Sometimes you have a few spare minutes that you need to fill. You don't have time to introduce a new concept. But you have just enough time to do SOMETHING.
Other times you have larger blocks of time for whatever reason. Your students have done a great job and you want to reward them, you all just need a break from routine, or you want to reinforce a certain concept in a different way. There could be any number of reasons that you would like to change up a larger block of time and use it for a game.
Table of Contents
Out With the Old
BUT... you are tired of all the usual suspects: charades, hangman, musical chairs, Bingo, puzzles. So here is a list of 31 of the best games to play in class. Some of these became standards over the years with my students. And some of them are brand new ideas that I have just implemented into my curriculum programs.
Some are on the educational side and some are on the pure entertainment side. Some are made to take just 5 minutes (courtesy of my box of prepared games--you can access that description and information in point number 10 of this article). And some will take significant time. So there is something in here for everyone regardless of what their need is at the moment!
So then, what are the best games to play in class? They are the ones that are time tested but not tired, loved by your students to the point they beg to play them every time the subject comes up, and enhance your school program instead of detract from it (making every game you play fit into your themes is actually a possible concept). So let's dig in and find out what the top 31 best games to play in class are!
I have split them into time categories so it will be easy for you to pick the game you need and move along. But keep in mind that while a game was in the 5 or 15 minute category because it could be quick, it could also be played as an extended game if you play several rounds of it.
Also, if you would like a copy of this article in PDF form for easy access in your classroom, click here.
For quick reference, below is a list of the games so you can scroll down to the one(s) that interest you.
And one final note before we begin: there a few games here for purchase. I have linked them to Amazon so you can easily see the description and reviews. If you click on the links, I may make a small commission but there is no additional cost for you to use those links. In fact, I try to find you the best deal online just the same as I would when shopping within my own budget. Everything that I link to is something that I have personally found beneficial.
- 2 Truths and a Lie
- Marshmallow Tower Competition
- 5-Minute Marvel
- 5-Minute Dungeon
- Song Lyric Contest
- Trashketball Contest
- Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
- Interactive Encyclopedia Brown
- Mini Escape Room (1 round)
- Mini Murder Mystery (1 round)
- Open Mic Session
- Impromptu Class Dance
- Who's Tattoo?
- Escape Room (Full)
- Murder Mystery (Full)
- Scavenger Hunt
- Board Game Party
- Classroom Carnival
Morning or Afternoon Games
- Movie Party
- Feast Party
- Classroom Painting Party
- Fun at the Park/BBQ
- Go on a Hike
- Classroom Campout
Full Day Games
- Classroom Olympics
- Classroom Survivor
- Special Field Trip
- Make and Edit a Class Youtube Video
- Attend a Local Festival
5 Minute Games
1. 2 Truths and a Lie
This is the ever-popular game that middle school kids love to play. And it's perfect to pick one or two students at a time to choose 3 statements about themselves. Then they have their fellow students guess which one is the lie out of the three.
You can make this an ongoing thing that you keep track of over time, or it can be just a fun thing for the moment. The one thing you do want to keep track of, though, is which students got a chance to share their three items. Then everybody who wants to have a chance gets to do it before you start again with students that have already done it.
You can also have all of the students write their three statements on index cards and then read a few at a time and have the class try to guess the lie. Then you can pull out as many as you need for the time that you have to fill with no preparation time used.
This is the same as the party game, Scattergories. The only difference is that you put a letter on the board instead of rolling the die. Unless you happen to have one of those dies from your own game.
Then you will have papers that you can hand out to the students just like the game. They will have space for ten categories on the left with three sets of lines that allow the students to play up to three rounds. Of course that depends on how long you want the game to go on.
Here is a printable form that you can keep on hand. To be ready ahead of time you may want to put categories on one and then make enough copies to go around the class. Then you can pull it out and play a round within the 5 minutes. Categories can be anything such as colors, names, countries, cities, classroom items, furniture, or literally anything you can think of.
You won't have time to go over the lists once you finish playing, but that is okay. It is just for fun anyway.
Just have the students try to come up with at least one word in each category within about 3 minutes. You can adjust the time to what works best for your class.
3. Marshmallow Tower Competition
So in order for you to be prepared for this game, you will need to keep the marshmallows well hidden!
