Early finisher activities can cause issues in the classroom. When students finish a task early, it’s important to have strategies in place to help them use their classroom time effectively.
Learn how to ensure that early finishers make productive use of their time and not disrupt other students.
Know what you want students to work on when the first task is done.
Before students begin their primary task, make sure they understand what to do when they complete the work. Be very clear so there’s no possibility for confusion. Here are a few tips to help:
- Display the directions for early finishers in an obvious location.
- Review with students what to do if they finish early.
- Ask the class to repeat what to do and have them point to the directions.
- Have students point to their “early finisher” work (ideally it’s on their desk or nearby).
- It may be beneficial for students to have the early finisher work at their desk.
- Ask student for “thumbs-up” if they will work on _______ task when done.
The bottom line is to leave no question as to what is expected when a student completes their primary task.
You can provide options for early finisher activities
My favorite way to provide early finisher activities is to have a list menu in order of priority. “If you finish this, go on to the next item on the list.” I love to number the list so students know to start at number 1 and work their way down.
Choice menus are great, but if tasks need to be completed or progress needs to be made, a prioritized list is what you’ll want. It might look like this:
You can also use “Must Do” and “May Do” lists. Once the “Must-Do’s” are done, students can move on to the “May Do’s.” Or if students complete a certain number of items on the “Must-Do” list, they can move on to the “May-Do” list. Click here to find engaging early finisher activities for ELA practice.
It may be beneficial to display a list of what early finisher time is for and what it’s not for, depending on your class. A T-Chart works well for this display. If it’s early in the year, this may be a good idea anyway because it sets the tone for the year.
So now that you have the foundation set for productive early finisher activities, what are great activities for these students?
Early Finisher Activities
So what are some of the activities that early finishers can work on that won’t distract other students?
- Early finishers can use their extra time to review their work and check for any errors they may have missed. This will help them develop good habits of reviewing their work before turning it in.
- Encourage students to read their book when they finish a task early. This will help them progress through their book, or if you have a classroom library, they can check out a book for reading. The best option here is the student has the book at their desk because it reduces the potential for distraction. Grab this Close Reading Freebie to help students learn how to make the most out of independent reading time.
- Provide extension activities that relate to the task that the students have just completed. This will help early finishers reinforce what they have learned and deepen their understanding of the topic. This type of activity may require prep work on your part. I like to provide a resource center in the classroom when we are working on a specific topic. For example, if we are studying the social classes of ancient Egypt, I love checking out books from the library on ancient Egypt and set up a specific location in the classroom for these materials. I clearly label it “Egypt Resources.”
- Early finishing students can help others who are struggling with the task. This will not only benefit the other students, but it will also help the early finishers develop their leadership and communication skills. If you allow this, it’s helpful to know a bit about the students before partnering them or offering this option.
- Early finishers can work on personal projects related to the topic or theme they have been studying. This will give them an opportunity to be creative and develop their own ideas. Ongoing projects make for easy early finisher activities.
- Early finishers can use their extra time to practice a skill they have been working on. It’s helpful to have an area where “Skill Building” activities are displayed for easy access. Using a familiar format on the work page will reduce confusion, and it’s important to provide differentiation. One of the best ways to practice a skill is by using color by code pages. The directions are clear, and there are so many to choose from depending on the skill. Find grammar coloring pages here. There are sets for each season, and they are differentiated.
- If you’re going for less structured activities, you can always provide decks of cards (they can play math “Go Fish”, board games (you can find ones that focus on a skill…like grammar or punctuation), domino multiplication, listen to an audio book, sketch your favorite setting, sketch a character from the book you’re reading, write a poem, write a journal entry, write a story in response to a picture the teacher has displayed in the classroom, etc. Check out this blog post here about fun multiplication games for the classroom.
You don’t want to forget to let students know what they do with the work once it’s completed. Oftentimes, it’s best to keep it at their seat in order to minimize distractions during this work time.
There are many productive ways for early finishers to use their classroom time. Make sure your classroom is set up for success by clearly displaying expectations so that there’s a smooth transition to the early finisher activities.
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