Updated: Apr 6
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***This blog post was written by my virtual assistant, Kristina, a first grade teacher in Canada.***
“I’m done!” The two words that have the potential to drive a teacher crazy, especially when you have two kids that finish a task in 10 minutes and you hoped it would take them about 30 minutes. I’ve experimented with a far few early finisher tasks over the years and I’ve discovered some that work really well….and some that were total flops.
I’ve learned that if the early finisher task requires a lot of explanation from the teacher, it’s not worth it. Then you’re just teaching two lessons at the same time….which is exhausting. I’ve also learned that if the early finisher task is just more work, many students drag their heels when doing the original assignment, just so they don’t have to do the early finisher task. As a result, the lesson takes way longer than anticipated.
So, I thought I would put together a list of some tried and true early finisher tasks that might help you as you head into this new school year.
Here are some Classics:
Helping other Students - Be sure to set up expectations with your students early on so they understand that "helping" doesn't mean giving their friend the answer. This early finisher task should be used sparingly and only for specific activities.
Helping the Teacher - When I taught young students, they were all about helping the teacher. They loved the tasks like sharpening pencils, bringing notes to the office, stamping student work, putting stickers on completed pages, etc. However, as students get older, helping the teacher becomes less desirable. So if you teach younger grades, have at it! Note from Kelsea: My 4th graders still loved helping the teacher! You just have to know your students...some will be more motivated than others when it comes to helping the teacher. You can also vary tasks depending on students' interests.
Here are some Academic Ideas:
Read a Book - This is such a classic, but kids love it. Plus, this early finisher task requires absolutely no work on the teacher’s part. The students just go to the class library and select a book or keep one in their desk to read in their spare time!
iPad Time - iPads are great because there are so many apps that students can use. And often the apps are differentiated to the students academic level. There are considerations when allowing students to use iPads, such as which apps can they use, teaching them how to use the apps and having guidelines about volume.
Genius Hour or Passion Projects - While it is possible to introduce Genius Hour or Passion Projects to young students, this might be a more practical idea for older kids. Give students time to work on something they are passionate about. Some examples might be researching a favorite animal, creating a STEAM project, or making a comic book.
Phonics or Math Games - There are some great individual or group games that students could play as an early finisher task. Some ideas are phonics or math BINGO, dice games, card games, spelling games, etc. Pinterest and teacherspayteachers are FULL of great phonics and math games. Here's an example of some fun money games that you can use in a math center.
Inquiry or STEAM Stations - Education is now turning to be more inquiry-based. You might want to set up a table in your classroom where students can use their imaginations and explore. You can set up centers with magnifying glasses, paper, and different leaves or a center with supplies to make a catapult. You could also lay out some books for students to explore about a topic you are currently learning.
Here are some fun Brain Break Ideas:
Playdough - At the beginning of the year, give each student a small container of playdough to keep in their desks. (Note from Kelsea: You can get an eight pack of playdough for $1 at the Dollar Tree! ) Teach them that if they leave the lid off the playdough, it will dry up, so they need to be responsible with their playdough so it will last. I usually replace the playdough at Christmas and Spring Break because, let’s be real, playdough won’t last for a whole year. Students keep the playdough in their desks and can pull it out when they have spare time. Note from Kelsea: For older kids you could use fidget toys (great for brain breaks) or logic puzzles/games.
Lego Bags - In a plastic baggie, put a handful of Legos. Students keep this Lego bag in their desk and can pull it out when they are finished with their work. (This is always a COVID friendly idea because the Legos aren't in a big shared bucket of germs).
Puzzles - You might have students do puzzles individually or they might do puzzles in partners or small groups. Just choose what works best for you. Some teachers prefer students to do puzzles individually and other teachers like their students to use teamwork while building puzzles.
Coloring Pages - Have a bin or two filled with coloring page for students to work on when they’re finished. Note from Kelsea: For older students you can put together monthly-themed spare time activity booklets with making words activities, word searches, logic puzzles, dot to dots, color by number activities, and more!
Anything Book - I have a few teacher friends who give their students a blank notebook at the beginning of the year - one of the notebooks without lines. It’s called an Anything Book because the students can do anything they want in the book. The students keep this notebook in their desk and pull it out when they have spare time. Some students might make it into a comic book. Some might draw pictures. Some might write a story. Some students might use their scissors and glue to turn the pages into a craft. This book gets replaced at Christmas and Spring Break.
Hopefully this list gives you a starting point for implementing some different early finisher tasks in your classroom. If you try one, let me know how it goes! Do you have any tried and true early finisher tasks that you love?
Here are a Few of our Favorite Early Finisher Activities...
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This blog post was written with the help of my V.A., Kristina, a first grade teacher in Canada.
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