“Teacher, I’m done. What can I do next?”
Each one of us has a student or students like this in our classroom. They are ready for the next task, but more often than not are told to “read” or work on other “homework” even if they don’t have any to do. Those suggestions are a stopgap to the glaring problem that most teachers face, what to do when students finish early.
This is a constant problem for classroom teachers across the nation. Teachers are swamped with preparing for more classes to teach then ever before each day. Just in our district alone we are teaching 10 different classes a day! (Writing, 3 Guided Reading groups, Shared Reading, Interactive Read Aloud, Math, Words Their Way, Target Time, and Social Studies/Science).
Not only are the demands of the daily schedule hard to keep up with, but today’s students seem to be coming to school with more issues than ever before. At our school alone, the poverty rate has risen to above 50% where it once was lower than 20%. These children are in survival mode and many do not know where they are staying night to night, or where their next meal will come from. Students also are being labeled with autism, ADD, ADHD, and other medical terms that affect their ability to learn. Our time is filled with trying to provide these students and the rest of the class with an environment where learning can take place.
So, what is a teacher to do for those students that are craving to learn and do more? Here’s our top 5 tips to engage early finishers and hope that these will help you provide those students with meaningful activities to do when they finish early.
We don’t care what anyone says. Reading is still the fundamental building block to success later in life. This should ALWAYS be a choice for students when they finish an assignment early regardless of the subject. You need to have a classroom library that has a wide variety of genres. It is always a good idea to give your students a reading inventory at some point during the school year to find out their interests. Then, it is your job to stack your library with those types of books. We use our Scholastic Book Club bonus points to do this. Having an expansive classroom library is a great way to engage your students.
2. Front Row
If you want a great tool for students to use that measures their growth and challenges your students on Common Core concepts in both Math and ELA then Front Row is for you! This is a free subscription where you can register all the students in your class and then you are given a class password that the students will need to login with. The best thing about this resource is that it is adaptive which means as students answer questions,the program adjusts to the students’ level! Another great part is the pig! Yes, students can earn coins and then buy items for their cartoon pig. Sounds corny right? Well, it isn’t even for 5th graders! Kids will be begging you to use this when they finish early.
3. Controlled Choice
If students finish a math assignment early, have a math game to practice the skill ready to go! Most textbooks include these options now. They might take a little prep work, but then that is done for the following years. If your students have ipads or mobile devices Educreations is a great app to use. Students can use their fingers and write out problems for their classmates to solve. Students love it!
If students finish a science or social studies assignment early, have choice options that allow the students to dig deeper into what they are learning. There are some great kids research tools out there such as: Encyclopedia Britannica for kids, and Explora as well. These are teacher trusted websites that students can freely use without supervision.
Here is another engaging website that covers not only reading and math, but science, vocabulary, and even test prep! MobyMax is designed to accelerate student learning with adaptive instruction. It also has student motivation tied into it as well. It is Common Core aligned too. There is a free version, but if you want to open up all the possibilities there is a Pro License for $99. If you have a PTO/PTA at your school, it might be a great idea to write a mini-grant to cover these costs, or maybe even open up a DonorsChoose project.
5. Genius Hour!
Genius Hour is a time for ALL students to learn about something that interests them. This learning takes place during the school day. It is based on Google’s 20% theory. Google wanted to increase productivity in their workers, so they developed a time during each work week for its employees to spend time on something they are passionate about. Out of this time came the creations of Gmail and Google News! Google found that it’s workers were more engaged and excited to come to work.
So, taking this theory into the classroom can also spark motivation in students. Each student has a passion; a deep down desire to learn and research about something that is of interest. It is our job as educators to find that passion and to give our students time to explore and research about what they are excited about.
To get Genius Hour started in the classroom, click here to find an amazing resource to purchase for only $6! It has everything you need to get started!
We would love to hear what you have students do when they finish early. Links to sites, blog posts, and even resources are acceptable! Let’s give these kids options!