Early Finishers Activities are a must in your classroom. We have all heard the dreaded, “I’m Done, Now What?” Usually, it comes right when you are in the middle of working with a small group or testing a student – basically, right when you don’t need it. Read on to find the 5 must-haves of early finishers activities for your classroom.
My first experience with early finishers activities
I remember as a first-year teacher, I was still getting to grips with what my routines and structures would be, and I didn’t have anything in place for early finishers. When a student asked me what to do after they had finished, I did what I thought every teacher did, and said, “Go read a book.” What my students heard was, “Go and talk to your friends, be noisy and distracting, and muck around until everyone else has finished.”
What an amateur! Firstly, what a way to kill the joy of reading for a bunch of children, Hinemoa. Secondly, come on, get a bit creative!
The Problem With Early Finishers
For me, the problem areas with students who finish early are threefold:
1. Early finishers without purpose (apart from, “Go read a book”) are aimless and that isn’t what I want in my classroom. I want on-task students because bored kids get up to mischief!
2. Early finishers are likely to interrupt you to ask what they should do now that they are finished.
3. Early finishers who don’t know what to do next are dependent on the teacher, not building their own independence.
The four must-haves in early finishers activities
1. Easy to access and ready to use
One of the main points of a good early finisher activity is that students’ can use it without needing your help to do so. Therefore, it is vital that your activity/activities are set up somewhere where students can find them easily, e.g. a certain shelf or cupboard in the room. If the activity requires scissors, glue or other stationery, then make sure this is available and your students understand your expectations and routines.
This anchor chart by Fun in 5th Grade is a great way for the students to see visually what their early finisher activity options are. If they forget what the activities are, they know they can refer back to the anchor chart.
Once students understand what their activities are, where they go to get the activities, and what tools they need to complete the activities, they will be good to go!
2. Open-ended and reusable
As a teacher, you have enough on your plate without having to constantly create new early finishers activities. An early finisher activity, therefore, needs to be something that can be used over and over. Open-ended reading, writing, creative thinking, or research tasks with more than one possible outcome, answer or approach are perfect.
3. Meaningful and relevant
Every moment in the classroom should be a learning opportunity. With this in mind, early finishers activities are not busy work. A great early finisher activity will challenge and stretch students and build on skills that you are working on in the classroom. Ensuring that your early finishers activities are meaningful will also improve the chances of your students staying on task and produce work that they are proud of.
Early finishers activities should be more of a reward for finishing than a punishment. An important warning: you don’t want your activities to be so exciting that your students rush through their initial work to complete them. So put the candy floss machine away and hide the juggling balls, and let’s look at what I mean by fun. You can bring a sense of fun into activities by giving your students scenarios or questions that they aren’t usually asked at school.
Design the world’s biggest doughnut.
What would your day be like if you had eight arms?
Plan a trip to Disneyland. Research the rides you would like to go on and the costs involved.
I don’t know about your students, but from my experience, questions like this equal instant engagement!
Be ready when your students ask, “I’m done…now what?” Go paperless with our Early Finishers Digital Task Cards. These activities feature 21 interactive slides for students to work through. Due to their mostly open-ended nature, many slides can be used multiple times! See more here.
Creative Thinking Activity Cards
Another great activity for early finishers is our creative thinking activity cards. These could be used by individual students or a small group of early finishers.
Students use a mix of household items to solve a scenario card problem.
How could a watch, an umbrella and a wheelbarrow help rescue a cat stuck in a tree?
How could a basketball, a broom and a garden gnome help set a trap to catch a burglar? Use these Creative Thinking Activities to find out the answer (or should I say MANY possible creative answers!)
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