like pets, sports, or a trip to the zoo. The student tries to talk about the topic for one minute without saying “um” or any variation of it.

If the student says, “um,” their turn is over. Everyone applauds the student for their effort no matter how long they were able to speak. Some students may only last a few seconds, while others may be able to speak for the entire minute.

The Tens Game: Taking Turns and Listening Skills

Everyone stands in a circle shoulder-to-shoulder. Students count from 1-10, and the person who says 10 must sit down. Each student may choose to count one or two numbers on their turn.

Here’s how this might look in your classroom. 

Student 1: “1” 

Student 2: “2, 3”

Student 3: “4,5”

Student 4: “6”

Student 5: “7,8”

Student 6: “9”

Student 7: “10.”

Now student 7 must sit down, and student 8 begins the next round starting at 1.

Play continues until there is only one person left standing – the winner!

Going on a Picnic: Spelling and Grammar Skills

Before beginning, the teacher thinks of a secret spelling or grammar rule, for example, the long o sound. The teacher begins by announcing, “I’m going on a picnic! I will bring {coconuts]. Who would like to join me?”

Students raise hands to volunteer an answer. They respond with, “Can I come on the picnic? I’d like to bring _______________.” If the item matches the secret spelling or grammar rule, the student gets invited to the picnic. If the item doesn’t follow the rule, they cannot come.

For example, if a student asks to bring a fishing pole for this particular example, the teacher would say, “Yes you can come to my picnic!” because ‘pole’ has a long o sound. If the student asks to bring popcorn, the teacher would say, “I’m sorry – you cannot come,” because there is no long o in popcorn.

After several students have guessed items to bring that fit the rule, students may know the secret rule. The teacher can ask students to reveal it if they think they know it.

I Spy - Geometry Skills

You’ve likely played I Spy before, but how about putting a geometry spin on it? Instead of choosing a color to look for, spy shapes or angles in your classroom instead. For example, say, “I spy with my little eye, something circular.” Or “I spy with my little eye, something that has parallel lines.” Other ideas include 3-dimensional shapes such as cubes or spheres, acute/obtuse/right angles, or even lengths of objects.

High-Low: Place Value and General Number Sense

Create a table on the board. Write “too low” on one side and “too high” on the other.

Choose a number (without telling anyone what it is) and write it on a piece of paper so you don’t forget.

Have students raise their hands to guess a number. If the number is lower than the number you wrote down, write it on the “too low” side. If it is too high, write it on the “too high” side./

Students continue guessing numbers until the target number is guessed. 

Here’s a blog post with even more details about this game.


ABC Adventure - Writing and Speaking Skills

Go on an imaginary adventure with your students as you work your way through the alphabet. Start with a location for your adventure, such as outer space, the beach, a day in the life of an ant, or whatever your students come up with.

Students take turns adding sentences to the story. The first word of the sentence must begin with the letter A. The next sentence must begin with the letter B, and so on. How far through the alphabet can your students get?

Snowman - Spelling and Vocabulary Skills

Play this alternative to traditional Hangman with your class using words from your spelling or vocabulary lists. Add one part of the snowman for each wrong guess. This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary words too, and works with any subject! Another alternative is Blast Off. Draw a part of a rocketship for each wrong guess.

Space Game - Movement and Body Awareness

Classroom time fillers can include physical activity too! Sometimes kids just need a break and can benefit from a few minutes to get up and move around. Allowing them to do this in a more structured way helps students with body awareness while recognizing and respecting others’ personal space.

The rules of this game are simple – feet stay on the ground, no noise, no touching anyone or anything. Once students are standing and chairs are tucked in, the rules go into effect. At first, students just walk around the room. If they accidentally bump into someone or something, they must freeze until the next round. If they talk or make noise, they freeze. 

Round 2 is where things get interesting! In this round, you’ll give students different ways to walk around the room. Tell them to walk like a specific animal, walk without bending their knees, walk sideways, or anything else you can think of. 

Students who have to freeze during one round can join in on the second round.


Guess Who? Build Classroom Community

Guess who cards are a fun way to build classroom community and learn about each other. Have students fill out fact cards about themselves (find a free download for these cards here). 

When you have a few minutes left in class, choose a card and read one of the facts. Then give two or three students a chance to guess who the person is. If no one guesses, then read one more fact and continue in this way until the person is guessed. Not only is this a productive classroom time filler, but it also helps students feel special and important!


Use these Classroom Time Fillers for Other Purposes!

This list of 5-minute time fillers will come in handy for your day-to-day classroom routine. But they are useful for other situations as well! Here are a few ideas:

Leave a list for substitute teachers. Students will like doing something familiar when you are away, and your sub will appreciate a simple list of ideas.

Use them as motivation. Once you find a couple ideas that your students respond well to, use them as motivation to clean up or transition quickly. Let your students know that if they clean up quickly, you’ll have more time to play!

Use them as Brain Breaks. Sometimes a lesson doesn’t go as planned, or you notice students losing steam. Taking a quick break can help improve your students’ focus and stamina. Because these games reinforce curriculum-based skills, you won’t have to feel guilty for taking a break when your students need it!

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