I’ve Got Extra Time with My Students. Great! Now What?!

panic buttonby Kristin M. Woolums, M.Ed.

The best-laid plans, the most thought-out lessons, and the most carefully-crafted ideas are timed out perfectly to be completed exactly on schedule, right? After all, we’re teachers! We have to stay on schedule! So you can imagine that I was like a deer in headlights the first time I heard those five little words: “Mrs. Smith is running late.” Translation: I’ve got my students for 15, 30 or even 45 minutes longer than I’d planned, and I don’t have anything to do with them! Now what?

Like any great teacher, I have learned to beg, borrow, and steal ideas to stock my “arsenal” of tricks for whenever I find myself with extra time, which, surprisingly, happens quite a bit.

Got 10 minutes? Try one of these:

Mad-Libs. Yes, the same “parts of speech” game that you played on long road trips still works! Old-fashioned paper versions work well, but try them online at http://www.eduplace.com/tales/. (Bonus: hook up an LCD projector for all to see!)

Foam crafts. Keep foam craft buckets (usually found at craft or discount department stores) in your storage closet. Students of all ages love to create with these crafts. They make great student prizes, too!

Freerice.com. What’s better than boosting skills while donating food to end world hunger? Check out www.freerice.com – an unusual (and very addictive!) learning website!

Stand up, Hand up, Pair up. Put simple flash cards on steroids! Pass out one flash card (question on one side, answer on the back) to each student, tell them to “stand up” behind their seat, “hand up” to look for a partner, then “pair up” with someone else who has their hand up. They should greet each other, decide who will go first, quiz each other (coach if necessary), give a compliment, trade cards, and then raise a hand and look for someone else whose hand is raised (the signal that they need a partner) and repeat the process. This controlled chaos is great for reinforcing concepts, and my students love this “game”! Thank you to a Kagan workshop (kaganonline.com) for this great idea!

Video clips from United Streaming or Brain Pop. These two websites are members-only, but well worth the investment. The video clips are targeted at kids and are chock full of valuable topics. Visit streaming.discoveryeducation.com or brainpop.com.

Got 20 minutes or more? Try:

Sparkle. Have the group stand in a large circle while the teacher calls out a spelling word. The first person spells the first letter, the second spells the second letter, etc. After the last letter is said, the next person says “Sparkle” and then the next person sits down. If someone misspells, they have to sit, and the word starts over. The last one standing is the winner. This is a great game of knowledge and luck, and the kids love it!

So you can see, filling extra time with learning activities isn’t hard… you just have to have some tricks up your sleeve! I hope some of these will work for you!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

We’d like to know: What tricks do you have up your sleeve for filling extra time productively? Leave a comment to share your idea, and you’ll be entered to win a School Box gift card!

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