December 6, 2011

A Simple Solution for Fast Finishers


By Angela Watson, Guest Blogger

None of us will ever have a class in which all students work at the same pace. That's okay! The goal is to make sure everyone is engaged in meaningful learning activities. For some kids, that means providing extra projects and assignments while they wait for their peers; for other kids, it means teaching time management and how to get things done on schedule. This is not as difficult as it sounds! Predictable classroom routines, clearly defined procedures, and lots of positive reinforcement will make a huge difference in how smoothly your classroom runs.

An easy way to support kids who finish quickly is to teach your class to always look at a When Finished sign after they complete an assignment. The sign I use is posted on my board and lists several assignments I typically have students complete when they are done with their work early. I use a red magnetized arrow to point to the assignment kids are supposed to complete. If kids need to do more than one thing, I'll use two arrows, one which says "First" and one which says "Then" to specify the order things should be completed in. For example, sometimes I like to have students show me their work before they start their next project, so I'll move the arrow that says "First" so that it points to "Show your work to your teacher" and I'll move the arrow that says "Then" so it points to "Get your book box and read silently." The bottom portion of the sign allows me to write a customized assignment on the board underneath if needed.

The When Finished signs keeps me from having to write out the same tasks over and over, and keeps students from wondering what they should be doing. Students' time is never wasted...and I never have to hear, "I'm done! Now what?"

You can download the When Finished sign for free right here! Or, visit the Routines and Procedures page to learn how to teach other expectations, such as lining up, getting drinks, passing in papers, cooperative learning, and arrival/dismissal routines.


Angela Powell Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years, and currently works as an educational consultant and instructional coach in New York City. She is the author of two books, including The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable. She provides free teacher resources--including photos, printables, and activities--on her website, www.TheCornerstoneForTeachers.com.

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