Isn’t it always amazing when you wrap up your lesson for the day, glance at the clock to see that dismissal will be in a minute or so?

What about on those other days when you’re all set with your lesson and there are still 10 or 15 minutes left until the bell rings?

Those can make for some tricky moments, especially if you feel like your students have already had adequate open time for the day. Rather than give them some task or busy work for the sake of keeping them occupied, try one of these activities that can make those last 15 minutes count.

Have the class choose an “extra time” book at the start of the semester

Reading aloud is a great way to end the day, whether you choose to do the reading or a book is passed from student to student. This helps to keep their minds engaged but can also help them to decompress after a learning-filled day. At the start of the school year offer a selection of three or four titles and have the pupils vote on which one they would like to read during the extra minutes of time that occur during the school year.

Do a speed quiz

Think of five questions that reflect back on the day’s lessons and do an impromptu oral quiz. Have the students shout out their answers to the quiz questions without any time between each one. This can be more fun than just a typical questioning that can sometimes feel stressful. You can also have the student who yells out the right answer first come up with their own question to ask the class next.

Dim the lights and show some videos

One of the best things about YouTube is the searchability. Make sure you have “safe search” engaged and then do a search for videos that relate to the day’s lessons. Keep it short and simple, and if there are a few moments left over you can call upon the students to give their perspective of what they have just watched.

Try one of these categories:

  • Documentaries
  • Clips from relevant movies
  • Age-appropriate TED talks or similar lecture series
  • Nature programs
  • Historical tours

Get a jump start on homework

Depending on the number of minutes that are remaining, you can review the homework assignments for that evening. Answer any questions and if time permits, let the class get started on their homework as they wait for dismissal. This is also a time when you can organize your papers and prepare for your post-class responsibilities. You can also get started on your “homework” of grading papers and exams.

Try some quiet time

If you are at a point in the semester where there is a lot of testing, or the students have just come through a challenging teaching module, a little quiet time may be just what they need. Some teachers are not enthusiastic about too much free time, but when it’s been an intense day, there’s nothing wrong with giving the kids a few extra minutes to just relax and rest their minds. You can also try a guided meditation or some breathing exercises during this time.

Teaching right up to the minute doesn’t always happen, and it’s always a good idea to have a few ideas up your sleeve when you are left with a few extra minutes at the end of the day. However you choose to have them spend the time, it’s always nice to feel like you have a few options already prepared.