Got a Minute, Two, or Five?

Gail Hennessey is our guest blogger today. She’s sharing great ideas for time-fillers at the middle school level. Keep those kiddos working until the bell rings!
Classroom Bell Ringer Activities

A new school year is beginning. My advice: Always have kids on task! Checking homework in the beginning of class or doing clerical stuff? Finish your lesson with a few minutes to spare? What to do? Giving them free time to read or start homework during these gaps in teaching time is NOT something I’d encourage. Most students see this as an opportunity to begin to chat. My belief is that it’s very important to keep kids on task. Learning should be a continuous process. Always have a few activities to use either in the beginning or at the end of class. Here are some suggestions for a “Got a Minute” folder that can be fun and keep the learning going!

  1. Bell Ringers: You can use the news for bell ringers. There is always something in the news that could be used as a few minute read/opinion exercise. Here are two examples of recent news stories for which a “Got a Minute, Two, or Three” activity could be used.
Bell Ringer Activities
  • Elephants to be phased out of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus: Elephants have long been part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, but things will be changing by 2018. It’s been announced that elephants will be phased out of the circus acts. Many people have been arguing that these animals should not be used for entertainment. The treatment of these creatures has also been an issue. The decision was in response to these concerns. Elephants, which are very intelligent, have been part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus for 145 years. As the elephants are retired from the show, they will live out the rest of their lives at the Elephant Conservation Center, owned by the circus.
    • What do you think?
      • Other animals will still be used in the circus shows. Should all animals be banned? Why or why not?
      • Sea World also has been asked to stop using the killer whale. Should they do so? Why or why not?
      • Why do you think the circus is “phasing the elephants out” but will still have them perform until 2018?
    • Extension activity:
      • Write a paragraph trying to persuade someone that circus acts and Sea World should not use animals (or marine life). Write a paragraph stating why such animals should have no place in a circus act or marine show.
  • Bill for not attending a birthday party: You’re invited to a birthday party and accept the invitation to attend. Sounds like a fun day of going to a ski area and doing lots and lots of tubing and having something to eat. When the day of the party arrives, your parents decided you won’t be attending, as they have other plans for the day. A few days later, you have a note to bring home from school from the host of the party. Inside is a bill for about $25, the cost of the ski party. The parents of the birthday child say that all guests were told that if they accepted and didn’t show up, the fee would still need to be paid, so the parents felt that “no-shows” should have to pay the expense. The 5-year-old boy’s parents were very upset about receiving the bill in such a way and said they didn’t plan to pay it.
    • What do you think?
      • Should the parents of the boy who didn’t show up have to pay the bill?
      • Should the parents have called the boy’s parents instead of sending a note home in the boy’s backpack?
      • How would you settle this dispute?

I regularly update a Bell Ringer activity using topics in the news at my website for teachers, Picture This: Another activity, if you have a few minutes, is to show a photograph and have students respond to it. Here are a couple of examples:

Picture This Activity for Got a Minute, Two, or Five?
  • Writing Prompt: Pretend you are this statue of fairly tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, found in Copenhagen, Denmark. What do you see as you sit there? What are you thinking about? Write in complete sentence form.
  • Writing Prompt: Pretend you are throwing a penny into the Grand Canyon for good luck. What would you wish to have? Why? Write in complete sentence form.
Grand Canyon Writing Activity
Note: Photograph credit to Gail Hennessey
  • Writing Prompt:The footprints of a Theropod can be seen at the North Dinosaur Open Space Park, in Morrison, CO. Where was the dinosaur going? What did it see?  Write in complete sentence form.
Theropod Dinosaur Footprint
Note: Photograph credit to Gail Hennessey
3. Geography Activities
  • Geography Safaris: Have atlases or a world map, and have kids go on geography safaris. I have these posted on my website, or you can go to Education World for printable versions.
    • Each of the short safaris have the answers; all start with a particular letter. Pair up students and have them get used to looking at maps to find the answers!
Geography Safaris
4. Write A-Z:  I actually made this activity into a contest for extra credit. It was quite popular, especially as a review before a test on all important terms covered. How I did this was that students listed the letters of the alphabet on a piece of paper (vertically).

