Some kids are early finishers who always complete the activity you give them way ahead of the other children, and they often do a great job. Other children rush through the activity and need encouragement to go back and complete sections or to add more details. Another group is seldom finished in time before another activity is scheduled to begin. Many children just like to be the fastest! So how do educators juggle these differences? As well of structuring the classroom and setting certain boundaries, consistent modelling of drawing and writing activities will inspire your students to do the same with their free time.
If you don’t want students to leave the work stations or tables for a certain length of time, this method may help. It prevents those who finish quickly from distracting their peers by leaving the tables, and works for kids who don’t know how to tell time.
- Remove the front from a large classroom analog clock, put some Sticky tack™ on a small circle of brightly colored paper and attach it to the minute hand
- Replace the cover then attach a bigger, but matching colored circle, on the outside of the clock near the number when the children are allowed to leave the table.
- For example, in the image on the right, if the children start a table activity at 9:15 and you don’t want them to leave the tables until 9:35, put the matching circle beside the 7 (see image).
- If a child finishes before the dots match, they can look at a book from a small pile in the middle of the table, draw or complete another table activity you have planned.
- This method seems to slow down children who rush through their work as they think they will miss out on “the fun stuff”.
- After the minute hand passes the 7, take the bigger dot off and anyone that has finished the activity can leave the table.
General guide for children who finish quickly…
Do not present early finishers:
- with activities that involve a lot of cleanup
- with brand new activities or all children will be curious and will want to try them
- with activities that are noisy or cause the children to laugh or get excited
- with learning activities that all the children should experience or the children who generally take longer to finish their work will never have an opportunity to try them
Some activities that work…
As I value play time (self-directed play, learning centers, discovery learning times) as a learning experience that ALL children should participate in, I hesitate to use it for early finishers.
- completing puzzles
- looking at books or mini book sets such as the one on the right
- examining the science observation table items
- Plasticine™ table or other modeling clay activity that all children will get to experience at a later center time
To eliminate much of the above problem, try teaching with a more inquiry based learning approach.
Students are motivated when educators:
- offer objects for them to be curious about
- encourage them to ask questions
- allow them to touch and investigate
- direct their attention to focus on a specific topic that provide opportunities for them to find more information with books and other sources
- present opportunities for collections, sorting, classifying, comparisons, testing make activities available that include observations about quantity, size, position and proportion
- increase their vocabulary
- encourage different ways to record their observations and new knowledge and give them opportunities to share it
If you are new to this style of teaching, check out a sample lesson here.
Early Finisher Books
There are excellent books available that provide guides for how to teach to different ages and abilities and foster independence.
Dillar discusses how to link small group work with the rest of the day, how to have a balance between whole group, small group, one-on-one instruction and individual work and how to fit it into a busy day. This book includes reproducible sheets – how to choose a lesson focus, suggested lesson sequence, a chart correlating reading levels and skills needed, whole group lesson ideas, scoring rubrics, prompts teachers can use for each skill they teach and sources for reader’s theater.
This book answers questions regarding small-group instruction in elementary classrooms such as:
How do I find the time?
How can I be more organized?
How do I form groups?
How can I differentiate to meet the needs of all of my students?
This book is structured around the five essential reading elements: comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary. The book provides practical tips, sample lessons, lesson plans and templates, suggestions for related literacy work stations, and connections to whole-group instruction.
Diller explains the process of creating meaningful and engaging math stations that help students understand the concepts being taught in whole group, further their thinking, challenge them to cooperatively work together to solve problems.
Stations are organized by grade level (K-2), and provides ideas to carry out in the classroom that work on specific concepts and skills. Uses many cheap or free resources.