Seriously though, this is definitely one of the best games to play in class because the students can't get enough of it--or of sneaking the marshmallows.
So you will either have all of the students work independently, set them up in pairs or teams, or choose anyone who wants to do it while the rest of the class watches.
Then you will distribute a good amount of marshmallows and toothpicks based on how you split up the students. Keep in mind that you will need enough for them to work fast and build. But also keep in mind that the shorter time you allow, the fewer supplies you have to come up with. Three minutes is probably a good amount of time.
Let the students build in any way they want. But let them know that the winner is the tower that is the highest at the end of the time.
You could also switch this game up to be the best castle (will take more than 5 minutes and probably more supplies) or whatever other structure you can think of.
Then you can either judge the best one or talk about the designs once they are done.
This is a game that your students will ask to play all the time!
I found out about this game because my kids gifted it to each other. It is the perfect classroom game, even though it says 2-4 players. Just change it to 2-4 teams and you're good to go!
You will need to make sure you read the directions and know how to play before trying to implement this in the classroom. And you will not be able to use this as a 5-minute time filler for the first time or two you play with the class. They will need time to go over rules and such. But once everyone knows what they are doing, it will be the perfect 5-minute game to get out and play!
I don't really need to describe much about it since the name tells it all. But basically each team will be a superhero and they have 5 minutes to defeat Thanos. Perfect middle school fodder.
So this one is pretty much the same as the one above, just a different theme. But it is also one that my kids have at home and love. And it may be even more beneficial for you if you happen to be teaching a period in history that lends to this theme.
One of the differences of this game to the Marvel one is that it is for 2-5 players or teams instead of up to 4.
The object of the game is to defeat all 5 of the dungeons to win.
The same advice also applies to be prepared with the rules beforehand and play a few rounds with your class when you have a larger chunk of time. Once your class is comfortable with it, you can pull it out for 5 minute breaks whenever you or your students want.
Both the Dungeon and the Marvel games are a couple of the best games to play in class because there isn't any prep really on your part.
This game was introduced to our family from my son-in-law. It was perfect for our large family for game nights. It was then introduced to our church youth group and quickly became a favorite almost weekly game. And that is why it made this list of best games to play in class.
You can get some great instructions at Wiki-How.
The one thing that we did differently than the playing cards was to make cards that actually said townsperson, doctor, detective, and mafia.
You will want to be the moderator just so you can keep the ball rolling and not have to worry about stories gone awry.
You will find your students requesting this game all the time. And you will also find them begging to play another round when you do play.
7. Song Lyric Contest
This one is one of the best games to play in class because it has almost no prep work at all.
You just need a CD or other music player. If you are getting your music online it is even easier.
Choose songs that you have heard your students singing here and there, popular kids songs, or any type of popular music that a large number of students know a lot of the lyrics to.
Then have a contest with whichever students want to participate. You will have them stand up at the front of the room. Then they take turns singing lyrics for a couple lines of a song. If they mess up, they must sit down. The last one standing wins.
8. Trashketball Contest
This is another one of the best games to play in class because it also has virtually no prep involved. You just need 2 trash cans for each game you set up. You could set up a few games if you have enough trash cans. You could borrow from neighboring classes for a few minutes.
The only difficulty with multiple games playing is that you have to be watching out for multiple plays at the same time. And with middle school students things can degenerate very quickly. Having an assistant or a parent helper would be great if they are already there.
You simply need to set up the trash cans at an acceptable distance. Then use wrinkled paper for the balls.
The winning team can get 5 extra minutes of free time or some small prize that they will enjoy.
9. Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
Since everybody knows how to play rock paper scissors, this may be the easiest game of the whole list.
You can make brackets on the board and then run through the tournament all the way to a champion. The kids will have a blast with it and it moves perfectly quickly.
10. Interactive Encyclopedia Brown
Middle school kids love to figure things out. So that makes this classroom activity such a perfect choice.
The Encyclopedia Brown books were favorites when I was in elementary school. We had to fight to get to the library to check them out once someone returned one. So the fact that they are still a favorite today is pretty exciting to me.
Even your students who don't love to read will love these books. The chapters are pretty short. So you will read a chapter to the class and then allow them to try to solve the mystery.
You can split the kids up into pairs or teams or just let them contribute individually. It will be more fun for you listening to them process the information and try to solve the mystery than it will be for them to try to solve it.
