5 Minute Activities for Elementary School Teachers

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Every elementary school teacher dreads that point of the day when they don’t have enough time to start a new lesson, but yet, they have a few extra minutes to spare before the bell rings. This “wait time” or “lull” is the perfect opportunity for a quick activity for the class. And, what’s great about this type of time-filler activity is that it requires little to no preparation and the students tend to think of them as “play” time. Check out these ideas: 

Mystery Box

This five minute filler is a terrific way for students to develop their thinking strategies. Secretly place an item into a covered shoe box and ask the students to figure out what is inside without opening it. Allow them to use all of their senses to find out what is in the box: touch it, smell it, shake it. Suggest to them to ask “yes” or “no” questions such as, “Can I eat it?” or “Is it bigger than a baseball?” Once they figure out what the item is, open the box and let them see it.

Sticky Notes 

This quick time filler helps students build their vocabulary and spelling skills. Write compound words in advance on sticky notes, dividing each half of the word into two notes. For example, write “base” on one note and “ball” on the other. Then, place one sticky note on each student’s desk. Then students can go around the classroom and find the peer who owns the note that makes the compound word.

Pass the Ball 

A great way to reinforce fluency is to have the students sit on their desks and pass a ball while saying anything, from rhyming words to naming the capitals of the United States. This is a fun time filler where students will enjoy playing while reinforcing important learning concepts. The act of passing a ball engages students and keeps their attention, and encourages order within the classroom by limiting who is speaking and when. Should students get out of hand, use this as a teachable moment and review what it means to be respectful of each other. 

Line Up

This is a great five minute activity to take your time lining the students up for lunch or a special event. Have all of the students remain in their seats and each student stands when they think you are talking about them. An example is, “This person wears glasses.” So all of the students who wear glasses would stand up. Then you say, “This person wears glasses and has brown hair.” Then whoever has glasses and brown hair would remain standing and then line up. Then you move on to another description and so on. You can modify this activity to last two minutes or even 15 minutes. Line up is a quick activity for children to reinforce their listening skills and comparatives.

Hot Seat 

This game is similar to Twenty Questions. Randomly select a student to come up to the front board and have them stand with their back facing the white board. Then choose another student to come up and write a word on the board behind them. Limit the word that is written to a site word, vocabulary word, spelling word or anything that you are teaching. The goal of the game is for the student to ask his/her classmates questions in order to guess the word written on the board. 

Silly Story 

Challenge students to take turns making up a story. Have them sit in a circle, and one by one add a sentence to the story. For example, the first student would say, “Once upon a time there was a little girl that went to school, then she…” Then the next student would continue the story. Encourage children to stay on task and use appropriate words. This activity is the perfect opportunity for students to develop and use their imagination and creativity. This can also be turned into a longer project in which students collaborate on a digital document.

Clean Up 

Have a clean-up countdown. Set a stopwatch or alarm and assign each student a specific number of items to clean up. Tell students, “Let’s beat the clock and see how fast we can clean up the classroom.” Make sure that you set rules ahead of time, and every student understands exactly where each item goes in the classroom. As an extra incentive, choose one item be the “trash of the day” and whoever picks up that item wins a small prize.

Keep it Simple

Think of the skills you want your students to grasp and prepare activities that correlate with that, then use those five minutes to practice those skills. Younger children can practice printing or coloring and older children can practice journal writing or do math drills. Whatever the concept is, prepare for it ahead of time and have it ready for those awkward in-between moments.

Looking for more quick ideas? Try these review activities, brain breaks, and teacher-tested time savers.

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Your Citation
Cox, Janelle. "5 Minute Activities for Elementary School Teachers." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/teacher-time-savers-2081843. Cox, Janelle. (2023, April 5). 5 Minute Activities for Elementary School Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/teacher-time-savers-2081843 Cox, Janelle. "5 Minute Activities for Elementary School Teachers." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/teacher-time-savers-2081843 (accessed May 30, 2023).