In my experience, students shine the most when they're given autonomy over their learning. Because each classroom has learners at varying levels, it helps to have engaging activities ready for those who need them. These early finisher activities have started to fuel the redesign of my traditional lessons. I'm still using our mandated curriculum, but I'm able to enrich and support students by meeting their individual needs.
My favorite five things to do with my kids:
read a book
make a game
play a game
create with technology
research a topic
When students finish early, I find it helpful to have them work on an extension of the lesson. I believe most concepts allow for students to dig deeper and enhance their understanding. Making a game or creating with technology, for instance, may be a perfect option for those children. However, for those who have a solid understanding of the concept but truly lack interest in the subject matter, I do not offer them a triple dosage of boredom. Instead, I allow them to continue their leaning in another pathway that is of more interest, like researching another topic or reading a book.
This one is simple—children love it when they are given time to read. My students think it's the best treat when we can squeeze in ten minutes of unexpected reading time. They flock to their book cubbies and quickly fall into the pages of their stories. I find a key to having my children so interested in reading is having a variety of books available that offers appeal to each child. I switch my books often so there is always something fresh and exciting to hit our shelves.
We do rotating digital workstations in our room. During this time, children play various games. We also do math workshop. Each day, students play games that allow them to apply the skills they're working on in the lessons. Their creative wheels are always turning. They love to suggest an idea for how to use a deck of cards or a pair of dice for a new math game. I tell them if they can write the directions down so that others can learn how to play, then their game idea can be incorporated into our workstations. Seeing how they collaborate together to apply their learning is impressive.
I keep games for nearly every skill in my room. Students love playing the different games and finding success with topics they're learning about in class. Some of the games are file folder sorting activities. Others are board games I've purchased. Plus, they're just fun!
My students love working on iPads and computers to demonstrate their learning. One of my favorite apps is Educreations. Children tell their stories digitally using this free app by importing pictures of their work and annotating their voice on each slide to explain their thinking.
Allowing students to explore topics that they're passionate about can be quite empowering. Imagine if you were allowed a fraction of your workday to spend on a project that you've always wished you had more time for. Children are naturally curious and become passionate about topics in which they have been given a choice in studying. This is evident by their desire to share each and every fact they've learned about something that excites them. Offering students an outlet to explore their own passions can serve as a guide to deep digging into studying of all kinds and fan the flames for broader interests.
These five activities are simple and require little prep, but give a lot in return.