45 Early Finisher Activities That Keep Students Focused

Isn’t it frustrating to just have finished a lesson, with all students now working on task when after a few moments, you see a hand raised or a student walking towards you?

Then you hear that dreaded phrase, “I’m done! What do I do now?

Well, those times are now just a memory thanks to early finisher activities.

By using this list of engaging fast-finisher activities, your students will never again wonder what to do next. 

No matter the grade level of your students or their ability levels, you’ll find an idea here to fit the needs of your class.

Your classroom management system just got a bit better and your stress level lowered.

Early Finisher Activities

Following you will find a variety of early finisher ideas and teaching resources for fast finishers.

1. Work on Literature Circle Assignment.

Literature circles are book clubs where small groups of students gather to discuss a book on a deeper level. 

Each student is assigned a role, and each learner contributes to the group by sharing his or her responses as it relates to their specific literature circle role

While literature circles are powerful in boosting reading comprehension, there is often limited time for students to complete their weekly assignments before meeting with group members. 

That’s why finishing up literature circle assignments serve well as early finisher activities. 

2. Practice On a Dry-Erase Board.

You can take any repetitive skill such as math facts, spelling words, or vocabulary, and have students practice them on a mini whiteboard to make the task more engaging.

All that’s needed is a set of mini whiteboards, dry-erase markers, and erasers (even old but clean socks work well as erasers). 

Students may work at their desks or in a cozy spot in the classroom. 

3. Review Math Facts With Flash Cards.

It’s no secret that repetition yields better performance. 

Leverage this fact by having students practice their basic math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division) using flash cards. 

Challenge them to answer a set number of facts in a certain amount of time. 

Alternatively, allow students to practice their math facts using an online platform, multiplication timed worksheets, or with a multiplication machine

Multiplication machines are good items to add to your teacher wish list.

4. Write a Poem.

Poetry awakens one’s creativity and artistic side which aren’t cultivated enough in schools. 

By incorporating this writing genre as one of your early finisher activities, linguistically-gifted students will appreciate the addition while those who excel in other areas will benefit from the challenge of composing and exploring poetry. 

To make this an early finisher activity, provide students with different examples of poetry.

Then give them the tools they need to create their own poetry. 

Because there are different forms of poetry (e.g haiku, acrostic, etc.), this activity can be made as complex or as simple as you like depending on the ages and ability levels of your students.

To get you started, assign the following poetry activity to students:

  • List ten words related to January. Now write a poem using those words.” 

5. Answer Reader Response Questions.

Strengthening reading comprehension is a goal meant for every student.

In-between formal literacy assessments, gauge students’ reading abilities by utilizing reader response questions.  

After reading a book, students answer 10-15 (or whatever number you choose) reader-response questions about their books in their reading journals. 

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6. Brainstorm Smaller Words Within a Big Word.

With this activity, you provide students with a word.

An example … stadium.

Now students will brainstorm as many 2-letter, 3-letter, 4-letter, 5-letter, and 6-letter words as possible using that term.

Examples of words formed from the word stadium:

  • admit
  • mist
  • mat
  • sat
  • must
  • said

7. Come Up With a Set of Riddles.

Laughter is the best medicine. 

Support students’ social-emotional intelligence by asking them to draft a series of age-appropriate riddles and jokes pertaining to school life or any topic of interest to them.

Provide joke books and other types of examples so that students have a source of inspiration. 

8. Respond to a Writing Prompt.

Writing is a skill that never stops developing. 

Support students in honing their writing skills by giving them the task of responding to a variety of writing prompts.

Writing prompts are fantastic assignments to use as early finisher activities because they integrate well with every subject area and season.

What’s more, writing prompts encourage students to express themselves, improve grammar skills, stretch their creativity, think critically, and self-reflect on ideas. 

9. Create an Anticipation Guide.

While students may be familiar with completing anticipation guides as a pre-reading activity, most have never created one themselves.

This fun early finisher activity puts students in the driver’s seat of their learning. 

