This page is dedicated for ideas about what to have kids do when they have finished their work early. To this day, my first graders still ask me what they can do when they are done with their work! It drives me crazy! Any ideas are welcome! It would be a big help! Have fun!
- Christine Castellano


--I NEVER have students ask me what they can do when they are finished. I take no credit for this idea. I took over a class in November of last year and many of the management routines that I use today were already in place. I have my students broken up into five groups of four (they are based on the table group they are in, but you can do it however you like). I also have five different centers. They are a math center, word center, listening center, computer center, and art center. Each day I switch which center each group is in and by then end of the week, students should have had a chance to go to each center. Whenever students are finished with ALL of their work, they can go to their center. The centers are independent with educational games and whatnot. The kids love going to their centers when they are finished and it gives them an opportunity to learn in a playful environment with their peers. It takes quite a bit of training at the beginning of the year, but the centers are highly motivating for students to finish their work and I never have to hear that phrase that drive all teachers crazy..."What can I do?"


-- I have an E.T. station (extra time station) that my students can go to if they finish early. I have a list of activites that they can work on listed on the wall and they can choose what activity they want to do. For example, I have listed today, silent reading, dominoes (using Macy Cook activiies), mystery picture, and math flashcards. My students know that they can go to this area whenever they finish early and choose an activiy they would like to work on. I try to change the activites so that they students are not always choosing the same ones. They are all also eductional so that they are not just simply playing. It is a great way to manage early finishers.

--I do something much like the "Finished Folders" mentioned under 4th grade, only my papers go into a large laminated manilla envelope. I call it our "Anchoring Packets" (because it 'anchors' the kids to their seats). I try to put in work that is very appealing to the students, but in fact is very educational. I often include holiday themed activities, and they can't wait to get to it. These activities all go straight home--they are never due, so the students feel that is something fun they are getting to do rather than something they have to do.

--I have folders as well with standards based games. I also have a reading SRA kit. I don't know if we all have access to those but it is a great early finisher idea because they can do it independently and owrk at their own pace. I even taught a mom how to correct them for me. I keep a clip board by the kit so they know which ones they need to complete. I also have a sticker chart that has which colors they have finished.


-- I have centers for students to work on when they finish early. They can go on the computer (only certain sites I have pre-selected), or use flash cards together etc. I have a tub of educational "toys" that they can pull from as well. They also know that silent reading is always a good choice. I don't have a lot of trouble with early finishers. Another thing I do a lot is use "peer tutors." So, my students know that if they are done early, they can go around and help others who might be struggling.

--I have three reliable activities for early finishers. First, I always have them go to their unfinished work folder and complete any assignments that are not yet finished. Then, during Language Arts after their unfinished work, students can read silently and during math they can practice their multiplication facts with any of the various methods in the classroom. Also, a technique from open court that I use during reading groups that is helpful for early finishers is a must do and a may do list. The must do list has assignments that everyone must complete in order of importance. While the may do list is just that, a list of optional activities to work on after the must do list is complete. In order to prevent rushing through the must dos, I am careful to plan enrichment activities that are fun but challenging for appropriate differentiation. The students may also choose off the may do list, there is no designated order of completion. This choice allows students to choose an assignment that both interests them and is at their level.

--I use this for my early finishers as an extension but it can also be a lesson. After reading our weekly story, I ask students to think of questions that they may have about the topic related to the story we read. I chart all the questions to share their curiosities with the class. Then I type them up and place like 5-7 sheets on a clipboard and check out some books from the library related to our topic. When kids finish their assignments early I have them take a clipboard and try to find the answer to any of the questions shared using the books. The completed work is a shared class projects, that means no one writes their name on any sheet, and the sheet moves along from one person to the next. We share our findings in about a week or so. This motivates kids to look into and explore their own curiosities. The students’ generated questions are a huge motivator. I use this as an extension mainly because we don’t have a lot of time to investigate our curiosities in class, even though I think that it is a very important skill to practice. I think that this activity is good for any age, as long as they are reading and able to write. Let me know if you have any questions~ sleenewhall


