10 Ideas for Early Finishers

This is definitely not the first time that I’ve written about this topic. In 2014, I posted an article called, “It’s Not Enough,” where I admitted that I had resorted to the same plan that many teachers use for students who finish quickly — let them read a book or help other students. I understand that many teachers are in survival mode right now, so those options are even more attractive. But this does a disservice to those students who have demonstrated mastery of the material (possibly before you even taught it). Students who are careless and rush should receive guidance on how to improve their work, while students who don’t need more practice should be challenged.

Having dealt with these situations many times over my 29 years of teaching, I am the first to admit that it’s a difficult balance to keep students challenged without doing what Lisa Van Gemert calls “moreferentiation”, but if you are not in a situation where students can test out of doing grade level assignments and move to more advanced work here are some ideas I gleaned from a Twitter thread asking for advice last month.

  • Students who finish early can design a game (can be digital like Kahoot or just questions on index cards) for the class to play that reviews the concepts.
  • Twitter user Chris Clark (@clar1344) has this “Coming to a Consensus” idea:
  • Jigsaw puzzle table and/or building center (Legos, Magnatiles, Keva Planks Challenges, etc…)
  • An “I’m Done, Now What?” choice board, similar to this one from Megan Balduf (@MBalduf) I also have Choice Board collections on this page.
  • Similar to choice boards, JC4Ed (@JC4_ed) suggests, “digital enrichment folders with content/related games and virtual field trips”
  • Puzzle of the Day, such as one of these Wordle Variations or these other brainteasers and puzzles, or possibly even an interactive Sudoku Bulletin Board or station like this one from Jocelyn Lawrence (@HFFifthGrade):
  • Sonia Karmily (@KarmilySonia) has this recommendation:
  • Create with a purpose as this teacher suggests:
  • Prepare a presentation for a PowerPoint Party
  • Ask students to make suggestions. Depending on ability level, they could each have their own customized list of things to do when finished.

I’d like to thank Gretchen (@offgridteacher) for originally posing this question on Twitter. You can go here to see her question and read the thread of responses.

P.S. I do want to make a note here that I deliberately did not include Genius Hour in my suggestions. In my experience, it was difficult for students to work on Genius Hour projects when they finished early because there just wasn’t enough time for them to “get into it” before we were moving on to the next activity. Genius Hour always worked better in my classroom when it was allotted its own time. However, quite a few people did mention it in the thread, so it must work in some classrooms.

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