After completing a few anticipation guides in class, students should be more than ready to create their own based on a favorite book.

10. Revise and Edit a Piece of Writing.

Writing is an interactive task that takes a lot of brain power. However, it’s still common to make small errors during the process.

After their writing pieces marinate for a while, have students revise and edit them.

Because there may be limited time during writer’s workshop to do this, an opportunity outside of the writing block is a good time to take care of this task. 

11. Write a Letter to Your 100-Year-Old Self.

Self-reflection is an exercise with many benefits. 

Encourage students to think forward by having them anticipate what their lives will be like at 100 years old. 

Motivate them to stretch their imaginations by asking them to write a heart-felt or humorous letter to themselves as mature citizens.

Here are some questions to kickstart their brainstorming:

  • What opinion will you have of the younger generation?
  • For what will you be grateful?
  • How will you feel about current events?
  • With whom will you live?
  • What will your daily life look like?
  • Where are your spouse, children, relatives, and friends?
  • How do you stay entertained?

12. Fill Out a Graphic Organizer.

Simple yet effective, completing a graphic organizer is a useful fast-finisher activity that can be differentiated for different ability levels.

There’s a graphic organizer for just about every literacy objective so students can practice a wide variety of skills. 

To get started, provide students with a variety of graphic organizers, and give them the choice to choose which they would like to complete. 

Main idea graphic organizers are always nice to keep on hand for this purpose.

13. Turn a Book Into a 3D Project.

Graphic organizers serve their purpose, but there’s a way to make them more interactive and engaging for students. 

Foldables™ are the solution. 

A Foldable is a three-dimensional graphic organizer targeted towards a specific skill such as cause and effect, sequencing, main idea, and/or compare/contrast.

Utilizing them, you can assess students’ reading comprehension in a way that highlights not only their knowledge but creativity.

What’s more, Foldables assist students in retaining more information before, during, and after reading. 

14. Answer an Exit Ticket Question.

Ran out of time during one of your learning blocks and didn’t have a chance to informally assess whether students understood the lesson?

If so, have students respond to the lesson using an exit ticket question.

These quick informal assessments provide great feedback for teachers. Simply provide the templates for students to record their information. 

15. Make a Quiz About a Current Topic.

Encourage students to review skills or strategies from a current unit of study by having them create a short test (along with an answer key).

The assessment may be true/false, essay-style, multiple choice, short answer, fill-in-the-blank, or a combination of several formats.

16. Learn New Words In a Different Language.

Language study has been shown to boost critical thinking, maintain mental sharpness, increase problem-solving ability, enhance creativity, and improve memory.

All of these skills are beneficial to students. 

That’s why language exercises such as learning new words in a different language make a welcome addition to your collection of fast-finisher activities. 

Encourage students to grab a foreign language book and practice a few new words.

17. Choose an Activity from a Choice Board.

Choice boards serve as a way to offer students a menu of options in regard to what types of activities they would like to review. 

Whether you want students to review math, language arts, science, or social studies concepts, choice boards will fit well.

They are flexible teaching resources that are easily customizable based on the needs of your class. 

See early finisher choice board ideas.

18. Add the Alphabet.

This fun activity goes as follows…

A = 1, B = 2,  C = 3,  D =4,  E = 5, F = 6, G = 7, H = 8,  I = 9, J = 10, K = 11, L = 12,  M = 13, N = 14,  O = 15,  P =16,  Q = 17, R = 18, S = 19, T = 20, U = 21, V = 22, W = 23, X = 24, Y = 25,  Z = 26

What’s the sum of your name?

Example: Lily: L =12, I = 9, L = 12, Y = 25

Lily = 58

Encourage students to try different words. And for a challenge, have them multiply instead of add.

19. Try to Write Backwards.

If you seek original and fun early finisher ideas, this is one to try.

On a sheet of paper, students will write a short message backward either in cursive or print.

They will then turn the paper over, hold it up to the light, and read it. Alternatively, students may use a mirror to read their sentences.

