Stop Time-Wasting!

Reading time: 2
shutterstock_275305481 desperate business woman with clock


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Have you ever taught a lesson that didn’t go according to plan? I’m sure you have …

“My wall clock stopped and I lost all concept of time! I nearly sent my class home ten minutes early!”

Have you ever misread your watch or classroom wall clock and finished your lesson off too early? I know I have. We all know, that great teaching occasionally, requires, time-filler ideas for lessons which finish a wee-bit early!

This can be simply down to a lapse in concentration or a break in routine such as a timetable change; a collapsed-timetable due to external events, such as a snow-day or an early closure for open evenings and so on. Whatever it is, there are various reasons that can cause a slight distraction of thought. So, with ‘possible chaos’ in mind, and before you discover that you’ve released 20-30 students out into the corridors, consider how to avoid that grumpy senior leader marching up to your classroom door …

shutterstock_262924022 young man in shock with hands on face

Image: Shuttersrtock

Here are some ideas for use with any class and any subject. This list is endless!

5-minute time-filler strategies:

  • Discuss a topic from today’s news.
  • If you were Prime Minister, what would you do?
  • If you were Headteacher, what would you keep in this school? Get rid of?
  • And your specialist subject is?
  • Make the teacher say yes or no.
  • The more unusual the idea, the better …

Lesson-related ideas:

  • The flying-aeroplane technique: Stand two groups on opposite sides of the classroom; each group writes down on the model-plane, ‘what they have learnt today.’ Then ask students to throw the paper-planes to the other team. The other team catches, opens and reads the plane, then flies it back! Chaos, but a real attention-grabber!
  • Recap on the learning. Create a quick keyword spelling test or a subject quiz.
  • Provide references for the next lesson. As a group, students form their own lessons objectives for the next lesson. This must include an extended learning objective with challenge.
  • Discussion: what will you be studying next week? Next term? Next year?
  • Closed questions (sometimes silly; agree or disagree; yes or no.) get pupils to move to areas of the classroom.

shutterstock_203567020 various paper plane vector illustrations

Image: Shutterstock

Teachers Tip:

During a lesson, if you ever release students too early, take note of your timings and pace. Create your own list of last-minute time-filler activities so you can pull ideas out of the hat to suit the context of the class. This will prepare you for all those (future) dizzy moments!

Have a few ideas of your own? Please write them down in the comments below for everyone else to read.

You can read more of these types of ideas here, or tweet it?


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man


10 thoughts on “Stop Time-Wasting!

  1. Great tip from a Deputy Head I used to work with – if a student tells you that the bell has already gone, they are lying. 100% of the time, no exceptions. He was right too!

    My time filler is to extend a sentence by adding a clause each time, correctly punctuated, on the board. Each student nominates the next to go. The trick is not to end your clause on a full stop. A good starter is: Whilst waiting for the bell,

    Love the paper planes idea though!

  2. I’ve used overtime to write a long word from the lesson on the board and split the class into two teams and have them make smaller words from the larger word. Bonus for subject related words.

  3. I have a soft ball in my classroom, which I sometimes use as a way of getting students to answer the key question, or summarise the most important information they’ve learned in the lesson. (I throw first, then they choose who to throw to.) The ball adds a sense of novelty to the activity!

  4. Given the evidence in support of retrieval practice as an effective learning technique , I would go with a quick quiz every time. “Write 1-10 in your books” is also generally effective in settling a class quickly if they’ve started to think it’s all over. For the less experienced, and more organised, having a bank of questions is a good idea. Failing that, flicking back through a textbook, SoW, or exam spec, can help with inspiration.

  5. Taboo. Everyone has to describe a key word from the lesson without actually saying the word and get other table members to guess it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.