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What’s Next? How To Engage Early Finishers

You’ve set a great lesson and your students are quietly working through it…..but then you hear, “Miss, I’m finished.” What do you do with your early finishers? It would be…

You’ve set a great lesson and your students are quietly working through it…..but then you hear, “Miss, I’m finished.”

What do you do with your early finishers?

What do you do with early finishers? It would be unusual for students to finish tasks at the same time. Here are some ideas for engaging early finishers.

It would be unusual for all of your students to finish each activity at exactly the same time. You’ve probably found that you have some students that finish well ahead of the remainder of the class.

In the past, I’ve set up a system where the early finisher buddy’s up with someone still working on the task, or I’ve asked the student to read quietly.

But today I want to share with you some other ideas for engaging your early finishers.

Routines for early finishers

There are definitely some routines that need to be established first so your students know your expectations surrounding finishing work early and how they shift to a different activity.

Work was done to a standard

The first part is to establish with your students a standard for the work completed. Many times I’ve found a student say that they have completed a task, but it is definitely not done to the best of their ability.

As a class, you could create a chart or checklist of what they need to ‘check off’ before they tell you that they have finished. These could be quite generic points that your students could use for any task. But, you could also create task-specific rubrics to ensure work is done to a standard.

Here are some ideas that you could include in a generic checklist:

  • Have you completed the work to your very best effort?
  • Have you checked your spelling?
  • Have you re-read your writing to check that it makes sense?
  • Have you checked that you have completed all parts of the task?
  • Have you found one way that this work is an improvement over the last work you finished?
  • Have you checked that your work is accurate?
  • Have you checked that you have tidied up after you have completed the task?
  • Have you checked that your name and date are on your work?

Then you can get your kids to attach this to their completed work before moving to the early finisher task.

New activity must be quiet and independent

It’s important that your unfinished students have quiet time so that they can concentrate on completing the task. Establish with your students that the new activity chosen must be quiet and independent.

You’ll be busy assisting those students who haven’t finished, so you don’t want the early finishers to come to you with questions.

Early finisher ideas

Below you’ll find a few different early finisher ideas. I also think it’s fun to have your students come up with some ideas as well.

Task cards

I love task cards as they’re a fantastic way to get your students to review and practice particular concepts/skills you’ve taught… perfect for your early finishers as well.

If you’re not familiar with task cards, they are a set of cards with questions or mini-activities on them for your students to complete.

What do you do with early finishers? It would be unusual for students to finish tasks at the same time. Here are some ideas for engaging early finishers.

You can pretty much create task cards for just about anything. In the past I’ve created cards for math, reading, spelling, health, social skills and the list goes on.

You will also want a way for your students to track their progress with task cards. You could simply use an exercise book (or task card journal) where students record their answers to the task cards. Or if the task cards are laminated and they complete the answers on the card, you may just have a recording sheet where students write the date and card completed.

Remember task cards shouldn’t be for new concepts or skills. When using these for early finishers you want review tasks so that you know your students will be able to work on them independently.

I’ve also put together a couple of math task cards (for time and area) that you may like to use. Just fill in your details below so I can email them to you.

I’m done jars

Have you seen these on Pinterest lately? There are so many cool ideas for different I’m done jars. Essentially they are a jar of different tasks that your students can randomly select to complete. The tasks could be written on raffle tickets, pop sticks or pieces of paper.

You could include a mix of different activities in your jar, or you may like to have subject specific jars. If you’re working on spelling and a student finishes early, they would pick a task from the ‘spelling I’m done jar.’

What to do next bulletin board

This is somewhat similar to the I’m done jars where your students are given a choice for the activity they complete. But, unlike the I’m done jar, it isn’t random. Students can read through the tasks and select the one they want.

There are a few ways that you can set up your bulletin board.

1. The first is to have separate areas for different subjects. You would have pockets for each subject and then within that pocket you include a few different tasks that can be completed.

2. I’ve also seen where some teachers set the board up with the type of activity. For example; read, write, create, interview, do, solve, analyze, invent and construct.

Remember to change up the tasks every few weeks so that your students have new tasks to choose from. You will also need a journal or book where students can track the tasks they complete.

Summing up

If you have a few students who are constantly finishing well ahead of the rest of the class, then you need to look at why. It may be that the work was not challenging enough and you may have to differentiate the original task for these students.

I also think it’s important to remember to not just supply ‘busy’ work for your early finishers. This is the perfect opportunity to provide extra time for rehearsal and practice of taught skills and concepts.

I hope I’ve given you a few new and different ways that you can engage your early finishers.

I’d also love to hear from you. How do you engage your early finishers? Share your ideas in the comments below.

If you liked the freebie task cards that I shared above, then you’ll love my Math Games & Activities eBook. This will become your ‘go to’ book of math games and activities to help make your life as a teacher that little bit easier, but also to inspire you to try some new ideas in the teaching of math.

You can find out more about the book by clicking the link below:

The Bumper Book Of Fun Math Games & Activities

What do you do with early finishers? It would be unusual for students to finish tasks at the same time. Here are some ideas for engaging early finishers.

FREE Task Cards For Early Finishers

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  1. Donnalyn Yates

    I made small blank books with about 10 pages and a construction paper cover, stapled. These books were available for early finishers to write their own story, draw pictures and then share with the class at reading time. They self-corrected because they knew they’d be reading them aloud. They absolutely loved it. I met with a former student who is now in college and she still has all of her little books!

    • Melinda

      What a fabulous idea, thanks for sharing Donnalyn.

  2. Shahnaz Moolla

    I am a secondary school teacher and I have a puzzle box. I have a sofisticated ball which I won, with a puzzle in it amd a few 3D puzzles of different gradings.
    A brain teaser box will also be a great idea. These encourages learners to complete their work instead of taking it as homework.


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