7 Great Choices For Early Finisher Activities For 1st Grade

Everything is going smoothly in your first-grade classroom. Students are fully engaged while you work one-on-one or with a small group.

Then you see a hand raised, “Ms. Jones, I’m done. What do I do now?!”

I’m sure you’ve experienced this phenomenon a few times (or a lot!). 

There are those fast finishers in every elementary classroom that speed through the assignment, prompting the teacher to come up with something quickly.

That’s why it’s essential to put into place some good early finisher activities for 1st grade students that will help them to stay engaged until the end of the learning block. 

These types of extension activities reduce distractions and interruptions while maximizing learning time at school. 

What’s more, if prepared properly, first-grade early finisher activities also reinforce targeted learning skills.

Those skills could be in the areas of literacy, math, science, or social studies. 

For optimal success, set up first-grade early finisher activities as centers or stations around the classroom where students can access them quickly and without distracting others. 

Also, explain each activity thoroughly in order to eliminate confusion as your first graders transition to working on the early finisher activities. 

By incorporating fast finishers into your classroom management plan, you’ll no longer have to worry about students asking about what to do next.

Early Finisher Activities For 1st Grade

1. Build Something.

Support first graders in developing fine motor skills by encouraging them to construct different structures out of materials such as Legos, blocks, marshmallows, toothpicks, gumdrops, etc. 

This early finisher activity stretches their creativity and imagination. 

2. Participate In Sensory Activities. 

Sensory activities engage the five senses, while simultaneously helping first graders develop their motor, cognitive, social, and language skills.

These types of activities make fun early finisher activities for 1st grade students because they provide learning in a “play” or “experimenting” fashion that kids enjoy.

For this early finisher task, set up a variety of sensory bins with various activities such as…

  • Making instruments (using rice, empty paper towel rolls, etc.)
  • Writing various words (practicing in sand, shaving cream, or rice)
  • Creating letters with pasta or Play-Doh
  • Smelling jars to figure out different spices and herbs

3. Complete a Hidden Picture Puzzle. 

First graders love finding all the secret pictures in Hidden Picture Puzzles.

These puzzles promote critical thinking, enhance vocabulary, keep students engaged to the max, and score high on the “fun meter”.

4. Play a Memory Game.

Memory games are great activities to incorporate as first-grade early finisher activities because they can be used to review and/or reinforce any skill whether in math, phonics, social studies, or science. 

To make things easy and most beneficial to students, have your first graders first create their own memory games.

Afterward, they can play them alone or with a partner.  

To get started, choose a subject and/or skill. 

For example, if the class is learning about shapes, each student would take twenty notecards.

Ten of the cards would each have a name of a shape while the other ten contains the definition of the shape along with a picture. 

After mixing the notecards and placing them face down on a flat surface in the formation of an array, students will play memory by choosing two cards and seeing if they match (card with the name of shape along with the appropriate definition).

If it’s a match, the child keeps the two cards. If the pair is not a match, the cards are returned to the array face down in their original spots. 

The game continues as such until every card has been matched.

5. Make Blends and Digraphs Using Play-Doh.

Students will practice blends and digraphs by forming Play-Doh into these combinations. 

While they make the combinations, students can sound them out and name three to five words that begin with the respective blend or digraph. 

6. Practice Handwriting.

Encourage students to practice their handwriting strokes. 

Showcasing legible handwriting is important, and first grade is the perfect time for students to develop the skill.

What’s more, handwriting practice strengthens fine motor skills.

To get started, provide students with handwriting sheets or have them practice strokes in their writing journals. 

Alternatively, if students have access to tablets and a handwriting app for kids, they may practice by using the screen and a finger to make the movements. 

Another way to make this activity engaging is to give students a mini whiteboard along with a dry-erase marker and have them practice that way. 

7. Doodle One of Your Spelling Words.  

Awaken students’ creativity and art skills by having them doodle a few spelling words. 

Doodling simply means writing a word and then drawing around it in order to create a colorful piece of art. 

See examples of doodle word art

Another option is to have students group the words in some way and create a doodle using that group of words. 

Students will brainstorm ways that they could group their spelling words based on phonics and word meanings. 

Afterward, they will create doodle art around these categories of words. 

See examples of word categories doodle art

Final Thoughts

Now you no longer have to hear from your first graders, “What do I do now?”.

These early finisher activities for 1st grade will keep students focused while reducing (even eliminating) downtime and distractions. 

Make these part of your classroom management plan, and see how much smoother instruction time flows.