Sometimes teachers nail the timing of their lessons, and it’s a smooth transition to the next part of the school day. Other lessons run short, and teachers are left with an extra 5-10 minutes before it’s time to transition. This is a perfect example of a natural time for a brain break or quick classroom game. The benefits of quick academic breaks are endless: students will better focus after a break, quick games allow for community building, student work avoidance behaviors decrease as productivity increases, and more.

Here are 10 quick, engaging games to use in your classroom.

1. Desert Island

In this wordy game, you or one of your students must secretly pick a rule of what items are allowed to come to an imaginary island. For example, maybe only items that start with a certain letter or that have at least two vowels are allowed on the island. Students then guess what can come to the island. If a student guesses an item that fits the rule, the word can be written up on the board so that students start to find a pattern. Alternatively, a category might be chosen, like only items that are smaller than a bread box can come to the island.

2. One Word

Students sit in a circle as the teacher poses a question. Students must respond one at a time around the circle using only one word. You can even time it to see how long it takes to make it all the way around. Example questions might include asking about favorite foods or preferred streaming service. We also love this game for an end-of-day reflection activity, fostering kindness in the classroom with questions like, “Who is one person you helped today?”

3. Squiggle Art

Teachers can give students a random squiggle to copy over onto a whiteboard or blank paper. Challenge them to create a realistic image out of the squiggle. Give students about five minutes to create, then either the teacher can choose who is the winner or students can vote.

4. Categories

Similar to the game of Scattergories, give students a category and 2 minutes to write down as many things as they can think of that fit into the category. For example, if the category is “weather words” students could write down, individually or in small groups, words like cloudy, temperature, snow, forecast, etc. When time is up, students share out their lists. As lists are read aloud, if other students/groups have the same word, they cross it out. Any unique remaining words count as one point to determine a winner.

5. Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship

A class favorite at any age level! Students stand up and find a partner to play rock, papers, scissors (best out of 3). The winner remains standing and will find someone else who is also still standing to play against. Play continues until only two remain standing to determine the champion.

6. Line-Up in Order Of…

The teacher or a student gives a category that students must then use to line-up silently in. For example, lining up by age or birth month. The only form of communication students can use is eye contact, hand signaling, or other body language. It is probably best to start out easy with height order or shoe size.

7. Five Questions

This is a speedier version of 20 questions. A leader must secretly pick one item found in the classroom. Students then ask five yes-or-no questions to narrow down what the item might be. After five questions, a guess must be made.

8. Would You Rather…?

Pose several “Would You Rather?” questions and ask students to stand for one answer or remain seated for another. Questions can be themed if it’s close to a holiday or other special occasion: Would you rather find a Leprechaun or get free lucky charms for life? Would you rather meet Santa or The Easter Bunny? Switch it up by having students do different movements for their preferences, like kneeling, spinning around, or jumping twice.

9. Four Corners

This silent game is one of the most addictive classroom games for students. One student leads with their eyes closed. The others tip toe around the room to one chosen corner. Each corner should be labeled or known as corner 1, 2, 3 or 4. The leader calls out a corner number and anyone in that corner are out and must sit down. Students switch corners again before the leader calls out another corner. Play continues until one person remains! Tip: Once only 4 students are left, they each must be in a different corner.

10. Silent Ball

We will admit, once you introduce this game, students will ask to play it every day. So, it is suggested that you save this quick game for the last month(s) of school. Students sit on desks or stand in a circle while tossing a ball. Usually a dodgeball size is best. It must be silent as the game starts. Students are out if they drop the ball, make a bad pass, or make noise. The ball can be tossed anywhere within the circle or classroom and students must be paying attention!

In the past, it may have been frowned upon to implement lessons that don’t fill up an entire subject’s time slot, but now we know that natural breaks are beneficial to our students. Which will you try first?

10 Classroom Games You Can Play in 5 Minutes or Less