The end of the school year approaches and your students have zipped through the curriculum so fast that you still have a few weeks left of school. What can you do that will still count as “teaching” and not just filling time?
First off… “Really? Does this happen often?” If so, perhaps you need to add another permanent activity or more substance to your curriculum. If not, then you found yourself in a most surprising and unexpected situation.
Either way, the list below should help spark some ideas to supplement your curriculum and still teach and reinforce skill sets. Find one you like and try it out!
(Though the title states that this is a list of “fillers,” these activities are flexible enough to fit most curriculums and still be considered educationally appropriate and aligned to your curriculum goals.)
Read a book – ugh
I had to start with this since this is the most common “time filler” teachers use. “Go read a book quietly until the end of class” is really just a cop-out if a teacher does this often. It essentially means that there are no extension activities prepared for those learners who are quicker or who already know most of the material prior to the lesson.
If you are going to read or have students read, is it imperative that you have a point to the activity. Have an end goal and a timeline to complete the work for credit.
Reading aloud: You need a focus when you read aloud to your students. I am dedicating a separate article to this soon. In short, pause, reflect, and refocus often when reading aloud. Don’t just read and expect all your students to follow.
Also, prior to reading a book try to help set up your student for success by scaffolding your student’s knowledge of the book’s content!
Create song parodies about what you learned this year
Super fun and silly!
Safe songs include kids tunes or Disney songs. Prior to accepting any song, CHECK OUT THE SONG LYRICS! Make the “House Rule” that any song that contains any offensive or suggestive material will not be accepted. No, it doesn’t’ matter they are making a parody and not using the original words. Save yourself the headache of students singing along with the real words in the classroom, looking up the song and lyrics, or student parents asking why their child is working on a song that is offensive.
Lastly, if you have students present them to the class for credit, remember that not all kids are musically inclined. Have this as an option, or allow substitute singers, or allow them to just read it!
Like Charades, hand out cards with topics or experiments that you covered and have a student act out the topics the best he/she can. Then have other students in the classroom guess. If guessed, the students still need to discuss WHY it is the correct answer and WHAT ELSE could have been done to act out the topic. This helps your visual and tactile learners and helps further understanding and connections through visual and physical connections.
Have students create Jeopardy questions and play the game. You can have students work on this individually or in small groups. Grades can be given for solid questions that are submitted.
“What else would you like to know?”
Poll your students about what else they would like to know about the topics you reviewed with them. Additionally, you can ask what they would like to review. This will tell you what still needs clarification or what was particularly enjoyable to your students. Have them write it down and submit it anonymously, then address them at a later time.
Create a Newspaper
Articles, want ads, editorials, obituaries (of misconceptions), comics, etc. makes a newspaper a wonderful way to present material.
You can find free single article newspaper generators online. For multiple articles you will probably have to make your own or pay for it. For students, sometimes making your own digital or physical copy is half the fun!
Make a commercial
Commercials need to sell or make a point in 30 seconds or less. This is a great way to have a fun synopsis of a topic and try to “sell” the idea to the rest of the class. Pairs or groups of 3 work best with this project.
Create a Bingo Game
Have students create bingo boards with questions (or answers) and their corresponding cards. You can have a massive bingo game that includes all the cards students created. Have prizes thrown in for extra motivation and fun! (Don’t forget to review the answers after the game so it sinks in even further!)
Write to a company
This is a fun and real world activity. Have your students write to different companies with a compliment, complaint, or with a topic they would like to address. This should be a real letter in proper format with real feelings expressed within.
For the security of your students, do not have them include their last names in the closing of the letter (use an initial). Also, the return address should be your school’s address (c/o <teacher’s name>). Just be ready to find and give a letter to a student next school year if one shows up during the summer!
If you do this early enough in the year, you may get a few form letters back, or the rarer personalized letter. You can ask the student if he/she would like to share with the class… it is their letter after all!
Here is the proper format for a business letter from Scholastic (pdf).
You be the Teacher
Students are the resident expert and will teach a lesson to the class. This can be anything from making a new activity for students to review a topic already taught or to further extend their learning.
Topics need to be teacher-approved and any “homework” should be abolished, optional, or reduced to the bare minimum.