The answers are in the back of the book in case you and the students need some help.
I can guarantee your kids will be begging you to read another one every time.
11. Mini Escape Room (1 round)
I actually suggested this game as one of my ideas for indoor recess. It is yet another one of my students' favorite classroom activities.
One of my favorite parts of this one is that if you buy the Exit the Game ones, you will get several short games because they each have a few rounds of play to complete the game.
It is meant for up to 4 players, which works perfectly if you split the class up into up to 4 teams. Just make sure that you are playing in an open space so that everybody can see what is going on.
Also, you will want to make sure that you pick the easier levels of play. I wouldn't go any higher than 3 out of 5 on the difficulty level.
You will also find that the more you do these, the better your class becomes at solving them.
One more thing to note is that you can also find several different escape room games designed for school and holidays on Pinterest For more ideas, click here to check out my Escape Rooms board.
12. Mini Murder Mystery (1 round)
This is very similar to the escape room games except that instead of collectively following clues to solve puzzles, your students have roles to play in a drama that solves a crime that was committed.
Most mystery games are set up around 3 course dinners so that there are several rounds of play. Because of this, it makes perfect breaks for you to turn the game into rounds. You will just need to make sure that you don't wait too long between rounds. If you do, your students will forget important details or what the roles of the players were.
You may also want to write down the roles your students are assigned so that when you go to the next round you won't have to figure it out.
You could also provide some sort of snack for the rounds you play. But it is totally optional.
And just like the escape room idea above, you can access lots of different mystery party ideas on Pinterest. Here is my link to that as well.
13. Open Mic Session
This one is super fun and the whole class will love it. The extroverted students will have a great time performing and the introverted students will have a great time watching.
You can either do this for fun or make it into a competition. I always hate trying to compare performances that are equally good in their own right but but so different that it is really hard to compare. So we tend to do it for fun and then have a discussion after of what everybody's favorite thing was.
14. Impromptu Class Dance
This is one of the best classroom activities you can do with a 30-minute time slot because the only prep you need to do is clear the desks and chairs out of the way and get the music ready.
The kids are instantly on board and they can actually move the desks and chairs while you get the music going. Just make sure that the music you choose has enough variety to be pleasing to all of the students' tastes. And make sure you have previously previewed it--you don't want any crazy lyric surprises.
Cleanup is just as easy and it is just great chill time for everybody involved, including the teacher!
It doesn't get much easier than this!
15. Who's Tattoo?
This class activity is another super-easy no-prep solution to fill a 30 minute slot. You just need to cut papers into quarters and hand one or two out to everyone. Then they can use whatever media they want (probably to keep it simple you would offer pencils, pens, colored pencils, pastels, and markers--save the paint for another day). For the next 15 minutes they will make what they consider their dream tattoo.
Once they are done, you will collect them all and put them up on the board. Then underneath each one, the students will go through and write the name of the person they thought created that tattoo picture.
On a separate piece of paper, you will have the names of each of your students. Then you will put tally marks on it for each correct guess they made.
The winner(s) will be the students that got the most correct guesses.
16. Escape Room (Full)
This is the same exact thing as idea number 11 above except that you will be able to play the whole game instead of splitting it into rounds.
Because of this advantage, you can include snacks or lunch with it, or props that will make it more fun and party-esque. If you do, you will need to do most of the preparation ahead of time so you can immediately start playing the game.
One of the reasons that the Exit games are my top choice is because the answers are included in the game, so if a section is taking too long you all can look up the solution and either give the kids more hints to get them there faster or just tell them what the solution to that part is.
17. Murder Mystery (Full)
This is also the same exact class activity as idea number 12 above except that you can play the full version instead of just parts.
Since you won't be doing the three-course meal as part of your class activity, you will save considerable time over what the normal time would be.
But you will still need to be familiar with the game play and able to move things along from time to time.
One way I was able to do this was to play the game with friends and family first, then reuse the game in the classroom. Because I knew the outcome and saw the whole game played out, I was able to direct things for the students rather than play along with them. But I played the role of host so it made it easier to blend into the game without the students feeling like it was awkward.
It went off without a hitch!
18. Scavenger Hunt
This is one of the best games to play in class because students have a lot more fun with the variety.
There are a ton of scavenger hunt ideas on Pinterest. You can either go with one of them the way it is, or you can combine a couple to meet your specific needs.
