Short, minimal prep warm-up and filler activities

The last minutes of class can be challenging because you want the students to remain involved, yet there’s not enough time to start another lesson or long activity. What do you do? Like most teachers, I have my “go to” fillers, but thought it would be nice to try some new ideas. What are some of your favorite fun, short activities? Here’s a list of some of the classics! What are your “go to” fillers? What new ones have you tried?

20 Questions-practice yes/no questions. One student thinks of a person or object. Other students ask yes/no questions to guess the word. They can only ask 20 questions total. The student can only answer yes or no to the question. Pictionary– Student A draws a picture. Student B guesses what it is and says/writes the word. Can play this as pairs or teams. Charades-Student acts out word or phrase. Class guesses the word. Chain Story– Can play in small groups or as class depending on size. First student says a sentence. The next student adds next sentence, and so forth, until they have created a story.
Why/Because– Give each person two index cards or two small scraps of paper. On one card, each person should write a question that begins with the word ‘why’. Then on the second piece of paper, each person should answer his or her question starting with the word ‘because’. Then collect all the questions  in one pile and all the because answers  in another. Mix up each pile and then read one why card with one because card. The combinations can be very funny, and then after reading all the random match ups you can have your students match the correct answers with the correct questions. Telephone-Students in two teams. Line up. Teacher says word to the first person on each team.Student #1 whispers word to student #2 who repeats word to student #3 and on down the line. At the end of the line, compare original word to end. Same or different? Do it with words, phrases, sentences. Would you rather? Similar to “Vote with your feet”. Ask students a question and have them walk to a side of the room to indicate answer. Example: Would you rather eat pizza or vegetables? Use silly or serious questions. White board slam-Also known as the fly swatter game. Write words, or letter sounds, on the board. Two teams. One student from each team at the board. Teacher says word or letter sound. Students “hit” the word/sound with flyswatter or hand.
Open questions-Extra time in the classroom for any and all questions for the teacher. Read aloud comprehension-Teacher or student reads aloud to class, or partner, and then check for comprehension. Hangman-Just like the childhood game. Teacher thinks of a word. Teacher writes a space for each letter of the word. Students guess letters. Try to fill in the word before the “hangman.” Line up/Get in order-Students create “line ups” according to prompt. Example:  Line up according to birth month.
Scrambled sentences-Words in a sentence are out of order. Student puts words in correct sequence to make a sentence. Example:  house big is The = The house is big. Picture dictation-Student A dictates a drawing to student B. First, student A could actually draw a picture, then dictate it to student B. When finished, compare pictures to check comprehension. Scrambled words-Students unscramble vocabulary words. Example:  husoe = house Describe the picture-Project a picture onto the whiteboard, or give students magazine pictures. Have students describe picture. For lower level students this can be writing a list of words. For higher level students, have them write a paragraph. Vary according to student level.
Categories– Multiple ways to play this game. Give students a category and time limit. In pairs, write as many things as they can. Biggest list wins. Hot Seat– Students in two teams. Put two chairs facing away from board. One student from each team in the chair. Teacher has a vocabulary list. Teacher writes one word from list on board. The team members describe the word, using definitions, synonyms, etc. to their teammate who is in the hot seat. The students in the hot seats, listen to their teammates and try to guess the word. The first student to say the word gets to change places with someone else in their team. This wins the team one point. The other team has to keep the same player in the hot seat until he/she answers correctly first. Then, the teacher writes the next word, etc. Vote with your feet-Teacher makes a statement. Class stands beside the “Yes” or “No” answer. Example:  You speak French. All the French speakers go stand by the word “Yes”. Good for assessing, showing similarities between students, checking comprehension, and polling the class. Taboo-The objective of the game is for a player to have their partners guess the word on the player’s card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card.

Links to warm-up activities and fillers:

Books with great ideas for short activities, and/or with minimal planning required:

Zero Prep, by Laurel Pollard

Zero Prep for Beginners, Laurel Pollard

Index Card Games, Raymond Clark

Five Minute Activities, Penny Ur, Andrew Wright


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