For Your Classroom · Review

10 Meaningful Time-Fillers for ELA

As busy as teaching language arts in middle or high school can be, sometimes we still find ourselves with an extra five or ten minutes (or more!) at the end of a class period. It’s always great to have on hand some meaningful academic activities to fill that time so it’s not wasted. 

free poetry project digital choice board

These ideas also make excellent brain breaks, activities to leave with a sub, or a repertoire to have up your sleeve if you are a substitute teacher for ELA.

  • Short review games
    • The Unfair Game – This is a simple, quick review game. Just have some questions on hand, and play for a few minutes anytime. Check out this post for detailed instructions and ideas for variations.
    • Attack – Another simple review game that fits in well in the remaining minutes of class. (This one does probably need at least 10 min.) Gameplay directions are available for free from Math in the Middle.
  • Watch a TED Talk – A solid TED Talk can be a good way to fill 10-20 minutes. Check out these interesting poetry TED Talks that highschoolers will enjoy. 
  • Free choice vocab review – Grab this free vocabulary activities menu to fill a few minutes at the end of class, provide to early finishers, and more. Students will appreciate the chance to choose how they practice with their vocab words. 
  • Journal with a writing prompt – Is it possible to have too much writing practice? I think not! Check out my Pinterest board where I’ve been collecting lots of writing prompts, both fun and serious. 
  • Write a quiz – This does take more than a couple minutes, but if you have more like 15-20 min. to fill, it’s a great brain workout. Have your students write a quiz about a subject they’re currently studying. Give parameters such as how many questions, what type of questions, etc. Require students to create an answer key to accompany their quiz. The first time or two you do this, it’s a little tedious, but once it’s something students are familiar with, they can write a mini quiz quickly. If time allows, have students exchange and take each others’ quizzes.
free poetry project digital choice board
  • Free Rice – Free Rice is a fun educational app created by The United Nations World Food Programme. For each correct answer, sponsors donate the monetary equivalent of 5 grains of rice to organizations fighting hunger around the world. Students can download the app to their devices, or just play online.  No login required. On the site menu, you can choose from categories which include vocab and grammar.
  • Grammar Google Quizzes – Just like you can’t have too much writing practice, I don’t believe you can have too much grammar practice, either. I used these digital grammar quizzes for time-fillers, independent review, remedial work, and more. Just provide the link for students to take the quiz and Google does the grading and data collection for you! (Works just fine with or without Google Classroom.) 
grammar google quiz
  • Classroom Cereal – Classroom Cereal offers a series of free short grammar worksheets. Each worksheet features part of a fun continuing story. Students search the story to find and correct grammar errors. These are a great meaningful time-filler to have on hand.
  • Boggle – For a fun little time-filler, play a round or two of Boggle. I like this online version. Just pull up the site and project it on the screen, start a timer of your choosing, and have students go to town, jotting down as many words as they can find!  
  • Make or study flashcards – Have students use a site such as Quizlet, or simply a stash of 3X5 cards (I actually like to have students cut their 3X5 cards in half to make their stash go further) to make a set of flashcards to study terms and definitions. This ELA Games Pack includes printable flashcards for 144 CCSS-aligned terms and definitions.  
free poetry project digital choice board

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