How to Fill Extra Time at the End of Class

girl at board

In a recent faith-formation class, we did something that I have never done in my many years of teaching: we finished 15 minutes early. While 15 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, for those of us in the classroom, 15 minutes can feel like an eternity if we are not prepared. My mind searched for something to do that didn’t require any setup or explanation.

We decided to play hangman; I’m not sure if it was my idea or if a student suggested it. I selected a word from that day’s lesson. They had a bunch of fun trying to guess it, and I had fun watching them crinkle their noses as they tried to decipher the word from just a couple of seemingly random letters. When someone finally shouted “Eucharist” there were cheers as well as a few groans from among those students who didn’t guess it.

I moved on to more words from the lesson before discovering the fun in letting a student pick a word. They selected short words like Church, Jesus, Mary, Christ, and love, which turned out to be extremely easy for these kids to guess. I returned to picking the words; I made the game a little harder by using phrases and longer words. “The Body of Christ” was not terribly difficult, but it was challenging enough to keep the game moving for a bit. We also used the name of our parish, “Saint Angela Merici,” which turned out to be a quick win for a student.

The 15 minutes just zoomed by. When we finished, I realized how much fun we were having. Yes, at the end of each round we discussed the word or phrase and what it meant, but all in all, it was just a game. We were laughing together and interacting so well that many of the children did not want to leave when their parents arrived.

That extra time at the end of class turned out to be a blessing. The game reminded me that sometimes the class needs to come together for a little bit of fun. When my students had fun together as a group, I saw that they were a little bit more eager to come back and participate the following week, which helped them be more open to the lesson I was attempting to teach.

What game or activity do you turn to with extra time left over in the class?

About Lisa Jones 42 Articles
Lisa Jones is a fourth-grade catechist at her parish, St. Angela Merici in Missouri City, TX. She also serves her parish as the director of their Vacation Bible School program and as chairperson of the Faith Formation Council. Lisa blogs with her sister about faith and family life at Of Sound Mind and Spirit. She and her husband are the proud parents of three amazing kids.


  1. We play “hangman” as well; however, I changed it to “snowman” where we are building something as opposed to hanging someone. The kids love it and get very excited to guess the word and see how far the snowman gets.

    We also play Mad Libs using vocabulary words that the children have learned. BINGO is also a big hit and can be adapted to so many different themes.

    • My own kids LOVE Mad Libs. That sounds like fun to try in class. Do you use a specific form of Mad Libs for class or just use a regular one but with lesson vocabulary words? We also love Bingo for the class. It’s a great way to engage and teach at the same time. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I have been using Hangman in class for some time now and I feel its a good way to repeat the phrases and terms they have been either hearing in class or in their spiritual life. How may times have we read that we have to hear something “x” number of times before we retain it. Well Hangman is just another way of repeating the information while having fun at the same time. Creating teams can also help.

    • Robert,
      I really like the idea of creating teams to work together on a word game. And I agree, repetition works wonders for absorbing information. Thank you.

  3. To Whom It May Concern:
    I love receiving my daily Catechist’s Journey emails. But today it unfortunately struck a nerve. Over the last couple of years I have been personally involved in suicides by hanging of YOUNG children. Hence I now find the word/game “hangman” very inappropriate for class. Death by suicide is the 6th leading cause of death for children 5-14. We now incorporate the game Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune to take the place of hangman. We recently were required by the Archdiocese to show a video to our students on Bullying…. Had I not been personally involved in such a manner of suicide I’m sure I wouldn’t even be writing this note or even thinking twice about it. I guess I’m trying to be pro active as to not offend any of our students or give them ideas…. Thanks for your consideration.

    • Something we played in school years ago takes on a different meaning these days.
      I like the idea of Snowman as Lisa said.

      I am very sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you, Joseph, for raising our awareness to this sensitive issue. Lisa D.’s suggestion to build a snowman as the game is a good, positive one.

      Catechist’s Journey Editor

    • Thank you for your insightful thoughts. We have had several discussions about bullying with our 5th grade class.

    • Joseph,
      I appreciate your comment helping us realize the possible issues with the game. Next time it comes up in class I will endeavor to find a different way to play the word game. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. Great idea. I always have a real fear of running out of time at the end of class. Our books we use have 4-5 vocabulary words each chapter, so this is a great way to review those. I always worry that they are retaining what I teach and I struggle to come up with ideas. I don’t want to be that teacher that makes them read from a book for an hour. I would love to hear some more game ideas!

    • Games can be wonderful teaching tools. I am also always in need of new games to use in the classroom. The students in my class this year who were in my class last year ask me if we can play games we played last year. I’ve been trying to find new ones to surprise them, but maybe I should go ahead and repeat them since they seem to like them.

  5. Here is what I’ve seen played at my school. You draw a line of a star for each wrong letter. You can draw a 5 or 6 pointed star. Simple and requires no artistic talent!

  6. Since our program sessions are one hour and 15 minutes, ideas are provided each week for the “Extra 15” in my weekly communication to catechists. Usually these activities revolve around the lectionary — as our curriculum is not lectionary-based, including trips to the church to learn about the liturgical seasons, Adoration chapel, scavenger hunts for images of saints found in the church, and of course, the favorite: Build An Angel or Build A Saint (AKA Hangman!)

  7. When I taught First Grade in school, I played Pie in the Face as an alternative to Hangman. I would draw a facial feature for each wrong guess. Then if they didn’t guess it, I would pretend to throw a pie at the kids. They loved it. I would even ask them what kind of pie I should throw.

  8. My fourth grade class loves our version of Wheel of Fortune.. rather than hangman. Same concept.. discover letters etc. We must use recent vocabulary words, bonusif the student can define the meaning. It is a big hit.
    We also stretch often in class.. to bring the energy level up. A little quiet time, breathing slowly. It renews focus and gives the children a physical break at the end of a long day. Works everytime.

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