Is it readable? If not, they will rewrite the message. 

This activity is just about guaranteed to engage even the most reluctant learners!

20. Draft New S.M.A.R.T Goals or Readjust Old Ones.

It’s important for students to revisit their SMART goals throughout the school year in order to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t.

Doing so offers them the opportunity to adjust their action plans accordingly.  

However, it can be a struggle to find the time within the teaching schedule to fit in this task. 

Opting to make the task an early-finisher activity is a great option.

21. Track Learning Progress.

It’s important for teachers to encourage students to be invested in their learning, and that means having students keep track of their academic progress.

One way to do this is by having them maintain a simple data tracking sheet. 

This isn’t something that needs to be done weekly or even monthly…attending to it just a few times per year is all that’s needed. 

So, as an early finisher activity, remind students to track and/or review their learning progress using a data tracking sheet such as this one

As an added bonus, this resource proves helpful during parent-teacher conferences. 

22. Finish or Start Homework.

If you don’t mind students starting homework in class, allow them to work on assignments meant for home practice. 

This idea may especially benefit students who have busy after-school lives.

23. Work On an Activity Packet.

If you are one of those teachers who wants low-maintenance early finisher activities that require the least amount of materials, this idea is for you.

Use whatever teaching resources you have at your disposal to compile a few extension worksheets.

These exercises should ideally reinforce targeted skills and concepts. 

24. Participate In a Math or Literacy Center.

Direct students to a math or literacy station to practice skills once they are done with class assignments. 

You could even provide some of those done-at-your-desk centers that include everything students need in order to complete the task right inside a handy folder.  

25. Visit the School Library.

For the bookworms in your classroom, offering a chance to visit the school’s library in order to check out books or read in a cozy spot is a treat indeed. 

Be sure to coordinate with the librarian so that student visits don’t conflict with his/her schedule.

26. Solve a Sudoku Puzzle.

Solving puzzles improves memory, thinking skills, and concentration just to name a few of the many benefits. 

This is why Sudoku puzzles make a wonderful addition to your collection of early finisher activities. 

There are easy, medium, and hard categories which means that there is a puzzle to fit every ability level in your classroom.  

27. Catch Up On Your Classroom Job.

In a perfect classroom world, students would have enough time to complete their classroom job duties without issue. 

However, school life gets busy, and some students simply forget. 

So this task makes a helpful fast-finisher activity. 

28. Read Silently.

Some believe that silent reading is too simple a task for students to do after completing class assignments, but that’s simply not true. 

The power of reading regularly is well-documented. 

Plus, this early finisher activity requires nothing more than for students to choose a favorite book and find a cozy spot to read it. 

Consider offering a special stash of books from different genres in order to build students’ interests.

Additionally, it might be fun to have an inviting spot in the classroom that motivates students to choose this task as their fast-finisher activity. 

29. Design a Reading Bookmark.

Develop students’ creative side by having them create a cool reading bookmark that relates to a current unit of study.

Provide bookmark examples as inspiration.

To help you get started with this idea, print these bookmark templates.

30. Spell Vocabulary Words With Play-Doh.

If you want students to practice weekly spelling words or key vocabulary from a current unit of study, have them do so using Play-Doh. 

This task enhances fine motor skills and also sparks a bit of creativity. 

31. Make a “Building” For Geometry City.

To promote critical thinking and problem-solving, encourage students to contribute a “building” as part of a geometry city project

This project-based learning and STEM activity integrates math plus art and does a great job of engaging students meaningfully in a real-world task.

32. Complete a Book Report.

Book reports don’t have to be elaborate projects that require weeks and weeks of work.

They can be low-maintenance and still effective at boosting students’ reading skills. 

Provide a variety of engaging book report templates.

33. Conduct a Simple Science Experiment.

Brainstorm a few simple science experiments that are grade-appropriate, gather the materials, and then designate a space in the classroom for students to complete one or more of the tasks. 

Encourage students to follow the scientific method as they work.

