Encourage Students to use spare time purposefully

There is always at least one in every classroom.

What is it you’re wondering?

If we gave this statement to our students and asked them what it could be, I’m sure they would come up with interesting ideas. Wouldn’t it be a great critical thinking starter!

What I’m thinking of though is this – the student who always finishes their work before everyone else. In some classes, it’s not just one student but a group of students – and what do we often hear said to those students?

“Well done on getting your work finished – you have a bit of free time now.”

And then they often don’t really know what they want to do with that time, or they spend it doing something that isn’t really challenging them or encouraging them to use any of those 21st Century skills that we really want them to focus on.

What if you created a choice board with activities and websites that you knew would be engaging, but educational at the same time. It doesn’t matter which platform you use in your class – you could use Google Slides, Padlet, PowerPoint, Keynote or a number of other equally as awesome tools to create your resource. Share it with your students – and then let them choose from there if they finish early. Sometimes just making a choice from a set of activities is a skill in itself for some students.

[bctt tweet=” Direct your Ss to more purposeful activities if they finish early. ” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Here are four ideas for purposeful, fun activities that you could include:

Number one:

Where on earth is Carmen Sandiego?

This site uses Google Earth to create a hide and seek type game. When you first click the link the scene is set, then you’re off on an adventure to find some stolen jewels.

Along the way, you need to interview witnesses and then use the clues to fly to the next destination. You’re given a few locations to choose between – depending on the answers the witnesses give you as to which one you decide to go to. This is great for encouraging your students to use their critical thinking skills and also brings in some geography and maybe research skills.

They can also grab the peg man, drop him at the various landmarks they visit – and suddenly your students are in the street view. (When you grab the peg man you’ll notice blue lines appear in Google Earth – these are places you can drop him). What an awesome way to encourage discussions around what they can see – what is the same as where they are currently? What is different? Encourage them to look around, take a screenshot of something they find interesting, add it to a shared slide with a quick comment about what they saw.

[bctt tweet=” Grab the #pegman and drop him in #GoogleEarth to see the streetview ” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Students could collaborate with someone else who has finished and explain their thinking, justifying the decisions they make.

Number two:

A Google a day

This site is fantastic for developing your student’s research skills. I don’t know how often my students used to say to me that they couldn’t find any information on what they were looking for. It wasn’t that the information wasn’t there – they just weren’t searching effectively.

[bctt tweet=” Develop Ss research skills with #GoogleADay ” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Each day there is a new challenge and they even give you a few ideas on how you can get started with your search. The quicker you are at finding the correct answer the more points you earn.

You could even extend this idea and get your students to create their own questions for others to answer.

If search skills are something you are focusing on with your students you might like to also check out Google’s Search Education lesson ideas.

Number three:

The five clue challenge

This is a collection of videos by Michael Soskill. He gives five clues about a location, person or animal and you need to work out what he is talking about. He’s filmed the videos as he’s travelled the world or has had other people he’s met film them. There’s a great collection of ideas to spark curiosity and expand your student’s general knowledge.

[bctt tweet=” Develop #criticalthinking with the #5ClueChallenge ” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Your students watch the video and can pause them after each clue to do a bit of research if they need to. The idea is they get 5 points if they can answer it correctly with just one clue, 4 points if they use two clues, 3 points if the used three clues – I’m sure you get the idea. This is a great way to develop honesty and respect in your students in terms of how many clues they used.

This is another activity that they could also make their own version of. They could even create different versions for different classes in your school, or create a maths collection where they have to guess the maths shape they’re thinking of.

Number four:

Google’s Quick Draw

If you want a fun site that encourages your students to use their creative drawing skills then this is the site for you.

You’re given an object to draw and then as you’re sketching it on the screen Google is using artificial intelligence to guess what you’re drawing. When you quit the game you’re shown the doodles you drew and how many of them the computer guessed correctly.

There is also a link to see what other people have drawn. This is what is helping to develop the site. In the image below I clicked on the book – it showed me 111,205 images of a book drawn by other people.

[bctt tweet=” Did you know you can see other people’s doodle in #Googles #QuickDraw? ” username=”donnagolightly1″]


I’m sure your students could just have fun looking at how other people draw certain items. There’s some great data here for a maths statistical activity I’m sure!

This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are lots of other equally as engaging websites and activities that you could direct your students to. The idea is to encourage them to continue to develop their creativity, their critical thinking skills, their curiosity and their collaborative skills with whatever it is that you direct them towards. And of course – to have some fun!

We’d love you to share websites or activities that you have used in your classroom too – feel free to get in touch with us.

If Google is your choice of platform you might also like to check out how to Extend your Google Sites skills to curate engaging activities for your students or How to encourage student agency with hyperdocs.

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