And while this post is about games to play in class, if you extend the territory to other parts of the school, your students will love the freedom of getting away from the norm.
Here is my Pinterest board that has Scavenger Hunt ideas. Feel free to draw whatever you want from there.
As a final thought, you could also base your scavenger hunt on something in particular that your class learned that you would like to reinforce with some fun.
19. Board Game Party
This is an opportunity for your students to have some games to play in class that they want to play.
Besides the usual collection of games that you keep on hand in the classroom, you can bring a couple from home. And if the time is scheduled, you can also encourage the students to bring in their favorite game if they would like.
This turns out to be one of the class' favorite class activities because they get to do what they want and it feels more like free time than classroom time.
This is a great activity to do when your class has done an exceptionally good job at something and you would like to reward them for a job well done. Or it could even be when they just need a break and to decompress from an unusually tough lesson.
And actually I bet you can come up with at least 10 more reasons why you should do this.
Again one of the best parts of this classroom activity is that you don't need to do any prep work yourself to pull this off.
Imagine how pleased your students would be when they get to class and instead of saying, "get out your textbook and turn to page..." you say, "Okay, class, today we are playing board games for class. Surprise!"
20. Classroom Carnival
This is actually a component of my usual feast parties that I do at the conclusion of n0table literature books.
After every book I have a themed party so the kids can just have a good time and celebrate a job well done. You can read more about one of my parties in this article based on my teaching of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Anyway, you just have the basic carnival style games to play with the kids:
- Ping pong toss
- Ring toss
- Bean bag toss
- Don't let the beach ball land on the ground
- Balloon darts (if you have a place to safely toss darts)
- Juggling contest
- Bottle toss
I am sure you get the idea. While I don't have a specific Pinterest board for this, you can find every possible idea there if you just do a quick search.
This does take some planning on your part. And probably some assembling of games to make it all happen. So you may need a week or two to organize this. The earlier you organize, the less it will cut into your already busy schedule.
The good news is once you have done this, you will always have the materials and prep will be minimal going forward.
Don't forget to serve popcorn!
Morning or Afternoon Games
21. Movie Party
This is also something I do at the end of every literature book that we do that has a corresponding movie.
The kids love it because it is so chill. And you will love it because it is so chill.
Seriously, though, there is very little prep to this. You do need to have the movie rented or purchased or borrowed from a library if you don't already have it. You can generally always find somebody who has it on hand, though, so there will rarely be any reason to purchase it. But if you do, it is forever a classroom resource for you though.
I generally do snacks with this activity. It can be as simple as popcorn or it can be a finger food buffet. I usually asked parents to bring something in and would always get a great spread from the parents that were happy to participate.
Or once in a while I will just make some simple snack to share. There is no pressure here for a huge deal. The main point is just a relaxing morning or afternoon after lots of hard work in the classroom.
22. Feast Party
So this is one of the biggest classroom activities that I do and it takes a lot of energy and a lot of planning. Because of this, I only do it once a year. But the kids are super excited about it and generally talk about it all year long leading up to that end of the year special party.
I actually had a full feast/meal with this and it was always attached to a literature book.
But because it is your classroom you can present it in any way you would like. Once again, you can check out my Voyage of the Dawn Treader article to see what I did with my feast party.
So why invest so much time and planning into an activity like this? Because the kids will remember this day forever and you never know what it will inspire a lot of them to in their older years.
23. Classroom Painting Party
This is basically the same as a paint night that us adults love to do so much. At least some of us. I love the social aspect more than anything.
This class activity also takes quite a bit of prep time because you will need to plan the painting and probably paint it once yourself. That will allow you to experience the difficulty and how you would like to demonstrate it to your students. And it will allow you to have a sample on hand to show the students what they are doing.
If you are not the craftiest teacher in the school, see if a parent would like to come in and do this. I can almost guarantee that at least one of your parents will be thrilled to do this.
For some painting idea inspiration, check out my Pinterest Board on painting ideas.
24. Fun at the Park/BBQ
This is a super fun activity to get away for a bit. You will need to work out transportation unless your school happens to be close to a park.
If there is a playground and a pavilion or place to eat, they will have the best time. You could have premade bbq that the kids can put on buns. And then you can have some chips and cookies to go with it. Feel free to have a parent signup sheet for this. Or feel free to forgo the whole food idea and just have fun day at the park playing!
