Photo © ToniVC

Substitute Teacher Tricks – Time Management Game

Experienced teachers will attest to good planning as the reason why they have so few discipline problems in their classrooms. When students are bored, confused, or sitting idle, they are certain to find trouble. Sometimes this happens despite the best planning; students may finish an activity quicker than expected or the pacing of the lesson was underestimated. Regardless, every substitute teachers knows that the final 10 minutes of a class period can be the most dangerous when students have completed all work and have nothing to do. Here is a simple teacher trick that students love – it will keep them out of trouble and make it easy for you to manage the class.

Game: Motion Detector

Target Audience: Students in grades K – 8

Materials needed: None

Overview: One student is chosen to be the leader and another is chosen to be the detective. The leader leads the group in a series of hand gestures, claps, and movements as the detective attempts to guess who is leading.


  • Have students sit in a circle, either on their desks or on the floor. They need to able to see each other reasonably well.
  • Begin by choosing a detective. Ask this student to move away and face with his back to the group.
  • With the detective unable to see, silently choose a leader by pointing to a student. Ask the rest of the group to nod their heads in confirmation if they see who is the leader.
  • The leader will now begin to do some kind of hand movement such as snapping fingers, clapping hands, etc. and the rest of the group will do the same. Whenever the leader changes to something new, the group will follow the pattern.
  • Ask the detective to rejoin the group and stand in the center of the circle. The detective gets three guesses to identify the leader.
  • If necessary, impose a 30 second time limit for each guess to keep the game moving smoothly. Also, encourage the leader to change the hand movement frequently to keep the game interesting.
  • After three guesses or when the leader has been identified, the round is over. The detective can rejoin the group and new students can be chosen for each role.

Rounds of Motion Detector can continue indefinitely until the class period is over. Students enjoy the competitive nature of the game and find delight in coming up with creative things for the leader to do. Motion Detector works as a great time management technique. The next time you find yourself in a classroom with time to spare, remember that the sound of students clapping in unison is far better than the alternative!

Contact us for more tricks and tips for better substitute teaching.

Photo © ToniVC

Leave a Reply

Next Article5 Easy Substitute Teacher Tricks: One For Every Age