There are dozens of ways teachers can address students who finish their classwork early. Over the years I’ve had a binder with small academic tasks (including some from here) for kids to choose which they wanted to complete, I’ve given them time to study for tests or to get a head start on homework for other classes, and the’ve had free reading time. Most early finisher ideas I’ve come across tend to be academic in nature. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I decided to try something new this year with my middle schoolers.
This year in my reading nook, not only have I expanded the books in it (and I will continue adding more during the year…one 8th grader was really excited to see one of the new additions, “Why’d They Wear That” because she wants to be a costume designer when she grows up), but I now have geography puzzles, jenga, coloring books (some store bought, some super intricate doodling books, and some made by our high school art honor society), and Keva brain builders (NOT Amazon affiliate links). I want my kids to stay engaged in the task they choose, but this year I’m not forcing more academic tasks about the topic at hand on them.
Here’s an abbreviated breakdown of my thought process:
–my kids work hard, REALLY hard, from bell to bell in 90 minute blocks…towards the end they’re getting drained and I don’t want to send them to their next class mentally exhausted
–if my 3 year old can learn most of her states/continents by doing puzzles, why can’t 11-14 year olds
–working with other people in various settings is really important for the real world and my rule is no one is excluded from the library, so whoever ends up there works/plays/practices with the second person who goes there, even if they’re not best friends
–a lot of students love being competitive and setting and beating records, so they’ll have periodic competitions to see who can complete certain building or puzzle tasks correctly the fastest (I will periodically divide them into teams and each team can earn points towards a homework pass)
I meant to post this a few weeks ago, but life kept happening. As it turns out, the delay worked out because now I can also tell you how excited my kids are about this particular change to my classroom. EVERY period, girls are going to the back of the room and are working on the puzzles, building bridges, or coloring and talking to someone they might not otherwise hang out with. One of my favorite moments this past week was hearing two sixth graders marvel that there is a place called Christmas Island (per one of the puzzles), then one said, “I hope we learn about it this year” (I teach them World Geography so they definitely will!). Overall I’m really excited with how it is working so far. Now let’s see how long we can make it without losing a puzzle piece, haha.
How do you handle early finishers in your classroom? I’d love to get more ideas to implement during the year!