You can do organized games (volleyball, basketball, tennis, baseball) if facilities permit, or just casual games. Bring some balls and play equipment if you would like.
25. Go on a Hike
This is an especially fun classroom activity if you have great hiking trails nearby. Just about every park has walking trails to go on. And most cities have some great places to jog/walk, usually in some of the most scenic areas of town.
Check out your local listings or talk to friends or parents to find out what some of the best places in town are. Then recruit some parents that would love to do this activity with your class. You will have no shortage of helpers.
26. Classroom Campout
This class activity is so much fun, but I would not spend a bunch of money buying new things to put it together. Use what you and some of your students' parents have around to make it work for little to no money.
What you might want to buy for this even is:
- Logs to sit around a fire
- A fire pit with fake fire (check Pinterest for ideas)
- tents or tarps
- sleeping bags or blankets and pillows
- Some plants or trees (fake is fine) that can give you the feel of being outdoors instead of in your classroom
This will take some significant prep work, but some of the greatest class memories do. And for some teachers, this kind of activity is their bread and butter.
You will want to do this at the end of your day instead of the beginning for the sake of not having to clean up and get ready for a regular classroom schedule.
Full Day Games
27. Classroom Olympics
This is one of the best games to play in class because it is physically good for your students and they will have fund with it, especially the athletic ones. There is some prep involved but you could probably put it together in an evening or two.
Here are some games you can include:
- discus (frisbee)
- javelin (long stick from the woods)
- long jump
- high jump
- tug of war
Virtually any game that you have seen on the olympics will work in your classroom, except for probably not the swimming ones.
Anyway, you will have more than enough available material to do your own olympics classroom games. And you students will probably be very eager to help you come up with different forms of the competitions. I know my students kept coming up with different ways to do the relays. And the more you do their suggestions, they happier and more involved middle schoolers tend to get.
28. Classroom Survivor
Your students are going to absolutely love these games to play in class because they sit and watch Survivor on tv and think about how they would win all those games if they were playing.
Plan to have some physical activities, some memory activities, and some longevity activities, just like on the show. That way everybody has a chance with their particular skill sets and abilities.
You can even have some Survivor music playing in the background to get your students motivated.
29. Special Field Trip
This classroom activity can be anything that you have recently studied or a totally fun field trip.
My 5th grade teacher did an all day 10 mile bike ride with us to the next town over. It was such an amazing day.
I realize that times have changed since I was in 5th grade and school policy is much more restrictive now than it was back then. But with some creativity, I bet you can rival his phenomenal day that I still remember 40+ years later.
Let me know what your class did for a special field trip!
30. Make and Edit a Class Youtube Video
You actually may want to have a few of these going at the same time. Allow the students to work in groups as they desire. And just make sure the material they are planning is acceptable.
Then let them film away. Maybe this will be a day they are allowed to have their phones to record if that is not normal school policy.
Or you can assign them to groups and topics if there is something you want to do that is more in line with what you are teaching.
Once they are done filming, have them work on editing their videos. That will probably take some significant time.
And once they are done with that, have the class take turns showing what they created.
You can have the class vote on what they liked best and give the winning video creators a prize. Or you can just have a classroom discussion on what they liked and why afterwards.
31. Attend a Local Festival
So this is not a class activity that you can plan yourself, but have to depend on festivals being held in your community. But there tends to be some festival happening at many times throughout the year.
So keep up with what is going on in your community and take advantage of those days. Most of the time, the subject of the festival is going to have an educational component to it. So that allows you to have a dialog about it later with your class. Or if you happen to be studying something similar in class, it is even better.
Some examples we have in our locality are:
- Greek Festival
- Children's International Festival
- Children's Festival of Friends
- Craft Fairs around the Holidays
- World Arts Celebration
- Fall Festival
- Holly Days Festival
There are so many more festivals being most towns. Check them out and experience them with your class!
So this is my list of the 31 best games to play in class. I hope that it is enough to keep your students happy, engaged, and productively learning for a long time to come.
You will also find that your students will beg you to play a few of these games all the time. But having a favorite game for your class is an awesome thing!
What are the games that have worked well for your class? I would love to hear--just let me know in the comments below!
For an extensive list of games to play for indoor recess, check out my blog post here.