Fillers—or sponge activities—use the time between lessons on activities in a fun yet educational way. These short activities absorb the short bits of time that occur throughout the school day. Several suggested classroom fillers are included below.
- Keep fillers related to academic work, but fun and simple, too.
- Use fillers when there are only 5 to 15 minutes left in the period or at the end of the day.
- Use fillers for rainy or snowy day schedules, when the students have to stay inside during recess and lunch.
Around the World
Around the World is a whole-class game where students answer questions or give answers for flash cards. They work their way through the group to get “around the world.”
- Students stand behind their seats.
- Choose a starting person and the rotation to be used.
- The first student in the rotation stands beside the second student in the rotation at the second student’s seat.
- The teacher holds up a flash card.
- The first student of the pair to answer correctly moves to stand beside the next student in the rotation.
- The student who did not answer remains where he or she is.
- This continues until at least one student makes it completely “around the world” (around the entire rotation or class).
- An alternate setup is for students to stand in a circle, and the student who answers correctly moves to stand behind the next student in the rotation.
- This activity works well with vocabulary, math facts, picture cards for foreign language learning, and other content-based material.
This is classic bingo with an educational twist.
- Print a blank bingo card for each student.
- Provide a list of items to be entered on the bingo cards, such as a range of numbers, vocabulary words, or pictures of items.
- List more items than can fit on the cards so that each student’s card will be different.
- Students fill out their own cards from the list provided.
- Read the problem or definition out loud.
- Students cover a correct answer with a bingo chip.
- The game continues until someone gets a complete row across, down, or diagonally and can shout out “Bingo!”
- Choose items by using a set of flash cards to randomly select math facts, picture cards for vocabulary, lists of spelling words, definition cards for vocabulary, or lists of synonyms and antonyms.
Students can play the classic I Spy game in a version that has an educational purpose. There are many variations of this basic game that can be used in the classroom.
- “Spy” an object.
- Say “I spy something ... ,” where you complete the sentence with a clue to help students guess the object.
- Use the game to teach colors, shapes, and sizes. For example, “spy” right angles in the classroom after teaching the concept in math.
- Identify items around the classroom when teaching basic vocabulary to ESL (English as a Second Language) students.
- Develop a group of items to be “spied” by having students write down item names or draw pictures of items on small sheets of paper.
- Divide students into teams to play the game as a friendly competition.
- Play the game with a goal in mind, such as cleaning up scraps on the floor after an art project.
Have students draw creatures using traced letters as the base. This is a great learning activity for the lower grades.
- Have each student choose a letter to use as the base for their creature.
- Allow the students to trace their chosen letter from a stencil or die-cut machine.
- Have students draw a creature, monster, or character out of their chosen letter.
- Use numbers as well as letters.
- Have this activity available for students to work on throughout the day.
- Establish a learning center with stencils and markers where students can draw their creatures.
- Display the “monsters” on bulletin boards and around the room.
- Allow each student to create an entire family of creatures, using all the letters of his or her name.
Students cooperate with each other to create a chain story, using selected words from lessons.
- Prepare a set of index cards, each of which has one spelling word or vocabulary word written on it.
- Arrange the class in a circle or allow them to work from their seats.
- Hand out the index cards, one to each student.
- Pick a student to start the story. The student will use the word on the index card in his or her part of the story—about one or two sentences.
- Have each student in turn add another sentence or two to the story, using the word on his or her index card.
- Assign a specific topic for the story, or let the students decide the topic.
- Divide students into groups so that each group creates a story to share with the class.
Students ask a series of up to 20 “yes” and “no” questions in an attempt to guess a person, place, or thing related to material currently being studied.
- Pick a topic related to a current area of study.
- Ask one student to think of a person, place, or thing related to that topic. The rest of the class is not told what it is.
- Have the other students try to guess what that something is by asking “yes” and “no” questions.
- The student that picked the person, place, or thing must answer only “yes” or “no” to the questions asked.
- The class can ask a maximum of 20 questions in trying to guess the correct answer.
- Use this activity as a unit opener.
Students develop lists of 10 items in different categories.
- Have the students make lists of the top 10 concepts for a topic you are studying.
- For something less challenging, have students list everyday items, such as their 10 favorite foods, music groups, athletes, or television shows.
- If you have more time, have students alphabetize their lists.
What’s in the Bag?
Students try to guess what item is in a bag.
- Choose an item that is related to a story you have been reading, a social studies topic, or a science concept the class has been studying.
- Place the item in a brown bag (or other opaque bag).
- Have the students sit in a circle.
- Carry the bag around the circle, letting students feel the item without looking inside.
- Ask students not to share their ideas out loud until they are asked to do so.
- Give everyone a chance to think about what the item might be.
- Draw 5 to 10 names randomly from a deck of cards or popsicle sticks.
- Let those 5 to 10 students share their guesses, and list their guesses on the board.
- Reveal the item’s identity.
- In order to eliminate certain guesses, have students list the characteristics that they were able to determine from touching the item. Narrow the choices down to those that fit the descriptions.
- Use this activity with students in the lower grades to identify fruits and vegetables.
- Use this activity with ELLs (English language learners) to improve their ability to explain physical attributes.
When You Only Have a Few Minutes, Try These Ideas . . .
- List as many objects in the room as you can.
- Give multiplication or division problems, and have students call out answers.
- List the continents of the world.
- Name as many countries, state capitals, cartoon characters, or kinds of natural disasters as you can.
- Find countries on a map.
- Name as many colors as you can that are not one of the colors of the rainbow.
- List as many types of transportation as you can in each of these categories—by air, by land, by sea.
- Write the name of a food that begins with each letter of the alphabet.
- List as many home electronic devices as you can.
- Look at a picture, and use as many nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives as possible to describe it.
- Draw a picture from a description of characteristics and attributes.
- Brainstorm a list of words for a specific theme (for example, autumn, space, heroes, and holidays).