You have meticulously and painstakingly planned your lesson for the day. It is differentiated, scaffolded, and perfectly timed for the whole learning block. You are feeling like a teacher rock-star until you hear that dreaded phrase: “I’m done! Now, what!?” Uh oh, you didn’t plan early finisher activities. Ugh, “now what” is right. Though we all like to believe it is not going to happen, students finishing our activities early is inevitable. There is just no way to account for all of the variables! That’s why it is so important to have meaningful early finisher activities ready to go that students can easily complete. Here are 3 great ways to keep those early finishers working for the whole block!
Early finishers reflections
So, they finished the task, but you’re not ready for them to be done with the learning?
Have your students complete reflections about what they learned that day! I love these types of early finisher activities because there are so many variations. This means you can have your students practice reflecting in lots of different ways.
Here are some of my favorite early finisher activities to encourage students to reflect on their learning from the day.
Write a letter to a friend
Simply give your student a piece of paper and ask them to write a letter to a friend teaching them about what the class learned today.
This reflection is great for getting students to extend their knowledge because it asks them to explain the concept to someone else. If a student can teach what they learned to someone else you know they’ve “got it.”
Being able to describe a concept to someone else helps students review their learning and also gives you as the teacher a gauge of their understanding.
Early finisher activity and formative assessment in one: a win-win!
Create a song / skit / drawing
Tap into your student’s interests and creative talents by having them summarize what they learned in the lesson through a song, play, or skit. Again, you can simply give your student a piece of paper and let them write in whatever genre they choose.
You can also set them up with a tablet and allow them to use the voice recorder or a drawing app to make their reflection. By varying the ways students can reflect and respond you can assure that no matter their learning style they have a way to respond that connects with their strengths.
Depending on time, your students could even perform their creation for the class as an end of lesson wrap-up!
I Wonder… question wall
Dedicate a few minutes at the end of class to encourage students to ask questions. You can give students a topic or connect it to the lesson you just taught OR you can leave it completely open ended. Create an “I wonder” wall in your classroom for students to add their questions to and leave them on display. As you have time during the school year, encourage students to research their question and share what they’ve learned with others. Interested in creating a free bulletin board with an “I wonder” wall? Click this link to download it for FREE.
Want to challenge those early finishers? Have them write down the alphabet along the side of a piece of paper. Then challenge them to write something with every letter of the alphabet that relates to the lesson or topic they are learning about.
Not only is this a great challenge, but it gets them thinking creatively too! Students start connecting synonyms or using describing words to explain their thinking.
Another alphabet-based activity uses letter tiles. Create some vocabulary bags with letters to match a vocabulary word for the unit. Students can grab a bag and then work to unscramble the vocabulary word.
After spelling the word with the letter tiles, ask them to write the word and its definition on a piece of paper or index card. They can also add an illustration.
All three of these reflection activities will keep students reflecting on their learning and digging deep in their knowledge base for the whole period!
Early Finishers Enrichment activities
Another strategy I use for my early finishers is enrichment activities. These engaging puzzles help students practice their critical thinking skills and boost creativity! I like to take all my favorite puzzles and challenges and put them together into an Early Finisher book or packet. That way students have an early finisher activity right in their desk that they can pull out when they are finished with the other assignment.
Two of my favorite puzzles and challenges that the students love are Number Searches and $100 Word Challenges.
Students are challenged to look at the page of numbers and circle sets of three numbers that add up to the target number. It’s a really fun way to review mental math and addition. And . . . students love the challenge of finding all the possibilities without using a number twice!
$100 Word Challenges
This word challenge gets students working on spelling and math at the same time! Each letter is given a dollar amount and students have to create words that meet the target (i.e. less than $25, more than $75, or exactly $100).
I’ve never seen students work so hard on spelling as they do with this $100 Word Challenge!
Want to see more about these early finisher enrichment activities. Check out this quick video that shows the many different puzzles and activities that are included.
Early finisher activity Bins
Sometimes having early finisher bins set up in your classroom is a great way to keep those students learning and engaged!
There are several different ways you could approach using book bins for early finishers such as:
- A bin for each student with specific books picked for them
- A classroom wide bin that has texts related to topics you are covering
- Sets of book bins with leveled readers that students can choose from based on the reading skills they are currently working on
- OR a combination of these types of bins
I love book bins because it means my students get more reading time and what teacher doesn’t want their students reading more, right?!
One of my goals with early finishers is to keep them engaged. I want to make sure I take advantage of all the instructional time I have with them, and I want to make sure there aren’t any disturbances for other students who are still working.
Putting together STEM bins can be a great way to achieve these goals.
The bins can be filled with materials and specific tasks for students to complete. You can make them related to a unit you are studying or just general.
By having a variety of tubs, students can grab a new one each time they need an activity to work on. This keeps from having to create and change them out too often.
By keeping everything students need in a tub or bin, they can grab what they need and work quietly on their own.
I find anything hands-on is a sure-fire way to keep all of my early finishers engaged!
Don’t have time to plan early finisher activities?
I know you are strapped for time as it is with planning lessons, creating assessments, reviewing data, and attending meetings. How can you possibly create a whole new set of materials for those students who get done their work early? It seems impossible.
No worries! I have put together my favorite Enrichment Tasks in one No Prep, ready-to-use resource for you. It is full of easy and effective ways to make sure your early finishers stay engaged! It includes over 50 activities that incorporate ELA and math skills. These activities focus on your students’ critical thinking and are a great way to foster creativity!
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