WeAreTeachers Logo
Keep Students Engaged the Last 5 Minutes of Class

What to Do With That Awkward 5 or 10 Minutes of Class You Have Left

My first year of teaching, I would often end my lesson, check for understanding, have students fill out an exit ticket, review the homework assignment, breathe a sigh of relief, glance up at the clock, and develop immediate diarrhea upon realizing that I had a whole 10 minutes of class left. 

You see, I walk this weird, confusing line of being a teacher who hates giving students "free time" but also hates giving students busy work, so it was really hard for me to figure out what to do on the spot. This still happens every once in a while, but now, instead of succumbing to physical and emotional panic, I simply choose one of my weapons out of my Mildly-Academic-Things-You-Can-Do-With-10-Minutes-Left-of-Class Arsenal, which today I will be sharing with you.

(Disclaimer: A good teacher would tell you, "Keep lecturing. Create another exit ticket. Post higher-level thinking questions on the board and have students write down their answers silently and in complete sentences." I am not that teacher.)

1) Show your students one of these videos and relate it back to your lesson/content somehow.

Video Description Possible way of relating back to lesson/topic
The Awareness Test
A fun test of student's awareness The importance of paying attention
Kid President's Pep Talk to Teachers and Students
A young man's heartwarming pep talk The power of positivity/goal-setting
Zombie Kid Likes Turtles
A reporter asks a boy a question, and ... well, you'll just have to watch it. The importance of staying on-topic 
The Power of Words A short (fictional) interaction between a homeless man and a woman who understands the power of words The power of words
Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation Simonova uses sand as a storytelling medium. Amazing!  The power of visuals

Eric Whitacre: A Virtual Choir 2,000 Voices Strong
Whitacre creates a virtual choir with 2,000 submitted videos  The limitlessness of creativity 


2) Have students face off in Trashketball to decide which half of the class gets dismissed first. For Trashketball, first divide the class into two teams. Each team sends a representative to the front (or you can choose a representative). The representatives are then asked a review question. If the question is answered correctly, the representative's team earns two points. Then the representative has a chance to earn another two points for his/her team by shooting a ball made of trash (see the featured image) into the class trash can from a set distance. Then, a new set of representatives face off. Whichever team is in the lead when the bell rings gets dismissed first.

Activities for the Last Few Minutes of Class

3) Play an ultra-quick round of Reviewsical Chairs.
You can read the full rules for Reviewsical Chairs here, but for the ultra-quick round, just remove one chair and have students walk around the room. When you say "STOP!" students must sit in one of the remaining chairs. The last student standing chooses another student to "challenge" for his/her chair. You ask a review question from your content. The first student to answer correctly "wins" the chair, and you will start another round. You won't have time to go through the whole class, but it's a fun way to get them moving and thinking. And also really hyper just before sending them to their next teacher.

4) Have everyone get out a sheet of paper and write down as many U.S. states as they can. If you teach social studies, awesome! If you don't, this is totally cross-curricular learning. It's also infuriating because I can never remember more than 44. 

5) Hold a limerick contest. Tell students that the rules are that it must follow the limerick rhyme scheme, and it must be something they would feel morally confident reading in front of their grandmother. Give them three minutes to write independently, another three to pick a favorite from their table, and then two minutes to vote as a class. If you don't teach English language arts, make the limerick germane to your lesson/unit.

6) Create fun structured conversations. Give the whole class a sentence stem that they have to fill in themselves, and then make them go find at least 10 different partners to practice it with. The repetition of both speaking and listening will help cement it in their brains, and the not-sitting-in-their-chairs will make it fun. 

  • "One thing I will remember to tell my future grandchildren about differential equations is _____"
  • "I shall uphold the honor of my English teacher, Ms./Mr. _____ and never mix up 'you're' and 'your.' I will remember the difference by _____."
  • "I'm going to go straight home and tell everyone on Facebook how the most important thing I learned about cells is ____."
  • "If I made a modern-day movie about the Shakespeare play we read today, I would cast _____ as _______ because they are both ______."

7) If all else fails, Cat Bounce. This is a website that allows the user to bounce felines across the screen indefinitely. Perfect for a Smart Board if you have one. But good luck relating it back to your content if an administrator walks in.

Love, Teach teaches English at a Title I middle school and writes about it at loveteachblog.com. In addition to teaching, she enjoys bagpipes, celebrating the Oxford comma and almost buying expensive candles from Anthropologie before putting them back.


Leave a comment
  1. ampis1st | Nov 30, 2015
    I used different versions of around the world according to content. If math, basic facts. If language arts, spelling words or parts of speech. If science or social studies, facts. All students are seated with their books ready to change class. The first person in the first row stands next to the person whose desk was behind his/her desk. Only the challenger or challenged may respond to the challenge. Anyone else answering will lose a turn. If math, a flash card is shown both. The first to respond correctly goes on to challenge the next person in that row or the first person in the next row. All other challenges are verbal. The purpose is to be the one who, when time is up, has gone the furtherest from the desk where they started. That person is the first to be dismissed followed by his or her row.
  2. lmgraham | Sep 27, 2014
    I teach high school business (Accounting, Business Management, Personal Finance) and play musical chairs for review, too.  I use my Pandora station of good classic songs and they have to answer the question on the review sheet if they don't have a seat when the music stops.  Only difference is I don't eliminate anyone because some kids will just get an answer wrong so they don't have to play anymore.  I also have them in teams and keep score to see which team wins with the most points.  It's fun to see how many of them sing along to "my" music.  lol  A little side note... don't play the music too loud if the teacher next door is being observed by the administrator.  Oops!  
  3. earthrider | Sep 27, 2014
    I thought I was the one who invented the word 'trasketball.' Oh well, I did love your many fun and creative ideas. I've also known that panic about what to do the last few minutes. Thank you.
  4. Ocicat | Sep 27, 2014
    Welcome your administrator in during Cat Bounce and invite him/her to name one of Newton's Laws of Motion and explain/show how that law is demonstrated in the game. ;)
  5. Nell709 | Sep 26, 2014
    LOL, I loved these ideas. Thanks for sharing. :)

    Leave a comment

    Get Our Newsletter!
    Facebook Google+ Twitter Pinterest Flickr YouTube
    Email Signup