5-Minute Filler Activities for Secondary ELA
Although I’m getting pretty good at gauging time in my classes, sometimes, I end up with five extra minutes. When this happens, it’s really important for me to already have filler activities for ELA ready to go, so that I don’t waste the time. Here are some examples of things that have led to needing filler activities:
*A fire drill disrupts class, and we return with only five minutes until the bell
*Joey didn’t show up for his presentation slot, but no one else is ready to present today
*We lost power, and can’t watch the video I’d planned on.
What can you do with five minutes? Here’s a short list.
Filler Activities for ELA that Build Skills
Play an Improv Game
Early in the year, I teach my students about Improv and I make sure they know 3-5 games that we can play anytime. My favorite fast-paced game that doesn’t involve any prep is “Story, Story, Die.” Choose 4-5 students and have them create a story popcorn-style, picking up where the last storyteller left off. A storyteller “dies” when they hesitate before starting, or when they contradict an early fact from the story. It’s active and fun, and the audience gets to judge who “dies”, so everyone is tuned in. Read more about Improv in the ELA classroom here.
Write an Index Card Story
Students write a summary of a story (it has to fit on an index card) and share it with a partner. You can increase their inspiration by adding a “must”, such as “someone must eat a goldfish” or “someone must lose a shoe”. This is a fast-paced activity that is low-risk for students, since how could anyone be expected to write an amazing story in five minutes?
Don’t want to come up with your own story-starters? Check out these creative writing prompts from poetry and song lyrics.
No-Prep Filler Activities
Stretch or Do Some Yoga
A great way to use five spare minutes is to give students a focused break in their day. You can lead them in some stretches or yoga poses to get them up and out of their chairs. Choose stretches that cross the midline to give your students the ultimate brain break.
Learn more about how to incorporate movement in the classroom and keep your students present and engaged.
The Synonym Game
Everyone can play this game on scrap paper or you can choose 4-5 students to play at the board. Give students a basic word like “beautiful” or “nice”, and give them 1 minute to list as many synonyms as they can think of. Then, have them compare answers in a group of 4. Any word that is repeated by more than one person in the group is worth 0 points (in other words, students only get credit for unique answers). You can award the highest scorer in the group an extra credit point.
Printable or Projectable Filler Activities for ELA
Daily journaling is a great way to build confidence, endurance, creativity, and enthusiasm for daily writing. Check out these 180 writing prompts. These journal prompts feature a wide variety of topics and they’re all designed to be finished in 5 minutes or less. Enjoy a week of journal prompts for free!
One awesome feature of these short writing activities is the opportunity for students to “go further,” which is an additional piece of the prompt to add detail or consider something from a different angle. This makes these journal prompts especially awesome for struggling readers and writers.
Read more about these journal prompts at this post
I also love to keep trivia and riddles ready as filler activities for secondary ELA. You can find my collection of five-minute trivia tasks on my online shop. Students can work in teams to solve these, and you can keep a running score throughout the term.
You can also tap into some quick media literacy activities or some TED Talks for young writers!
What are your favorite five-minute filler activities for secondary ELA? Let me know in comments, or let’s connect on IG @nouvelle_ela!
LeonildeSeptember 23, 2018 at 5:56 am
DeniseJuly 1, 2019 at 3:10 am
I love the synonym activity! It can be used at any grade level! I will be trying that with my third graders!
YanizelMarch 1, 2022 at 11:33 am
Lovely ideas for teachers. Thank you for sharing. I really liked * Write and Infex Card Story *.
JaredJuly 3, 2020 at 6:58 pm
Love the Story, Story, Die. I’ll try that. I aways have a stack of Things cards ready to go. That’s always fun to play, and it gets kids moving.