Make a collage of classroom memories (things we learned)
Use drawings for direct representations or cut out pictures from magazines for a good lesson with symbolism. Keep it small but relevant. This doesn’t need to be a huge poster board project.
Set goals for the summer to avoid the summer slide
Don’t you wish you could hand out flash cards for them to review or have them explore more about the topics you taught? Have students create goals for the summer and give them time to create any materials they might need for home and watch the magic happen (for a few, at least!)
Funny, practical, or surreal, they can be both entertaining and informative. Be sure the latter is stressed! Have students turn in their scripts for content before presenting.
Design a business using the skills or information you learned in class
Have your students present to a panel of “Shark Tank” investors (aka the rest of the class) and try to sell them on the idea based on your curriculum. For example, Science: new inventions, Social Studies: A new type of government, Language Arts: Book Ideas or New Grammar rules, etc.
Another option is for everyone to have a set amount of “money” to invest. Set up the classroom like a mini job/science fair and have students “buy into” businesses and inventions! You can keep this anonymous with a list of the business and they can write in how much they are willing to contribute to fund the business! Show the results the next day after calculating percentages funded and, if you want, who funded them.
Be sure to let your students know that a good idea sometimes slips by and not to worry if it is not funded by this set of particular investors!
Yes! Older kids love revisiting this kind of project if given artistic freedom (and told that it is in lieu of paperwork!). It doesn’t have to be in shoeboxes either!
Create “55 Fiction” stories (stories with exactly 55 words)
This is a great way to write about a topic in a succinct manner. Here is a good link to 55 Fiction rules.
Create posters about topics that interest them
You can make mini posters as well with a standard sized piece of paper as they would see in a magazine. Be creative with your requirements!
Classroom Community Compliments
Did you have a group of students who worked well with each other? Hand out a list of the class and have students Compliment EVERY other student in the classroom. Compile and privately share the top 3 compliments each student received.
Did you have a group of students who did NOT work well with each other? Hand out a list of the class and have students Compliment EVERY other student in the classroom. Require names on papers and set a standard for positive compliments (what does a truly appreciated compliment look like?). Compile and privately share the top 3 compliments each student received.
Create a scrapbook
Each student can contribute to summarize the “Integrated Information now Included In my Intelligence.” (For younger classes – “What did we learn this year?”)
This can be a physical scrapbook or a digital one!
Create a word search or crossword puzzle with key definitions or facts
Instead of having them turn this assignment right in to you, collect the puzzles and randomly distribute them to others in the classroom. Both the student who created it and the one who completed it should have their names on the paper (different colors or locations for ease of grading). Give students a participation/effort grade for the assignment at the very least. Content can also be graded.
Create a Timeline or infographic
Highlight the year. What did they learn? It’s truly amazing what you cover in a year!
Create a puppet show
You can easily create stick, paper, or even sock puppets. Have students prepare a script and go at it! You can even allow students to pretend their puppet is you while teaching the class, if you dare!
Comic strip humor has a way of getting a message across without seeming to do so. Show them the art and let them be creative! To help them, you can prompt them with real-world messages or life lessons learned in your class and have them make a comic strip about it.
Draw a scene / add characters
Have students add characters or scenes to events or concepts learned. Written, a new character or scene can add a new layer to the story. Artistically, a new character or backgrounds can often make a picture come alive in new, unexpected ways.
Create card/board games to address lessons learned
This is a great way to have some fun while addressing the curriculum. Your students’ creativity will shine here if you allow them to go beyond the “monopoly board” format. Group them up, give them the academic requirements, and watch them create masterpieces to share and play with other groups!
Make sure you allow time enough to try games out and still have time to rotate among them all. This might cover a couple of lesson periods.
Prepare! Imagine the scenario wherein you have one group make a game that lasts 5 minutes and another group create a game that lasts 20. Set it up so that you avoid conflict. Perhaps students can play multiple times or perhaps you set a minimum/maximum limit for time in the beginning. Be prepared and work out the kinks out for next time!
I hope this helped and I wish you the best of luck as you Fill those extra minutes and days with educational and curriculum aligned “filler” activities!
Created by, Noble Newman
Subject Specific “lesson fillers!”
Read aloud to your students with built-in lessons to help comprehension (and focus)!