Keeping Early Finishers On Task

Classroom Management Strategies for TeachersAll students learn and complete tasks at a different pace so it is inevitable that you'll be faced with the problem of how to keep early finishers busy and on target, preferably in an independent and self-managed fashion, so that they do not disrupt other students who are finishing their work.

First, it is important to point out that your students should be putting their best effort into completing their classwork. Some children have the propensity to fly through an assignment without checking for mistakes, making sure they've answered the full question, etc. As a general rule, the first task early finishers should complete is a thorough check of their work. You might find it helpful to post guidelines or provide your kiddos with checklists to put in their student notebooks to help them make sure their work shows their best effort. Amanda, first grade teacher and creator of Mrs. Terhune's First Grade Site, provides a great example of a rubric anchor chart that students can reference when creating pictures that "wow" {pictured below}! You could put together similar guidelines for math, writing, etc. activities!

Classroom Management Strategies for Teachers
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For those students who have had the chance to review their work and are happy with their effort, there are some popular solutions to keeping them working and on target.

  • The "I'm Done!" Jar. We've seen these floating around the blogosphere and Pinterest world and think they offer a fun, almost raffle-like way to present activities that are acceptable for early finishers to engage in. Simply print various activities that students can complete when finished with their classwork onto jumbo craft sticks - painted or unpainted, embellished or not embellished, it's your choice! - and collect them in a decorated mason jar. Placed in a location that students can quickly get to without disrupting their classmates who are hard at work, we love that this solution can be easily updated with new activities/ideas and offers a fun format for selecting an activity. [You can find a great example at Miss Kindergarten]
  • The "I'm Done, Now What?" Bulletin Board. Another common solution is to create a small anchor chart or bulletin board that features 8-10 activities for your students to select from. Written on laminated accents with dry erase markers, you could select several "staple" activities to keep up year round (e.g. read a book, complete a puzzle, etc.) and change out the rest throughout the year, perhaps finding unit/topic related centers or activities for your kiddos to enjoy. [You can find a great example on Flickr]
  • The "I'm Done!" Cart or Tub. The nice thing about a specific tub or cart is that you can collect the activities, worksheets, centers, etc. in one place and students can simply grab the whole packet, take it back to their desk, and have at it. If you provide 4-5 different activities (along with "staple" exercises, of course), updates to the cart/tub would be minimal and repeat early finishers would have plenty of unique activities to keep busy. [You can find a great example at Jasztalville]

All of these solutions seek to solve the same problem, they just go about it in a little different way! Be sure to check out the links for some great examples!