A. afterlife, Africa
C. canopic jar
You could write multiple terms. When you regroup, you review the words. If another group has a word (e.g. Nile River) your group wrote, then it has to be crossed out. If you have a different word, then you each get two points. If you have a term for a letter that no one else has, then you get five points. Oh, and the words must be something mentioned in the unit of study!
5. Grid Activity:  Have pairs of students try and find a response for each of the letters. (You don’t have to go alphabetically.) Great activity to utilize reference materials.
Mountains      Famous Scientist    World Capital      Island       Bodies of Water
H                                                                               Hawaii
C                          Madame Curie                                                      Caspian Sea
G Greenland                                                                                    Gulf of Mexico
6. Three Things I Learned Today:  If you’ve ever watched Morning Joe on MSNBC, I like how at the end of the show, each of the people state something they learned that day. Write a note, and specifically write in complete sentence form, three things you learned from the lesson today. Encourage the students to share with their parents, grandparents, whomever. Maybe offer extra credit if an adult signs that the information was shared!
7. Color Games: If you have a few minutes, have students work on my color games to test knowledge about things that are a certain color or that have the color in the world.  Great for small group activity. I have a Purple, a Red, a Green, a Blue, a Yellow, and an Orange Game.
The Orange Game by Gail Hennessey

8. Write a paragraph and have students proofread to correct the statement. For example: I like to use news stories.  

  • Here is an example:
    • A Zookeeper at the London Zoo has stepped in to help a bady sloth. The baby sloths mom were unable to car for its so the zookeeper came to it’s rescue. Named Edward Scissorhands, because it will grew up to four inches claws. The zookeeper got a teddy bare from the gift shop to help the tiny tot develops its climbed muscles. Rope climbing couplings, called carabiners, was attached to the teddy bare and it was hung from a tree branch about six inches of the ground. That’s so if Edward felled, he won’t get hurt. The sloth is a very slow moveing animal, native to the forests of south America. They move so slowly, that moss can actually grew on them.
  • Revised Version:
    • A zookeeper at the London Zoo has stepped in to help a baby sloth. The baby sloth’s  mom was unable to care for it, so the zookeeper came to its rescue. It was named Edward Scissorhands, because it will grow up to four-inch claws. The zookeeper got a teddy bear from the gift shop to help the tiny tot develop its climbing muscles. Rope climbing couplings, called carabiners, were attached to the teddy bear, and it was hung from a tree branch about six inches off the ground. That’s so if Edward fell, he wouldn’t get hurt. The sloth is a very slow moving animal, native to the forests of South America. They move so slowly that moss can actually grow on them!
You may wish to have something that pertains to the subject you are teaching.
9. Another activity to have in your “Got A Minute, Two, or Five?” folder could be a vocabulary word of the day or a quote of the day. Have students place the vocabulary word in a sentence or write a sentence explaining what they think the quote means.
Here are several of my favorite quotes:
  • “Life is NOT a spectator sport!” (Dick’s Sporting Goods)
  • “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women…) to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
Actually, all the “Got a Minute, Two, or Five?” suggestions I have listed could be used for a substitute folder, as well.
Have a wonderful school year!
Thanks to Minds in Bloom’s Rachel Lynette for giving me this opportunity as a guest blogger! Very much appreciated.
Gail Hennessey
BIO: Gail taught for 33 1/2 years, all but two years in 6th grade, and is the author of 34 books for teachers/kids. Her newest book of biographical plays on people in ancient history comes out this year (Social Studies School Service). She also has a series of Purple Turtle books for young readers. Click here for titles. Connect with Gail using the links below:
Gail on TeachersPayTeachers

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