Time Fillers

By |2018-08-02T23:34:34-07:00October 12th, 2015|

Have you ever finished your lesson, looked at the clock, and realized you still have about 5-10 minutes before the bell rings?  This is not uncommon, but it is so important to be prepared so that we don’t fall back on something ineffective for those extra minutes…like “start working on your homework.”  There are many time filler we can implement, everything from simple quizzes to arts integrated checking for understanding.


A quick and easy time filler is simply a quiz.  As content experts, it is easy for us to come up with a couple checking for understanding questions on the fly that students can answer and turn in on their way out.  Also, just using the word quiz puts students in a different mindset and all of a sudden makes the work feel more valuable.  Download this quick-view cheat sheet of the Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs and tape it to the notebook or clipboard you use during class as a reference for 5 minute quizzes.
Bloom’s Verbs

Cornell Note Strategies

The essence of the Cornell Note system goes beyond that of a format, and can be a great time filler.  Have students exchange notes and look for things they missed.  Give student specific requests for revising their notes: highlight something important, create a question for something you don’t understand, or underline key words for the topic.  You can even ask them to use their notes to design questions for a quiz.  Cornell strategies are a great time filler that will help reinforce the lesson.
Focused Notes


Any chance to build on the students’ social media experiences is a great way to create engaging time filler.  Have students design an image with a caption that recaps the lesson.  You can take this further by having students pass around their instagram image for others to comment.   You can print out multiple copies of the instagram sheet, or just one for each student and have them house it in a plastic sleeve that way students can write on it with an expo marker which can be easily erased and reused multiple times.
Instagram Post


Creating tweets is also a great time filler that forces students to synthesize information into 140 characters.  Just like the instagram, students can keep these in their notebook in plastic sleeves so they can be reused, or it can be blown up to poster size and placed on the classroom door.  Students can then make their tweets on post it notes and stick them on the poster on the way out.  You can even create a twitter wall where each student has their own personalized feed and fellow classmates can make comments on the various twitter feeds.  Again, as content experts it is easy for us to come up with a checking for understanding question for students to respond to.
Twitter Feed


Similar to tweeting, the vine is a chance for students to synthesize the lesson into a 6 second video.  This can be done in groups or individually, and based on the policies of your school, students can record the vines on their phones or perform them for the class.  Be specific in your directions and provide parameters.


Tableaus are a great way to synthesize a lesson nonverbally.  A tableau is a still picture that captures the essence of a topic.  Split students into groups and give each group a question that will check their understanding of the lesson.  Each group must then design one or multiple still pictures that answers the question.


Snowball is fun but will get a little loud.  Have students write a question regarding the lesson on a piece of paper and then ball up the paper.  Throw the snowballs all over the room, then students take turns presenting the question of the snowball they pick up.  Answering can be done as a class, or students can write the answer on the snowball and hand into you on the way out.

These are just a few of the many ways we can fill those extra few minutes at the end of class.  If you have any fun time filler you use let us know below or send me and email [email protected] so we can share!
Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week: Student Generated Projects
As educators we are constantly planning, preparing, and searching for the next great engaging lesson, activity, or project for our students.  But why are we doing all the work?  Next week we will take a look at how to get students involved in the project planning.


  1. Gwen October 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Any ideas for elementary? Most don’t know social media.. and up until about the end of third grade it’s really difficult to get a written sentence out of most of them (and being able to read that sentence is a whole ‘nuther ballgame).

    • Susan Riley October 14, 2015 at 6:03 am - Reply

      Hey there Gwen! Great question…and from the elementary perspective, I have a couple of ideas for you. I actually like to use social media without using the actual technology with younger students. For instance, in Typh’s examples, she used Instagram. What if you created an Instagram screen template and had the students sketch their ideas as an Instagram image? Or for Twitter, they could write or draw their ideas on a Post-It note to simulate the condensed nature of the platform.

      Another great tool would be a recording station where students could record their ideas into a laptop/desktop/mobile device in one sentence or word about what they learned. You could then pull all the individual recordings together and create a single audio recording reflection about the lesson.

      The tableau that Typh talks about in this article can also be done in the elementary grades and the students love being able to move and freeze quickly.

  2. Typhani Harris October 14, 2015 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Hey Gwen!
    Susan has some great points there (thanks Susan!!). My specialty is secondary education, but in agreeing with Susan, these can be modified for younger students. Both the twitter and instagram links on the article connect to pdf’s that can be printed out and used no matter the age. A couple other fillers that come to mind for elementary are: 4 corners: each corner of the room is something different based on the lessons (math: primary numbers, fractions etc; science: mammals, reptiles etc) then pose a questions and the students have to go to the right corner,. You could even just do a, b, c, and d for the corners. Or cut the room in half and one side is yes, the other no, or true/false and pose questions. Play Frisbee! Toss the Frisbee and whoever gets it answers a question from that day’s lesson. Freeze dance is fun too!! Play music and students have to dance around and when the music stops they have to get in the shape of something. These shapes can be as simple as actual shapes, or letters, or they can get with others to create a word with their bodies. Anything to get them moving is always fun! Good Luck!!

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