With every assignment, there is a spectrum of student finish times. Those who finish right in the nick of time. Those who run behind. And the students who always seem to finish early. I tell my students they should never just “sit there” in class. Even if they are finished with the assignment, there is always something better to do! Early finisher activities ensure class time is never wasted, and that students are continually engaged (which keeps behavior in check as well).
Setting Up Early Finisher Activities
In order to make early finisher activities successful (and to prevent you from running around looking for an activity), you’ll need to set things up in advance. First, get students familiar with the different early finisher activities. You can do this during the awkward five minutes between transitions or at the beginning of class when students are getting settled.
Then, create an anchor chart with the early finisher activities and brief instructions. Update the chart throughout the year to keep it interesting!
Lastly, keep the early finisher activities organized and clearly labeled. The less “hunting” students have to do for these activities, the less time they’ll waste. I’d also recommend including a laminated set of instructions for each activity, too.
Early Finisher Activities
#1 Independent Reading
Encourage students to independently read after finishing assignments. Independent reading can help students engage in leisure reading (which is important for building a love of books), keeps the classroom relatively quiet, and allows students to work on reading skills.
You can level up independent reading with book reviews as well. When students finish reading, have them rate the book, justify their rating, and write a short summary. My Book Review Templates come in holiday-themed shapes and provide a space for students to give their feedback. Plus, they make for cute class decor!
#2 Math Games
Everyone loves a good math game! Having games as an early finisher activity makes for great engagement and will allow students to be meaningfully occupied and avoid behavior issues.
To make it easy, you can also use the same math game template each week, but simply swap out the skills. This saves you from having to explain the game, and students can easily jump into the activity.
If you’re a fan of low-prep math games, check out the 5th Grade Math Games Bundle. There are 45 games covering skills like algebraic reasoning, number sense and operations, fractions, measurement, data analysis and probability, and geometric reasoning. All you have to do is print and math game boards, laminate them if you want, and pair them with game pieces!
#3 Science Games
Science early finisher activities don’t have to include a ton of supplies or require you to set up an entire lab! In fact, they can be low-prep and engaging for students.
The Science Math Games Bundle includes 20 ready-to-go board games students can use to review topics like the solar system, states of matter, the water cycle, conductors and insulators, force and motion, renewable and nonrenewable energy, and more. Plus, it’s low-prep. Just print the board game, laminate it, and pair it with game pieces. Done!
#4 Create Your Own Board Games
If you love the idea of using games to review, but have specific skills or problems in mind – you might opt to create your own. Luckily I’ve made it easy with Blank Board Game Templates. You can create the game from scratch or pair it with a worksheet or task cards. The options are endless.
You can even allow students to create their own! This makes for a really fun project. Check out how I use student-created board games in the classroom.
#5 Read About Inventors
We know that being able to read and comprehend nonfiction texts is a really important skill. Biographies are fantastic because they help students make connections, authentically apply nonfiction skills, and learn about popular people in history.
Biographies make for great early finisher activities, too, because students can choose to read about someone they are interested in while still practicing critical skills. The Biographies of Famous Inventors Resource includes 10 non-fiction articles featuring people like Marie Curie, Eli Whitney, Steve Jobs, and Amelia Earhart. Students are bound to find at least one inventor they are curious about! This resource is also low-prep. Simply print what you need, and you’re early finisher activity is ready.
#6 Science Vocabulary Games
It never hurts to consistently review vocabulary! Students can really struggle with content-related and academic vocabulary, so any extra time they have to practice is a win. Having a well-rounded vocabulary sets our students up for success in reading comprehension and content retention.
Turn vocabulary review into a fun early finisher game with my 5th Grade Science Vocabulary Matching Activity. There are over 100 puzzle options, and they can be printed and laminated to use for multiple years.
#7 Enrichment Puzzles
These puzzles provide early finishers with a fun activity while also practicing critical thinking skills. I’ve never had a student complain about this assignment – it really is an entertaining challenge.
The Enrichment Puzzle Resource is low-prep, so you can put together early finisher activities in no time. There are over 50 different puzzles, with answer keys included. The puzzles are printed two to a page to save paper. My students always love thinking outside of the box with these activities.
#8 Catch Up in Class
If students have finished an assignment early, this is the perfect time to do something productive to get caught up. You can provide a space for them to finish work from another subject area, make up work they’re missing for you, or get organized for the rest of their day or week.
Hopefully, this helped you come up with ideas for easy and effective early finisher activities! The goal is to keep students learning (and also entertained), so other students can continue working on their assignments. If you want more ideas on how to support your early finishers with activities, check out this post!