34. Watch a BrainPop Video.

If you seek virtual early finisher activities, this one is a good fit. 

Using iPads, cell phones, or tablets, students will watch a video pertaining to something they are learning about in class. 

Also require that they complete any extension activities, graphic organizers, or worksheets related to the video.

35. Research a Topic.

Students are curious about the world around them.

Educators can help satisfy this curiosity by encouraging students to explore topics of interest. 

Students do need to be taught how to do research, so before assigning this task as an early finisher activity, demonstrate how to conduct proper research along with a discussion of reliable sources. 

Once they are ready to venture out on their own, provide students with this list of research topics to get them started. 

36. Write a Letter to Next Year’s Class.

Your students are learning so much this school year, and I bet many would be happy to share their experiences with those who will be coming after them.

Have students draft a letter to those in the grade below, telling them what to expect next year.

37. Add Artifacts and Notes to Your Student Portfolio.

Student portfolios showcase progress over time. 

They highlight valuable information about student growth, goal-setting, and skill proficiency.

A major benefit of portfolios is that they prompt students to reflect upon their learning experiences, adjusting their action plans and goals accordingly. 

That’s why encouraging students to spend time updating their portfolios is a good fast-finisher exercise. 

What’s more, portfolios prove useful in parent-teacher conferences and end-of-year portfolio presentations.

38. Practice Study Skills.

Proficiency in utilizing study skills increases academic confidence and progress.

Students also feel more prepared for tests and quizzes when they have the tools needed to succeed. 

Encourage learners to master a few important study skills in order to boost their grades. 

39. Complete a Word Search.

Just about every student knows how to complete a word search; that’s why it’s one of the best early finisher ideas.

What’s more, it’s low-prep, engaging for students, and can be incorporated into any topic or subject area.

To add substance to this activity, once students have located all of the words, require them to choose at least five of the terms to make five different sentences or to create a story.

40. Compose a Song About a Concept.

For those students who are musically gifted, challenge them to compose a jingle, rap, song, or melody about a math or science concept.

Another option is to have students create new lyrics over a known melody. 

41. Put Head Down/Rest.

Sometimes students simply need a break from all the work. A 5 to 10-minute rest does wonders.

Consider setting up a “rest” station in the classroom where students may go to listen to calm music, practice yoga poses, and/or recite positive affirmations. 

42. Complete a Book Review.

Book reviews help potential readers decide if they want to explore a certain book. 

Encourage students to write book reviews of their favorites so that classmates gain insight into whether or not they would like to read the books for themselves.

43. Unscramble a Word Jumble.

Challenge students to unscramble words with word jumble puzzles.

Once they complete the jumble, ask them to choose five of the terms. They will write a sentence with each or draft a story that includes all of them. 

44. Reinforce Math Skills By Solving Word Problems.

Solving math word problems provides students with an opportunity to apply skills that they’ve been learning in math class. 

Working through these real-world scenarios enhances critical thinking, boosts reading comprehension, showcases knowledge, and increases math proficiency. 

Provide students with a set of math word problems to solve, and also challenge them to create some of their own.

45. Make and Label a Graph.

Graphing exercises help students synthesize and order information in a visual way.

This enables them to answer questions more clearly. 

Creating graphs also improves categorizing, sorting, and comparing skills. 

For this early finisher activity, have students create a graph that relates to a topic from a nonfiction book they are reading.

They should ask themselves what type of graph(s) would best summarize the main idea or main theme(s) of the book. 

46. Sketch a Scene From a Favorite Book.

This early finisher activity works best for younger students or learners who express themselves well visually. 

Have students draw an important picture or two from a book they love. They will then caption the picture and/or write a summary of the scene. 

Final Thoughts

This list of early-finisher ideas will make a great addition to your collection of teaching resources. 

In addition to never hearing again, “I’m done! What do I do now?”, you will also benefit by maximizing student learning and eliminating unnecessary interruptions.

See more fast-finisher activity ideas.