As every middle school teacher knows, there are always a small group of students that finish just about every assignment early. It can be a challenge to find meaningful activities to occupy their time and attention while they wait for their classmates to complete the assignment. Instead of simply offering free time, I’ve found it helpful to prepare a list of early finisher activities to offer when students find themselves with extra time. Here are a few of my favorite student activity ideas for fast finishers.
Technology Free Fast Finisher Activities
Sometimes you just need to put the screens away! It can be nice for students and teachers to have a little break from screen time. If you’re looking for some tech-free options for that speedy student in your class, here are a few great options:
Who said coloring can’t be educational?! I always keep some color by number and mandala pages on hand for students to get some extra practice with their science vocabulary and other important skills. These low prep printables won’t take much of your teacher time but are a great early finisher activity for students with extra time on their hands. Here are a few of their coloring pages I keep on hand:
Students of all ages respond well to being given options! A choice board is a designated place in your classroom that contains a list of things students can do if they finish early. Personally, I like to use a bulletin board to house my “free choice” activities. Your early finisher board may include:
- Coloring Pages
- Vocabulary Practice
- Writing Prompts
- Problem Solving Skills Worksheets
These choice boards make it easy for students to know exactly what their “early finisher” options are. (For a digital choice board — click here!!)
It can be difficult to find fun and engaging ways to practice important science vocabulary. One of my favorite student activities for fast finishers is to create an interactive word wall using the unit vocabulary words. When students finish an assignment early, they can grab and decorate a coloring sheet featuring one of the vocab words. These sheets are then hung on the wall, serving both as powerful reminders for students and beautiful wall decor. Here are some of my favorite word wall resources!
Self-Directed PBL Projects
Student choice is so important! Students can exercise their choice and explore a science topic of interest through a long term project they work on over the course of a quarter or even through the whole school year. While I will dedicate certain class periods for students to work on their projects, they always have the option of working on their self-directed project based learning projects if they have extra time leftover during class.
This is a great option for your kinesthetic learners! A makerspace is an area of the classroom setup with hands on STEM activities. You may have buckets containing different parts and pieces that students can use to build and create new things. Items you might use to build your makerspace inlcude:
- Legos or other building blocks
- Electric circuit kids
- Craft supplies (glue, scissors, beads, pipe cleaners, etc.)
- Household objects (toilet paper rolls, milk cartons, etc.)
Makerspace is a great activity for students who just need to use their hands! The goal is to give them time and space to use their creativity and innovation. You can build your Makerspace supplies by asking for donations or having students collect household items.
Read a Book
Students are never too old for a little silent reading time! I keep a classroom library stocked with graphic novels, YA fiction, nonfiction (especially science related topics) and even a few joke books thrown in the mix. Grabbing a new book for some quality reading time is a great way to for quick workers to spend the rest of the class. Independent reading is one of the easiest activity ideas for fast finishers, but it’s always a good one!
Tech-Based Early Finisher Ideas
Sometimes, technology truly is a blessing! This is certainly true when it comes to finding meaningful work for your early finishers. There are truly limitless options when it comes to digital tools for enhancing and supporting your classroom instruction. These websites and digital tools make great student activities for fast finishers!
Create a List of Student Links
This list can be housed on Google Classroom or Canvas. Essentially, it contains links to websites that you have deemed to be acceptable free time options. If you are looking for some great ideas, click here to see a collection of links perfectly suited for the middle school science classroom!
If you’d rather not take the time to put a list together, you’re in luck! I’ve created digital choice boards packed with 32 interactive links for early finishers. Check them out here:
Quizziz is packed with learning games, interactive quizzes, and student polls about a variety of content topics. This site is a great way for students to practice their problem-solving skills.
Alright, so technically this option could be digital or print. When students complete work, select a few articles relevant to the unit topic for them to read and explore. This is a great way for them to use CLOSE reading strategies and could be done individually or with a partner. Using relevant articles is one of my go-to activity ideas for fast finishers.
What if your students could do labs WITHOUT the mess? Well, they can! Gizmos offers virtual science labs and simulations covering a variety of topics. These virtual labs are a great way to reinforce the unit’s content objectives.
Legends of Learning
Legends of Learning is probably my favorite of the educational game sites. With over 2000 different math and science games, there are so many ways for your students to have fun while learning! As the teacher, you can choose to assign a specific game to play or offer “free play” time.
Do you have other tips and tricks for occupying those quick workers? I’d love to hear them! Drop a comment below and share YOUR favorite activity ideas for fast finishers?
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