Got Five Minutes Before the Bell Rings?

Maximize your instructional time by using those small blocks of “extra” time to review content, reflect, or work on critical thinking skills, in a fun, easy way.

Activities for:

Content Review:



  • Keep a list of vocabulary words and definitions on hand
  • Review 4-6 words each time, choose randomly from list
  • Ask for group response, or have students share answer with neighbor
  • Give definition and ask for word, give word and ask for definition, or give definition and multiple choice options for words
  • Ideas:
    • Use words from your current unit of study
    • Use words from a master list of subject-area words for the year; include words that you’ve already covered as a class as well as words the students will come across later in the year – begin to develop connections to prior knowledge
    • Use vocabulary words from your state assessment (the words used on the tests – How do they compare with the words you’re using in class?)


  • Ask questions from your textbook or from previous years’ tests
  • Ask questions from previous materials, ie. the test from an earlier unit
  • Name 3-4 people, words, events for students to sequence (chronologically, by impact, alphabetically, etc.)
  • Name 3 people, words, or things.  Ask students to name what the three things have in common (ie. Presidents of the U.S., chemical formulas, zoo animals, etc.)
  • Use flash cards to review visual symbols, including:
    • Sight words, digraphs, blends
    • Meanings of symbols, such as country flags or chemical elements
    • Abbreviations, such as U.S. postal codes
    • Geometric shapes
    • Formulas
    • Journal prompt for creative writing (general topic or content-related)

Reflection and Self-Assessment:

  • Don’t want to have to print off copies?
    • Draw basic tool on board; have students make their own on scrap paper
    • Have students respond orally, share responses with a partner
    • Hand out index cards; collect as students walk out the door (“Ticket to the Hall”)
      • Ideas for Reflective Response:
        • Describe one thing you’ve learned
        • List three people (ideas, events, facts) that you learned
        • Name one thing that was new to you
        • What’s one thing that surprised you?
        • What do you wonder about?
        • Write a question that you have about what we read today
        • What’s one thing you hope to learn more about?
        • What person (idea, event, etc.) are you most interested in

Critical Thinking Skills:

    • Ask questions from cards from board games, such as Trivial Pursuit or Tri-Bond for Kids
    • Line Up (whole group get-up-and-interact activity)
      • Give the students directions for arranging themselves in a line (at the front of the room, at the door, etc.)
      • To make it more challenging, have students form the line without talking
      • Ideas:
        • Alphabetical by first or last name
        • Age or date of birth
        • Height, shoe size, or length of hair
        • Time you woke up this morning- Who is…? (Small group interaction activity)
        • Ask a question that requires students to compare and contrast.  Students decide in their team, at their table, or in a small group which student has the characteristic that answers the question. Use to identify one student to perform a task.
        • Ideas:
          • Who went to bed earliest last night?
          • Who has the longest thumb?
          • Who had the biggest breakfast?
          • Whose birthday is closest to today?
          • Who most recently ate pizza




More Ideas: “Don’t Waste a Minute” – “Education World” article


Five Minute Activities
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