Last minute activities to fill those awkward moments

We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t you will. That moment when you finish your lesson, the activities are completed, the discussion has reached an endpoint and there are still 15 minutes left in class! You need a last minute activity to reach for in a flash.

Here are some last minute activities to keep in your back pocket for moments like these. I am not an affiliate or sponsor for any of the websites listed. I mention them because I use them and love them.

Activity 1: Asking Good Questions           

Every subject requires that students be able to ask good questions. Discuss with students that you encourage questions. Even questions that seem to lead to nowhere actually lead to greater understanding.

Activity: play a game of “I Spy” with the class. Tell the students you are going to pick out an object in the room, but you aren’t going to tell them what it is. They have to figure out what it is by asking yes or no questions.

The first few questions won’t lead to correct guesses, but finally, after a good number of questions, someone will figure it out. This is when you emphasize that the class never would have come to the correct answer if it weren’t for the first questions asked which originally seemed so far off base. All of the questions were necessary to narrow down the field and come to the correct answer (just like when you’re discussing the content).

Activity 2: Free Rice (This activity requires a projector).

All students can improve upon their vocabulary skills. A fantastic way to do this and help a great cause is via www.freerice.com. This website is actually a vocabulary game in which students earn grains of rice for correct responses. The rice is shown on the screen virtually, but it is also actually donated by various sponsors and sent to impoverished countries, which is a fantastic bonus to the fact that kids are learning new words! There are levels for every reader and students will get quite competitive with themselves and each other. You can use this activity again and again. I project the website on the board and we answer the questions as a whole class, but students could play on their own devices as well.

Activity 3: Agree/Disagree

Thumbs up and down

My students absolutely beg for this game. You need to do a little prep work at the beginning of the year to be prepared to do this activity whenever you have extra time. You need to have signs hanging from your ceiling, with “Agree” written on one and “Disagree” written on the other (or just tape signs with “Agree” and “Disagree” on opposite walls of your room).

Agree/Disagree works as such: You write a statement on the board. For example, George made the right choice at the end of Of Mice and Men. Students must think about the statement and whether they agree or disagree. After a few moments, students move to the side of the classroom with the designation they believe in, either agree or disagree. There is no middle ground or grey area. They must choose a side. Then students raise their hands to speak. Each side (Agree and Disagree) gets a turn to speak going back and forth across the room. The goal is to say something so convincing that they get someone from the other side to move over to their side.

Try to emphasize good persuasion/debating skills. Remind students that they should not reiterate what has already been said. They should focus on bringing new ideas or new examples to the table. They should use specific examples to illustrate their point of view. “I agree George made the right decision (to kill Lennie) because it’s the right thing to do” is not an acceptable response. A better response would be: “I agree because if George didn’t kill Lennie, Curly would have and Curly wouldn’t have been so merciful about it. George killed Lennie not because he wanted to, but because he felt like it was the only option to ‘save’ his friend from further pain.” These debates can get quite heated and you’ll be amazed by the level of thinking students achieve.

Activity 4: NoRedInk.com

This is another website that I love. It’s most useful to English teachers because it allows you to assign practice on specific skills like comma usage or parallelism. The website will cater the questions to the students’ interests and it automatically tells them if they get something correct or incorrect and allows them to try again. You can assign specific skills to specific students or to a whole class. You can also create diagnostics which will help you figure out which skills your students need the most work on.

There is a paid version, but the free version will probably be plenty to suit your purposes.

What last minute activities do you keep in your back pocket for that moment when you have extra time at the end of class? Share in comments!

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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