Front page > Power Tools > Take 5: When you need to fill up five minutes...

  • Brainstorm inventions to be foot operated.
  • Read a given text. Find as many synonyms and/or antonyms as possible. Work in groups if you like.
  • Find the average shoe size of your class.
  • A student shares something that stresses them out, then other students can brainstorm suggestions to relieve the stress.
  • Sketch an idea for an art project you can eat.
  • Brainstorm uses for a brick.
  • Pull a long word from the dictionary, then see how many other words can be made from it.
  • List all the birthdays in your class on the chalkboard by month, then discuss the idea of "randomness".
  • When lined up to leave the room, with backs to the wall, pass a baseball bat or yardstick from the front to the back of the line by using their feet (without kicking). Two or three students carefully lift it up on the tops of their feet at the same time and pass it toward the back, down the line without it touching the floor.
  • Think of ways food can make noise.
  • Think of 10 ways to get rid of junk mail.
  • Discuss how water might be made to go uphill with buckets, through a pipleline, forced through a sprayer, even from a tornado or hurricane; anything's possible in a brainstorming exercise. Fill up a couple of minutes discussing how pumps might work with pistons and valves, or with rotating turbines or blades.
  • For those of us still stuck in the clunky non-metric world, on 1 inch wide strips of paper, using a ruler, students can make 6 in/15 cm (or longer) rulers, with centimeters on top and inches on the bottom. Tape to the tops of their desks where they'll stay all year, and when giving assignments or discussing measurements, switch back and forth between inches and centimeters. Over time they will develop a feel for both systems, where, when asked "how long is 40 cm?" they will be able to hold up their hands and say "about that long".
  • Give students examples of square roots, if they don't know the term already, then have them estimate the square root of some large numbers, like 540, 27,000 or 8,000,000.
  • Have students describe the first place they would take a foreign visitor and explain why that place is important to them.
  • Discuss mascots or symbols that would be more appropriate for political parties. Need more? Come up with two or three new political parties and what they would stand for.
  • What if buildings were made of flexible materials? What are some advantages and disadvantages? What would it be like to be in one? What affect would weather have?
  • Think of different symbols for clock faces.
  • Have students make their own "business cards" (use the school's address and phone for privacy if you like) using their own paper, pens and markers. They can even include a "business" of their own creation. Then staple them all to a bulletin board and repeat the exercise periodically. Working within the five-minute parameter gives them a tight, real-world "deadline" to focus on.
  • Ask a student to describe a Global Positioning System device. Brainstorm interesting uses for one.
  • Have students brainstorm how the world seems to be designed for adults, and explain what they would like to see to make them feel more comfortable or important.
  • What If: falling rain suddenly froze in mid-air?
  • Give each student a meter of string and a piece of heavy paper or cardboard. Let them cut a 10 cm. circle, punch a couple of holes toward the center (like a button) and thread the string through to make one of those things you made as a kid out of real buttons, that spins and whizzes when the string is pulled just right. Have them color the paper with markers or crayons, trying spiral patterns or primary colors that will blend into third colors.