That Awkward Moment When You Have 5 Minutes Left of Class and No Idea What to Do…

A few teacher-tested tips, ideas, and videos to the rescue.

What to Do When You Have 5 Minutes Left of Class—and No Lesson Plan

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.

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

The Awareness Test

This one is a good way to reinforce the importance of paying attention.

Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students

There’s always time for the power of positivity.

Zombie Kid Likes Turtles

I like to use this classic viral video to talk about the importance of staying on topic.

The Power of Words


As an English teacher, you can never overemphasize the importance of words.

Kseniya Simonova – Sand Animation

I use this video to talk about the power of visuals.

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

There’s no better way to demonstrate the limitlessness of creativity in under seven minutes.

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.


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.

We’d love to hear—what do you do when you have 5 minutes left of class? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, even more awesome classroom time fillers.

That Awkward Moment When You Have 5 Minutes Left of Class and No Idea What to Do…