Managing time at the beginning of the year can be a little tricky. You’re still getting to know your students and figuring out how to time your lessons to work with your schedule. What if you finish early and have time to spare? We’ve all been there. If you have five to ten minutes at the end of a lesson or the end of the day, it’s not quite enough time to start something new and get it cleaned up. Plus, the kids can start to get antsy if they think there isn’t anything going on. However, we can still make this time meaningful!
Here are ten activities you can do if you have ten minutes to spare during your day or at the end of it:
1. Read a chapter book.
Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones (with a filter at times!), Nate the Great, and Amelia Bedelia are some great chapter book series to read aloud to students. When you read books aloud in a series, the familiarity allows students to focus more on comprehension. It also lets struggling readers get to enjoy books that they find interesting but are too hard to read independently. I always kept one by my chair, and my students loved it!
2. Play Bingo.
Having several different types of Bingo ready to go makes this a breeze – sight words, letter sounds, and rhyming bingo are a few that are great for little learners. It’s also great to keep easy manipulatives to use as markers like unifix cubes. They are fast to pass out and collect.
3. Review sight words.
My favorite sight word songs can be found HERE. These fun videos review sight words in catchy songs. You can also have your students practice writing their words on scratch paper, dry erase boards, or on the carpet with their fingers during the videos. Pick a few words that you know most of the class needs to work on, and they’ll have so much fun practicing them. We always did a few of these each day and they were a big hit!
4. Play “Around the World”.
This can be done with any kind of flashcards – alphabet cards, sight word cards, numbers, etc. With the students sitting in a circle, they pass the bucket around one at a time. Each student draws a card and reads it. The rest of the class gives the student a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to let them know if it’s correct. If it is correct, they get to keep the card. Whoever has the most at the end, wins.
5. Write a communal story together.
Start by writing a sentence on chart paper to begin the story. Then, randomly select students to come up and each continues the story by writing another sentence. If your students are younger and this would take too long, it can be an oral story. You might want to stop every three or four students and recap what has been told already.
6. Play “Guess My Number”.
Think of a number. Call on a student to guess it. Answer with a hint like “It’s greater than that”, “It is less than 50”, “It is even.”, or “It is odd.” Keep calling on students until someone guesses correctly.
7. Have free writing and illustrating time.
Play fun music to listen to while your students write a quick story or draw an illustration. Then, have the students share their work with a partner. We loved doing this on dry erase boards! You can easily make a fun playlist on Spotify!
8. Play “Would You Rather…”.
Ask random questions like, “Would you rather be able to fly or walk through walls?” Students can think, pair, and share, and then call on a few friends to share with the whole group. You can write questions on index cards and keep them nearby for easy access. These always bring about giggles, too!
9. Have intentional sharing time.
Start with students sitting in a circle, and then give them a sentence stem to complete. Have each student in the circle say and complete the stem. This is such a great way to let students share while limiting drawn-out stories. Sentence stems can be academic or social and are a great way to help students connect with each other to build a classroom community. You can read more about using sentence stems HERE in this blog post.
10. Play Sparkle.
Have your students stand in a circle or line. Assign a word to spell out loud. For example, “look”. The first student would say “L”, the next “O”, and so on. After the word is spelled, the next student says “sparkle”. Then, the person after the “sparkle” person has to sit down. If a student gets a letter wrong while spelling, they also sit down. Whoever is the last one standing, wins.
What are your favorite ways to fill those small gaps during your day in a meaningful way? Remember, we all have unplanned time to spare at some point. Let’s get creative with what we do with it!