So the lesson finished earlier than you expected.
And now you have ten minutes to fill.
For many teachers, the very thought can make them break out in hives.
Because, even when you have a reliable activity you can pull out at a moment’s notice, students tend to misbehave.
The perceived freedom of an unplanned break can cause excitability.
It can cause silliness and distraction. It can cause them to assume that they can pay attention or not.
It’s a recipe for high stress and a loss of control.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is to fill the extra time with purpose, to send the message that nothing has changed, business is usual, and the bar remains high.
Here’s an example using six simple steps that will work for any game or activity:
Step 1: Tell them what.
“We have ten minutes until the period ends. For eight of those minutes, we’re going to play a few rounds of the ‘selfie’ game.”
Step 2: Tell them how.
“When I say ‘go,’ you’re going to get up and form three groups, those who like football best, soccer best, and basketball best. The first group smiling and posing together silently (like for a picture) wins.”
Note: Although just an example, the possibilities for the ‘selfie’ game are endless. You can use types of food, movies, book genres, characters, math formulas, or anything you like. You can also actually take their picture.
Step 3: Tell them why.
“Collaboration is an important skill, and even though this is a fun game, it’s also great practice. So I want to see your best.”
Step 4: Set your expectations.
“You are expected to participate, work well together, and follow the class rules.”
Step 5: Remind them what will happen if they don’t.
“If you stray from these expectations, I will follow our classroom management plan and enforce a consequence.”
Step 6: Pause to build anticipation, then begin.
“Ready . . . go!”
Worth Doing Well
Even if there is no hesitation on your part, and you have a game or activity ready to go, your students are still likely to become excitable in the event of an unplanned break.
It’s the nature of the beast.
The one reliable way to avoid the accompanying misbehavior is to fill the time with purpose.
Lay out the facts—the time limit, the rules of the game, appropriate behavior, and most importantly, how it benefits them.
Give them structure, intention, direction, urgency, and a reminder of what is at stake—just like you would for any lesson.
After all, it’s all teaching.
The small, the brief, the seemingly unimportant. It all matters and is worth doing well.
Excellence is a habit and a goal you pursue every minute of every day.
There is a lot to this topic, including other fun ways to improve learning, social skills, and participation during breaks in the day.
I’ll be sure to cover these, and more, in a future article.
In the meantime, thanks for reading.
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