--We have a poster that says, "What to do when you're done." I've listed a variety of things they can do. I usually have ongoing projects in science or social studies if not both. Currently, they are working on a social studies California missions report. I also have a packet called an "Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt," which helps them build their research skills as they answer various questions by referencing an encyclopedia. This can be done entirely independently and is a good challenge for my GATE students and high achievers, who are usually the ones asking what to do anyway. Additionally, my students tend to have a lot of difficulty with science vocabulary, so I always have them make flashcards of each lesson's essential vocab using index cards. They love quizzing each other because it's social, and I love having them do it because they are mastering new words! (win-win) Something I really want to eventually get for my classroom is a Geosafari, which is basically an electronic game that allows students to partner up and match locations on various maps with the names on the Geosafari boards. However, it is costly at $100, but it's one of the first things I'd buy if I had extra money.

--I have large manilla envelopes that I had the kids decorate. They are their "Finished Folders". When they have finished all their work early, they may grab their folders and work on the packets that are inside. I go through them once a week and replace finished papers with new ones. I differentiate the papers that go in. I have made copies from outside resource books, printed out pages from online sources (such as or, challenge worksheets from our series, etc. It sounds time consuming, but it actually isn't too bad. Each kid has about 4-5 items to work on and I know their levels by now so when I notice something I just save it in their file for later use. I also use this to give them skills review sheets such as grammar, dictionary skills, or map skills that involve coloring or creating a map. My higher students might have a lengthy project, such as writing a story and illustrating it, or researching animals to make trading cards. They can't wait to work on their folders because most of the sheets are fun. I look over what they've completed on Fridays and note what they really need more work on and send them home. This is also great for my SDC students because we are not always ready to start what they are mainstreamed for, so they can work on skills sheets while I'm finishing up a previous lesson and I don't have to stop and dig something up and then explain it. Many of the lower kids don't finish much of thier packets, so they aren't replaced as often. If you have a parent volunteer you can have them sort through them and pull out what has been finished also. It's great to not have to hear "I'm done, um, what should I do now?"

--This might be obvious, but then again we are first or second year teachers so many times things are not. I did not know about an SRA Kit until a month or two ago. It is a wonderful box of short reading passages with numerous vocabulary, comprehension and extension activities. The readers are grouped by difficulty so everyone can be working in their own "color" tab and hit thier reading level. I have a chart that the students use to keep track of what stories they have read. It is wonderful to use because they are interesting stories and have questions. You can also use them in small group setting or have it be a partner activity. Check out your library and see if they have a leveled box for you!!


--I try to have a project going that they will continuously need to work on. Right now it is a science activity and a social studies activity. They know that if they finish their work early they are to work on these projects. If I in the middle of projects I have a great math graphing workbook that they work on. It focuses on the specific math that we are doing and takes it a step further by having them graph as well. Also in fifth grade they need to learn study skills so they can always study with a partner on their whiteboards vocab words, math skills and spelling words if they finish early.

--I have used a math graphing book that has proved extremely helpful. Each graph has a series of questions based on a particular standard that is required to figure out the coordinates. Once they solve the problems, they have to plot 40-50 points which creates a picture. This activity covers two fifth grade standards and keeps those fast finishers busy for about 30 minutes.


--For my early finishers, I first and foremost have them work on any unfinished work that they might have. I also have continuous work that they must work on for Social Studies and Science. There never seems to be enough time in the day for Social Studies and Science. Every unit, I require the students to put together unit folders with everything they have done throughout the unit. They are then presented in report folders when they are done. For Science, I have them glue all their work into spiral notebooks which prepares them for junior highs interactive folders. The unit folders keep them BUSY! If they are absolutely done with everything, which hardly ever happens, then I have them work on the computer practicing typing with "Typing Masters" or working on Math programs that our school has. I hope this helps!


--If you have them (or if not, they are easy to make), Marcy Cook dominoes and tiles are a great thing for students to do when they are done with their other work. They can complete task cards and practice many different kinds of facts. If you haven't seen this stuff, it's really great for ALL grade levels. You can get an idea at her site