Five Minute Activities – For the Teachers

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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