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Teacher, I'm Done: Filler Ideas for Fast Finishers

By Tiffani Mugurussa on February 19, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

“Teacher, I’m done”: three cringe-inducing words a teacher probably hears at least once a day. It’s those three little words that can send an unorganized or unprepared teacher into a panic. Don’t be caught off-guard; be prepared with something ready at all times, or better yet, have a system in place.

So, what do you do with those few fast finishers? Whatever it is, it needs to be something enjoyable, educational, and non-distracting to the students who are still working. It also needs to be independent. The last thing you need is to have to give instructions and assistance for a new activity while you are still helping students finish the one you’ve just assigned.

I have a system in place in my classroom, but I was curious as to how my colleagues handled the situation. While on my quest to view other managerial systems for fast finishers, I found a variety of great ideas to use, depending on the grade level. We’ll start with my kindergarten classroom.

My students have six choices of what they can do when they have completed their work. To remind them, they can look at the board for picture clues.

Read a book at your table (I use Scholastic Sight Word Readers):

Read from your book box (paper copied books we make each week that stay at school):

Write numbers 0–30:

Write the alphabet (upper- and lowercase):

Say, spell, write sight words:


Workbag (workbags have individual activities):

Around My School

Here is what I found around my school. My first stop was Mrs. Pennes’s kindergarten classroom. In her class there is a file crate with extra practice papers for her fast finishers. The file also contains unfinished work. If students run out of time on one assignment, they can place it in their folder to complete at a different time.

In Ms. McKee’s 1st grade classroom the options are posted on her whiteboard, much as they are in my classroom. The only difference is that she limits the options to only a few and changes them frequently.

Boggle is the activity in Mr. Condon’s 2nd grade classroom. When students are finished, they have a life-sized Boggle game board to work with. His students enjoy the challenge of finding all the hidden words and having to prove where they found them.

Mrs. Williams teaches 3rd grade. When her students have completed their classwork, they choose a bucket to take to their desk and work quietly with. Each bucket contains Task Cards. These cards contain previously taught concepts and skills.

Other Ideas

  • Peer teaching/helping other students
  • Computer/iPad activities to reinforce basic skills
  • Practice sheets in page protectors with dry erase markers
  • Listening Center
  • File folder games
  • Puzzles
  • Whiteboard activities
  • Writing (the room activities, in a journal, letters, poems, stories)

I’ve made some graphic reminders similar to the ones I use in my classroom. You can download a copy of them by clicking the picture below.

Having a system in place saves a teacher time and energy and helps to avoid that question “What do I do now?”  If you have a system in place or other ideas to add to the list, please share them.

Comments (5)

I like this idea because it guides the students to learn the first step of self-learning. It make the students be more independent and responsible about thier own choices. I think students will enjoy doing this idea because they have a chance to choose the activities that they like.
On the other hand teachers should encourage the students to try other activates by providing some new materials. For example, encourage the students who do not like to read by offering some new books that include their favorite things such as, animals’ stories, cars’ book and cartoons move characters.

Thank you
very good idea

We have learners of different abilities in our classrooms that must be exposed to the same curriculum. Thanks for posting the ideas from around the school. Idle hands do the devil's work!

Allison, thanks for sharing your creative alternatives.

As to the other question, I don't have students rush through their work in order to do the activities. I check all work before letting them move on. My students know that if I think they can do a neater or better job, I will ask them to try it again.

Does anyone have trouble with students sloppily finishing their work so they can do the optional activities?

These ideas are helpful but I want more challenging ideas. Lately, my students (k and 1)have loved designing their own games with the concepts they learn in class. Examples include, sight word tic-tac-toe, candy land math facts ( a group of students teamed up and made a game board, cards and pieces. It took them about a week, it was a great motivator.

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