I’m finished, Teacher, what should I do now?

The Question:
What do you do with early finishers?  I hate to just give busy work.  I want to make it meaningful for all,  but I am  really struggling with this.
The Answers:
Betsy Walton Munn 
Get a book from a book box or lay on tummy to read a big book. They love when they can read to a beanie baby too!
Andrea Bortner 
Have them do special tasks to help clean your room– complete a puzzle that was left unfinished, clean up papers from the floor, sharpen pencils… they love helping, and it teaches responsibility for our classroom community.
Andrea Colwell 
Yup, reading is my go too as well. It’s valuable for all to practice those new skills and strategies, from telling yourself a story through the pictures to actually reading the words on the page.
Karissa Smith
 We do tubs in my classroom. They can choose to read, do their book box, or do tubs. They are simply plastic containers with academic based activities. Right now my four tubs rotations are: memory, pattern blocks, sorting, and counting. The kids love them!
Marcie Anderson 
Listening center, puzzles, coloring for fine motor practice.
Lorena Molina Verdial 
Library center, listening center, computer center, they looooove helping others, puzzles, drama center, math manipulatives. 😉
Kelly Petrucci 
We put meaningful work in clear communicator boards and they use dry erase markers to do activity. They love it.
Carrie Blehm Dresslaer 
I’m an art teacher so my room is a bit different than a regular classroom. I tell the kids to grab a book. I change the books by season and art project. So when I do Chinese Dragons the book shelf has all sorts of books about China, dragons, spring, etc.
Erin Ebeck 
My kids always read or work on their writing when they finish an activity. No matter what level they are at, the extra practice is great.
Debbie Crocker Baker 
My kids keep any unfinished work under their school box and work on it during free time. We also do a coloring book exchange at Christmas so they can color or read. Coloring builds those finger muscles.
Allison DeNoyelles Dungan 
Each of my kiddos has a book bag in their cubby that I keep stocked with leveled readers and the tear-and-fold books from our reading workbooks. I also have a tub of reading phones made from PVC pipes and pieces to go with their bags!
Wynn Godbold: life, love, and lesson plans 
These are all great suggestions. A couple of cautions about those early finishers- be sure they are giving you quality work. Sometimes when the early finisher work is so exciting they start sloppin’ up the actual work. Also, don’t forget that sometimes the early finisher is really academically smart but may be challenged with fine motor skills for example cutting. Although it may not jump out at you as meaningful, cutting practice, tying shoes, manipulating small objects can be quite useful. 🙂
Katie Radawitz Powell 
I have a write the room book that my students do when they finish early. They are still doing something academic, but not bothering others.
Kellee Parker 
Books! To help reinforce all of our newly learned reading words!
Becky Contenza 
Books! Easy, no prep, no mess!
Tina Rapp Adamson 
Daily 5 – read to self, read to someone, work on writing, word work, or listen to reading – all I have to say is daily five and my kids go to work independently. Love it!
Shannon Baca McVay
 I have what I call “extra time tubs” available anytime someone finishes early. They are those colored tubs that come in a 20 slot bookshelf but you could use anything. I put things in them that are all literacy related. Things like: rhyming cards, letter tracing cards, sight word cards, books with plastic “reading wands”, puzzles, letter matching activities, letter arches, etc. The kids love them and it keeps down the interruptions and keeps them occupied in between subjects/transitions.
Teresa Nordstrom Sanchez
 I have a centers based classroom, so the kids always have something to do when they finish work. You could set up a few centers around the room. There are lots of easy to make file folder games, etc.
Buena Kaylor 
I put the books we have read in a tub. When they finish, they always ask if they can get out the books. They love it.
Diane Trepiccione Dean
 I have leveled books in color coded baskets. I am trying to encourage reading fluency so I have them practice a book at their assigned level. They can help each other with the practice. Then when I am available, they can read the book to me and if they can read it fairly fluently, they put a sticker on a chart. It is very motivating. Even one of my lowest achieving students is trying to read a book!!!
Valerie Bachmann Hixon 
I think that the majority of responders here have given you the right answer: have them READ!!!!
Christina Collinsworth
 I encourage more of them to write a sentence or explain their work more. Usually adding a sentence is enough.
Sami Dressel 
I have an “I’m Done” can….its a soup can that I painted. I write different activities on large popsicle sticks and when a child is done with their work they grab a stick. The sticks could say….read a book, write a letter to a friend, do a math puzzle, do flash cards, work on a certain word family, etc. I also put a bin next to the can that has the different activities labeled so they take the correct one. My kids loved it.
Yvette Snell Kennedy 
I always did my schedule where we had our “must do’s” (seat-work) then “may do’s” (centers). Then I never had this problem. Depending on the class, centers were assigned or free choice, depended on what they could handle and time of year. For my slow workers, I limited amount of work and/or time they did seat-work. It always worked out well for me. Oh, and I had to look at their work before they could go to centers.
Emily Vuoso 
One thing my school stressed this year is choice. Another teacher took a differentiated instruction idea called a tic tac toe choice board that nothing more than a grid on a white board that is labeled what can I do now? We fill each grid with an activity they can do when they’re finished. This might range from read a book from your colored box to math fact practice to spelling word practice to more challenging skill practice such as create a story or frater model using spelling words. It works and most kids don’t just do the easy stuff!
Laura Elder 
I let them do “wise choices”- puzzles, computer games, free choice art, draw/write on white boards, or toy tubs which are small tubs with various toys- Legos, cubes, blocks etc. if they finish early they deserve an academic break in my opinion bc if they haven’t done a nice job they have to go back and try again. They earn that wise choice time 🙂
Heather McClurkan Barlow 
My kids love to get out their white boards! Sometimes they can can just draw but most often I tell them they have to write a sentence to match the picture or work on number sentences. Lately they have chosen the number sentences which helps with our math. For my lowest it is still just number recognition but they are still writing.
Monica Arnold Gallagher 
I have solved this problem in our class. We know that students need to be spending the majority of their day reading and/or writing. They need continual practice on concepts and strategies they are learning. My students know at any down time they have they should “READ OR WRITE.” They have book baggies w/leveled readers, writer’s notebooks, poetry notebooks, hardback texts and plenty of plain paper. Since this is an established routine, they never have to ask or get permission.

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