My Lesson Plan Ran Short

New teachers (and sometimes experienced teachers) accidentally have their lesson plan run short. What happens when you finish your lesson plan early? Here are 30 activities to keep you teaching the last minutes of class.

Did you just think, “My lesson plan ran short”?

Lesson planning takes years of practice and mistakes to get right most of the time. Even seasoned teachers look at the clock and realize they have empty minutes to fill. Despite having the best lesson plan, teachers sometimes have a lesson plan finished with time on the clock. Hopefully it rarely happens, but it will occur for different reasons.

Sometimes a lesson flops. Other times students understand the information and fly through it. (In this situation, congratulate yourself.) Finally, the lesson went satisfactory, but you simply did not have enough information planned.

No matter the reason, you will be left with a classroom of teenagers.

It’s intimidating. It can be disastrous. And it’s happened to everyone.

Part of classroom management is having a backup plan—a what to do when you have ten minutes left in class, and about 40 eyes staring at you.

Here are 30 ideas for when you have 10 minutes left in class, but the lesson plan is finished.

New teachers (and sometimes experienced teachers) accidentally have their lesson plan run short. What happens when you finish your lesson plan early? Here are 30 activities to keep you teaching the last minutes of class.

1. Read poetry.

2. Fill out points for two sides of a debate on a Google Slide presentation.

3. Watch a speech.

4. Ask students to write a sentence for you to break down grammatically.

5. Analyze quotes.

6. Model how you brainstorm a writing topic.

7. Tell a funny (but appropriate!) story from your childhood.

8. Look at famous pictures.

9. Allow students to choose a writing prompt.

10. Go around the room so each student can state what his/her career plans are.

11. Explain your hero.

12. Describe a “where I was” event such as 9-11.

13. Show a Crash Course Literature video.

14. Tell a story from your grandparents.

15. Take a virtual tour of the White House.

16. Model an Internet search in a subject chosen by students. Explain primary and secondary sources.

17. Search for what happened on that day in history.

18. Look at your local newspaper online. Label the parts of a news article.

19. Write a short story. Start with a topic sentence and ask each student to contribute a sentence.

20. Watch historical moments in sports.

21. Watch a famous TV clip like “Who’s On First?”

22. Let students interview you. (within reason!!)

23. Take a virtual tour of a famous museum or library.

24. Discuss a literary time period: What historical events shaped that time period? How does the writing reflect the values and struggles of that period?

25. Analyze your class title. For example, if you teach “Creative Writing,” brainstorm different ways of being creative.

26. Browse college websites, look at example syllabi, or discuss various degrees. Don’t be surprised if your students aren’t aware of the language, such as “associates degree” or “PhD.”

27. Pull up a clean commercial on YouTube and identify the audience.

28. Color.

29. Do a book talk or read the first chapter of a book.

30. Play an improv game.

If your lesson plan is finished and you don’t have a backup plan, implement one of these 30 ideas. Students won’t know it’s not on the lesson plan because you are still teaching them. With a little creativity, you can probably tie one of the ideas to your current content: time period’s art? famous speaker? memorable news stories? online practice? A little thinking on your feet and the 10 minutes will fly by.

Writing prompts for secondary ELA students.

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