“Read a book.”
How often have you said that to your fast finishers? I am SUPER guilty of this one! I’m always looking for new ideas for fast finisher activities! Too often, I catch myself repeating that phrase… “just read a book.”
It’s not that reading a book is NOT a bad option, it’s just something kids get tired of doing, especially those kids who ALWAYS finish first.
There are many challenges to you as a teacher when trying to find your fast finishers activities.
- How do you challenge students without making it feel like a burden or punishment on them?
- How do you do it without adding extra work for you?
- How can it be student-led so that they can work independently and you can help the students who are working on the regular assignments?
- How do you make it meaningful learning?
The answer is to have some quality work, on hand, ready to go for your students. I prefer to give a few options of fast finishers activities, that way my students can pick something that interests them.
Last month, I wrote a post called, 3 Exciting Ways to Use the 36 Weeks of Skills Practice Bundle. One of those ways is to use them for fast finishers. Any of the 36 Weeks of Skills Practice activities would be great to have prepared for your fast finishers but two of my favorites are 36 Weeks of Backwards Story Problems and 36 Weeks of Writing Prompts.
Idea #1 to Challenge Fast Finishers- 36 Weeks of Backwards Story Problems
Start by telling your students that they are going to be solving a story problem backward. After they give you a little, “Huh?” Tell them they are going to be given an answer and they’ll need to come up with a story problem question for it.
Each backwards story problem contains 5 sections that can be completed each day of the week or completed all at once. The five sections included in each Backwards Story Problems are:
- Write down as many equations as they can think of that equal the answer given
- Brainstorm some topic ideas for their problem including WHO and WHAT
- Tell students that they need to write down different ideas for WHO their question is about. (ex: Hannah, Jane, Benny, Spence)
- Once they finish the who portion they need to write down ideas in the WHAT section. (ex: building a sandcastle, playing at the lake, watching a movie)
- Write the Problem using an equation from the Monday section of the backwards story problem as well as a WHO and WHAT from the Tuesday section
- Write a Short Story that incorporates their story problem. Students need to pick one of their ideas for WHO, one idea for WHAT. They should be able to flow well in a story problem. (ex: Hannah, building a sandcastle, beach) You wouldn’t have Hannah building a sandcastle in the kitchen.
- Students will get even more creative and illustrate their short story. Make sure they color their illustration!
Idea #2 to Challenge Fast Finishers- 36 Weeks of Writing Prompts
Writing is an amazing fast finisher activity! It can take as long or as short as you need it to. You can have them pick a writing prompt that interests them OR you can assign them a type of prompt to focus on a skill that they need more practice with. Either way, they can get lots of practice for their writing skills!
Our 36 Weeks of Writing Prompts covers the four main types of writing, narrative, informative, opinion, and descriptive. Each type of writing contains 9 prompts, such as:
- Leaving The Circus: Write a story about a circus performer who runs away to work in an office.
- The Awful Vacation: Write a story about a family on the worst vacation ever.
- Describe a bad habit you have and how you think you could break it.
- You have been hired to build a fancy birdhouse. Describe your design
- If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would you choose to lose and why?
- Which of the seven dwarves – Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, or Dopey – are you most like?
- Describe the most boring day you’ve ever had, but make it sound exciting.
- Describe the strangest meal you’ve ever had.
The writing prompts are designed, like the backwards story problems, to be spread out either throughout the week or done all at once depending on your needs.
Have your fast finishers, pick the prompt that interests them the most and let them go!
Idea #3 to Challenge Fast Finishers- Assign A Research Project
Wife Teacher Mommy’s Science and Social Studies Research Units are perfect for students who finish quickly! You can have them use their extra time to learn how to use informational text and study a variety of science and social studies topics.
Each research unit follows Kelsey’s 5 Step Research Process. The 5 steps are model research skills, keep a research journal, write a report, hands-on final project, and then show-off projects!
You will need to make a few changes to have your kids do it as an enrichment activity such as modeling research skills at a different time or adapting the final hands-on project and showing off the projects.
However, the actual research piece and writing the report are designed to be self-guided by the students and for sure, that piece would be perfect for your fast finishers! You can definitely adapt these to meet the needs of your own classroom.
Idea #4 to Challenge Fast Finishers- Online Enrichment Activities
Have an “Enrichment Activity” list of quality computer activities on your Google Classroom, Canvas, Seesaw, or whatever other digital platform you use. Some of my favorites include:
- A Google A Day– A daily game that challenges students to practice finding information on the internet. We all know the importance of digital literacy in today’s world and how much students need to know how to find correct information on the internet.
- The Critical Reader– This is more for upper-level students. It offers a daily reading question, similar to DOL, in which students read a short passage and are asked to correct the underlined section.
- Mathopolis– A daily math question for grades 2 through high school. Students can go back to previous questions. It’s great to challenge students who need to challenge themselves with higher-level math.
- Quizlet– You can create a vocabulary list for your students. Then they can choose different quizzes and games to practice the vocab list.
- EdPuzzle– You pick videos from so many different websites or upload your own. Then you insert questions into the videos for students to answer, and you can set it so that students can’t move on until they get the question correct. Questions can range from multiple choice to true/false to short or long answers.
- Create a WebQuest or QuestGarden– These are fun, question-driven activities that you create and your students use the internet to find their answers. It’s another great way to have students practice their digital literacy skills.
- iCivics Games- iCivics has lots of great US civics lesson plans but I use these for my students to play fun games to learn about how the United States of America government works. They can run a law firm, learn about the powers of the three branches of government, try to pass a bill into law, or run for president.
- National Geographic Daily Geo Quiz– Each day Nat Geo offers 6 new questions every day all about geography. These are great especially if you are preparing for a Geo Bee at your school.