Classroom Fillers

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.

Considerations

  • 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).

Suggestions

  • 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.

Bingo

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!”

Suggestion

 

  • 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.

I Spy

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.

Suggestions

 

  • 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.

Monster Madness

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.

Suggestions

  • 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.

Chain Story

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.

Suggestions

 

  • 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.

Twenty Questions

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.

Suggestion

  • Use this activity as a unit opener.

Top Ten

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.

Suggestions

 

  • 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.

Suggestions

 

  • 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).