We have all been faced with the disruptive series of events that occurs when a student raises their hand and says, “I’m done. What do I do now?” So, we are going to solve that problem today as I talk about Early Finisher Activities and the 5 reasons you should offer them in your elementary classroom.
1- Activities are Self-Directed and Student-Choice
First, early finisher activities should be self-directed. Students should be able to complete the activities without assistance for interruption. This is an opportunity for students to work independently on something that *they* choose. And, although they choose the activity and direct themselves through it, you can still make sure they are working within their skill range. If you provide a variety of choices, you can ensure your students are working on something they will benefit from and that will keep them engaged and on-task.
2-Early Finishers Promote Creativity and Problem-Solving
Early finisher activities often provide an opportunity for creativity and problem-solving. You don’t want all of your early finisher activities to simply be worksheets with more problems or questions that are from what you are currently teaching. Consider including activities that prompt creativity and problem-solving. They could be creating something, writing, or solving problems. When students have a wider range of creativity and thinking, they will grow these skills. They need opportunities to work without as much structure or restriction on their thought processes.
3- Opportunities for Skill Practice
These can also be opportunities for skill practice. Even if students are doing something creative, you can incorporate skills that students should continue practicing. You will want them to be skills that students have mastered, so the activities stay student-directed and you won’t need to stop your small group or individual instruction to provide guidance. For example, if students have mastered parts of speech, provide them with a “Funny-Fill Ins” activity where they come up with words for different parts of speech and it creates a silly story! Or, if your students have learned how to write a transactional piece, have an option for this at your early finishers station.
4- Provide a Shift in Types of Thinking and Focus
Early finisher activities allow students to shift their type of focus or thinking. It is hard to be set to a single type of thinking throughout the entire day. When students shift from a whole-group lesson where they are learning a new skill to an independent activity that prompts a different type of thinking. This helps develop their critical thinking skills. It also allows their brain to rest from an “on” or “go-go-go” state into a more relaxed and expansive state. They will get refocused when you move into your next activity or lesson, too!
5- Alternate Forms of Assessment
Lastly, early finishers can be a great alternate form of assessment. You won’t be recording grades for these activities, but that doesn’t mean you can use them as check-ins. You will be able to see how your students writing skills are, who needs help with spelling, who isn’t following instructions, etc. Depending on what you choose to use in your early finishers station, you can check-in on the skills you want to see more of.
If you are in search of Early Finisher activities that won’t require a ton of prep, look at these simple print-and-go resources. Activities range from Logic Problems to Funny Fill-Ins. All of these activities are great additions to your day-to-day instruction. They will challenge your students AND keep them engaged.
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