While fillers are useful for the entire year, they're especially important to have handy those last two or three weeks. Think about it... No matter how precise your plans are, there always seems to be that last minute assembly thrown in that your administrator forgot to mention, or a field trip that didn't take the full time allotted. Now you're left with 10-15 minutes of "dead air" time. That's when it's time to pull out the fillers instead of your hair!
Some of my favorite time fillers include:
Jumbles are another of my favorites. Many newspapers publish a Jumble daily. Either cut them out to have an assortment of Jumbles (I have them on hand all year for early finishers), or get a book of them to share. They actually come with a variety of themes. I have the whole class try to solve each word and we work on the final question together.
Jumbles are great because students have to use their phonetic knowledge of word formations, including consonants blends, vowel digraphs, and prefixes & suffixes.
Geography games offering clues to a location that students have to guess is a fun and easy last-minute filler. I use a game called 20 Clues that gives 20 different clues to a location which could be a mountain range, a body of water, a country, a city, state or province, from the hardest clues to the dead-giveaways. But really, any geography game offering clues works well.
Rotating through the groups, I give everyone a chance at the first big point values. For the last round, I make it worth a ridiculously high amount of points, read 2 or 3 of the clues and have each group write down their answer. Correct answers get the points and game is over!
I rarely give them answers to locations they don't get. I want them to keep thinking about it after they've left. I keep a stash of Dum-Dums for smart kids, and the first one to come back with a correct answer later wins that coveted prize.
Mental Math is another favorite filler. This one works well for lining up or dismissing at the end of the day. I give a long string equation, pausing between each portion to give students a chance to figure it out mentally. There's usually 5 steps to the problems.
Here's an example - I'd say: 5 x 7; they think: (35); and so it continues... +10 (45) – 9 (36) ÷ 4 (9) squared (81). I ask: What's my number?
I like this game because it actually improves their ability to recall math facts.
And now for the best part... Because I don't save these nuggets until the end of the year, all the kids know how to play them. To really keep them focused, after the first round, I pick a student to be in charge of the game, usually by drawing a name from my name sticks. If we have a longer time, I'll draw another name. It improves their attention to the activity, because everyone wants to become the next "game show host."
These fillers really end the day or period on a high note and the kids love them. Nowadays, there's more than likely an app for these filler ideas, but I prefer to step away from the devices during these moments, unless I can throw the game up on a SmartBoard. It offers better interaction among the students, when everyone is focused on one spot.
What fillers do you use to keep them engaged until the last bell rings?
**Thanks to Ron Leishman for the archeologist and the gorilla clip art. The funky alphabet is from Digital Doodles.