How To Fill Extra Time Without Losing Control Of Your Class

Smart Classroom Management: How To Fill Extra Time Without Losing Control Of Your ClassSo the lesson finished earlier than you expected.

And now you have ten minutes to fill.

Ten. Minutes.

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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22 Responses to How To Fill Extra Time Without Losing Control Of Your Class

  1. Kerri McG October 29, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    I love this!!! What a fun thing to do! I can see my students loving this, AND it would bring such a positive feel into the room! Thanks, Michael, for all that you do! I LOVE your “Specialist” book! The 4 Specialists at my school have read it and have implemented it together.

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Kerri! Thank you.


  2. Mary Ryan October 29, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    What a great and versatile article. Thank you for your insightful blog. I am a 25-year veteran teacher, but I always learn something new from your articles. You give a thorough explanation and examples. Thank you for making this free service available to teachers.

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2016 at 10:03 am #

      You’re welcome, Mary. I’m so glad you like the article.


  3. Chris October 29, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    Thanks for the great activity idea! Will use in French class.

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      You’re welcome, Chris!


    • Alora November 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

      I plan to use the selfie game in my Spanish class as well. Ditto to what everyone else has said. I learn so much from your articles. I wanted to ask a clarifying question about the game. You don’t help them form groups or anything? They have to do that entirely on their own? Just checking. Gracias.

      • Michael Linsin November 3, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

        Hi Alora,

        No, but depending on grade level, you may have to model the game before putting it into practice.


  4. Kevin October 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    I love your service. I have taught for 30+ years and I feel like students are a moving target even more so lately with the media. You have to constantly hone your skills. This is another reminder that no matter what you are doing, you are doing it so it matters. You have to carry that everywhere, always. These may actually be the most important 10 minutes of your entire week. When teachers try to act like this empty time does not matter, then students begin to look for ways to find loopholes. Another excellent article. It fired me up for next week at 6th grade Outdoor School, where lines can become blurry. Keep it up!

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

      Thanks Kevin! Will do.


  5. Paula October 29, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    Thanks for this greay idea but my class will ask to know what will they win. The culture of the school is to give sweets as rewards but I won’t do that. Any suggestions?

    • Steph October 30, 2016 at 10:31 am #

      What about really taking their photo. Posting it on your school FB page. “winners of our selfie collaboration today!”

  6. Michelle October 30, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    I like this post for a lot of reasons but mainly for the fact that you could make a content-less activity important and a useful way to use the last few minutes of class time. As a future math teacher when I first read “the ‘selfie’ game” I lost interest but I kept reading. Once you got to the point where you tell them why I was hooked and I think this is when more students will start to get interested too. If not there, then in the next steps, set your expectations and remind them what will happen if they don’t, they will because they have to contribute properly or there are consequences. In the end I feel like the 6 steps (tell them what, how, why, set your expectations, remind them what will happen if they don’t, pause to build anticipation, then begin) are very helpful to using those last few minutes in a controllable and fun way. I know by the end of the hour a lot of students start clocking out but if I incorporate an activity using these steps I may be able to get to them before that happens. I just now wonder how I can maybe make the activity more mathematical. I would need something that is engaging. Not necessarily related to the specific topic of that day yet still a good review of underlying math concepts. Any ideas?

    • sabrina November 2, 2016 at 11:56 am #

      I’m thinking instead of grouping by a sport, you could have them group by different mathematical problems with the same answer and still have them take a selfie together. That would be a great way to incorporate math and technology AND you’ll have kids smiling with math problems in hand! How cool is that?

      • Pam November 5, 2016 at 8:11 am #

        I was thinking that this would lend itself easily to a quick lesson of graphing for younger children. You could use fruits. Bananas, apples, oranges and then take the selfie and the next day graph it for a morning warm up activity.

  7. Aaron B McEwen November 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    Just to add to the discussion,when I find myself in the situation of needing to kill time with my students, I always fall back on lateral thinking puzzles. They work great with kids grades 3 and up. If you do it right, the kids will beg you to do it everyday!

    Michael, your blog and books have changed my day to day experience with students for the better. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Michael Linsin November 1, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

      You’re welcome, Aaron. Thanks for sharing!


  8. Jessica November 5, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    Sometimes I feel like I have to work till the very last second and when a lesson does end early I do feel a little stressed and ask my self, ” Now what?” I normally have my students do silent reading or some “kind of manage you time” activity such as they can get our their hardback readers or work a notebook and practice writing their spelling words and use them in a sentence, but after reading the article I like the idea of whole class contribution. It is amazing how much time passes when you are giving a simple direction and want the students to execute the task. I enjoyed reading this article!

    • Michael Linsin November 5, 2016 at 8:04 am #

      I’m glad you liked the article, Jessica!


  9. Chris November 5, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise. Each offering to my professional practice is so cherished.

    • Michael Linsin November 5, 2016 at 8:04 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Chris. I’m so glad.


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