27 Ideas For Students Who Finish Their Work Early

by TeachThought Staff

How to respond when students finish their work early is a classic teacher challenge.

Most of it boils down to lesson design–creating learning opportunities where students are naturally funneled toward extending, improving, and sharing their work so that ‘stopping points’ are more of a matter of scheduling than learning itself.

The following infographic via Mia MacMeekin provides some ideas for how to handle early finishers in the classroom. We almost titled this purely for elementary students because of ideas like manipulatives, naps, and music, but any of those shown below can be slightly adapted for almost any student grades K-12.

27 Ideas For Students Who Finish Their Work Early

1. Dig: Ask the student to go deeper into the topic. Scaffold.

TeachThought addendum: Given the right access to the right materials (a book, app, collaboration, audience, etc.), this could be a default/bare minimum ‘what to do if you finish early’ strategy

2. Level-Up: Prepare levels, like in a game. Students start at level 1 and can move on to harder levels if they finish early.

3. Homework: Student may move on to homework and complete it early.

4. Correct: Give students the rubric and let them score the work. If their work is lacking, let them revise.

TeachThought addendum: Self-assessment is never a bad concept, provided students understand how to do so.

See also 20 Simple Assessment Strategies You Can Use Every Day

5. Jobs: Give students jobs. If they finish early, they can check on their job.

6. Music: Have a music center where students can go to listen to or create music.

7. PBL: Create a larger/ longer problem that the students are working on throughout the unit. If they finish early they can pick up solving the problem.

8. Chess: Allow students to participate in an ongoing chess or checkers game.

9. Master: Encourage early finishers to master the skill as opposed to finishing the skill.

TeachThought addendum: This would be a challenge to implement–designed into the lesson itself, if not the entire curriculum. But it’s a fantastic idea if done well.

10. Team: Have on standby team-building activities that early finishers can engage in with their team.

11. Fiddle: Keep something on hand that students can fiddle with if they finish early.

12. Entertain: Allow students to entertain the class pet (real or virtual).

13. Time: Time the students. Give each student an allotted time to complete the assignment. Let the students see the finish line.

14. Chunk: Help regulate the pace by chunking the lesson. Break up each part into chunks to complete. Keep it short.

TeachThought addendum: You could also use a timer, and move back and forth between ‘chunks,’ where students that were finished could revisit their work, and students that weren’t finished, could finish.

15. Partner: Create a partner system. When you partner is done, trade and critique.

TeachThought addendum: Choosing the right ‘fit’ in terms of readiness, reading level, ability, personality, etc., would be important for this to work.

16. Legos: Start an ongoing Lego project. Allow students to add to it if they finish early.

TeachThought addendum: Many different maker projects would work here.

17. Plan: Ask students to help plan the next level.

TeachThought addendum: This would do wonders to improve understanding and strengthen content knowledge if students were engaged enough to ‘care’ and do this well.

18. Beads: Allow students to bead something.

TeachThought addendum: It doesn’t have to be beads, of course. Any hands-on manipulative that engages students–a Rubick’s Cube, for example.

19. Jokes: Keep a joke book in the classroom. Let students master a joke to tell.

20. Text: Allow students to use electronics if they finish early.

TeachThought addendum: As we mentioned at the beginning, quality matters–if a student knows they can play a video game as soon as they’re ‘done,’ you can likely forget about quality for many students. But combine this with #9 for example, and that’s a nice 1-2 go-to for early finishers.

21. Sleep: Take a quick nap.

TeachThought addendum: Sounds impractical and even silly, but imagine if this was actually possible. We’d also add meditation to that ‘What if?’ list.

22. Game: Allow students to create a game.

TeachThought addendum: You could also use coding–or the Scratch software, for example.

23. Journal: Give each student a journal and encourage them to invent, doodle, write, or color while they wait.

24. Troubleshoot: Have students troubleshoot the lesson. Ask students to list problems with the lesson and how to fix it.

TeachThought addendum: Forcing the learner to think like the teacher–and vice-versa–is a useful strategy. Asking them to ‘fix the lesson’ could be rethought as ‘improve the lesson,’ and they could brainstorm ways they thought the lesson could be improved which you could then apply to future lessons.

25. Elongate: Create longer, more complex assignments that are hard to complete in one sitting.

26. Chat: Create a chatting area where students can move away from their desk and chat quietly.

27. Online: Encourage students to go online and explore content or share what they’ve learned with other students at other schools or classes.

TeachThought addendum: Or with family and community members through project-based learning.

You can see the original graphic below.

27 Ideas For Students That Finish Their Work Early

27 Ideas For Students That Finish Their Work Early