Early Finisher Ideas in the Elementary Classroom

One of the great things about teaching is that we are gifted with a classroom full of students who are all special and unique.  Teachers love getting to know each of their students’ personalities and interests.  And although we love that each of our students is different, when it comes to academics, that sometimes prompts a few issues.  Students don’t learn and work at the same rate as one another.  This means some students understanding quicker or slower than others.  Having engaging and meaningful early finisher activities is a must and I can’t wait to share my favorites with you!

early finishers

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Early Finisher Activity #1: Cover All

cover all early finisher Cover all is a super fun and easy way to get your students to focus on their metacognition and motivate them to read more.  Research shows that the best way to increase comprehension is to let students read MORE.  So all of my early finisher activities are directly connected to the fact that I want them to be reading!  With Cover All, I type up a very simple 9×9 grid and fill each square with a broad comprehension question that can be answered using any book.  When students are done with their work, they can grab a Cover All board (I have them laminated and printed on colored paper) and use the book that they are reading to answer the questions.

The students will use sticky notes to write out their answers and place them directly on top of the question it answers on the Cover All board.  Students have the choice of whether or not they want to turn the board in.  If they do, I quickly check over it making sure the answer they gave actually answers the questions.  I look for any red flags and jot them down for me to remember for our next small group or conference.  Then I return the board with a small treat and a sticky note with some feedback to the student.  Believe it or not, this was one of my students’ favorite early finisher activities!

Early Finisher Activity #2:  Story Mood Quilt

Have you ever heard of a mood quilt?  It’s when someone makes a quilt using a variety of colors.  Each of the colors is connected to a mood they have felt that day or week.  When mood quilt early finisherthe quilt is done, it’s a representation of the time period and their moods over that time period.  They are really neat to see!  Did you know that you could do that with a BOOK?  It’s true!  Having students make story mood quilts is a great early finisher activity or even a small group/whole group mini-lesson.

I would suggest you do this as a class before assigning it as an early finisher activity.  This way all of your students know exactly what to do and how to do it.  To make a story mood quilt, you first need to determine how many ‘sections’ of the book you want to map out.  The younger the grade, the shorter number of sections.  You can even do 3 and use it as a BME story mood quilt.  For older grades, they can sort the book more easily into more sections.  Once the number of sections has been determined, then draw out a quilt with that number of sections (like a one row/one column grid).  Next, pick colors and assign them to different moods/feelings that you might have while reading the book.

Now you’re ready to color your grid!  Go through the story and feel the overall mood of that section of the book.  Find the color that matches the best and color!  You can even have the students write on the quilt when the colors change to explain WHY they changed or what caused the mood change in the story.  Story mood quilts are fun and students really like exploring this side of literature.

Loving these ideas and want to snag the templates I use for each of these early finisher activities?  You can!  They are yours for FREE just by entering your home email address below!  Enjoy!

early finishers

Early Finisher Activity #3:  One Word Boxes

one word early finisher One Word Boxes are another fun and easy early finisher activity students can use after they have been instructed and practiced with the class.  A one-word box is a 1/2 sheet of paper where students react to the story as they read using only one word.  When starting out, you might want to provide a bank of ‘reaction words’.  That would help the students generate some ideas.  After a while, they will get the hang of it.

I keep my one-word box templates printed and cut out and in a spot where students can grab.  They take the page and read their book quietly.  After every 2-3 pages, they can stop and react to what they have read so far.  Maybe they are curious, interested, surprised, or confused about what’s going on.  Again, it’s the students’ choice as to whether they want to turn them in or not.  If they do, I keep them for small group or conference discussion!



Early Finisher Activity #4:  Sticky Note BINGO

My students LOVE when I post a new question for sticky note BINGO.  Somewhere in my room, I display a 5×5 BINGO grid where thebingo early finisher spaces are big enough for a sticky note to be placed in each section.  I also label the left side #’s 1-5.  Over the top of the BINGO area, I will write out a comprehension question based on something we are currently or have been learning about.  Once a question has been posted, students can answer the question using the book that they are reading any time during their early finisher time.

Students will answer my displayed question on a sticky note and place it on an empty spot on the BINGO board.  Once the BINGO board is full I will decide on a BINGO.  Sometimes it will be one spot or other times it will be a whole row or column.  The BINGO winners get a quick conference with me to talk about their sticky note and a small prize for winning.

This is a fun and easy routine to get into to encourage students to read, answer comprehension questions, and meet with students for a fun and unique reason!  Students love this routine and I know yours will too!

Early Finisher Activity #5:  Recommendation Board

recommendation board Recommendation boards aren’t anything new, but they are a great early finisher activity that helps promote reading in the classroom.  One of the biggest reasons why I love and use recommendation boards is it allows students to think about why they do and do not like what they are reading.  Early readers are learning about who they are as a reader. It’s important to give them opportunities to reflect on what they have read and whether or not they enjoyed it.  From here, students can connect with other readers and form strong literacy connections within their classroom!






Did you find a fun, new early finisher activity to try in your classroom?  Make sure to hop back up and grab your FREE templates so you can try them out yourself!  If you want to save this post for later, make sure to pin the image below!

early finisher


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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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