39 Early Finisher Activities to Keep Students from Saying, “Now What?”

39 Early Finisher Activities to Keep Students from Saying, "Now What?"

“Teacher, I’m done! Now what?” Some kids finish tasks way quicker than others. And not all are great at sitting quietly and waiting for everyone else to finish. Others are self-conscious about finishing early and become anxious waiting. Having a list of early finisher activities ready will keep everyone occupied. This means less stress for both fast finishers and those still working – and for the teacher, too!


1. Build a LEGO tower. 

LEGO bricks are quiet. Allow students to keep a small bag in their desks. There are so many other ways to use LEGO in the classroom, so these will definitely come in handy.

2. Play with Playdough. 

Just squishing it, flattening it, or rolling it into snakes can be calming. Each child can have their own small Playdaugh container at their desk. Check out other sensory activities here.

3. Find the perfect joke. 

Have joke books or print outs of jokes available for students to read. Let them practice telling you their favorite joke at recess.

4. Master a topic. 

Encourage students to master the capitals for all 50 states, learn three facts about 15 different animals, or memorize their multiplication tables. They can work on mastering their topic whenever they have extra time.

5. “What do you want to know?” 

Have fast finishers make a list of things they want to learn about. 

6. Work on an activity packet. 

Make a folder with a variety of worksheets and activities to extend learning. Allow students to choose something from the folder to work on.

7. Play catch up.

Just because a student is seeking early finisher activities this time, doesn’t mean they’re always ahead of everyone else. They might have work they need to catch up on from another day or earlier task. 

8. Visit class pets

The pet can be alive or of the inanimate, plush variety. 

9. Draw or color.

Let students pull out their crayons, markers, or colored pencils and get creative. Have coloring sheets available if they’d prefer that over freehand. 

10. Visit the calm corner.

Finishing early provides a great opportunity to recenter.  

11. Explore interest centers.

Have a couple of centers open with quiet activities students can explore independently.  

12. Pick a fast finisher card.

Make some early finisher activities cards. Examples are:

  • “Create your own recipe. Write the ingredients and instructions. Draw a picture of the finished product.”
  • “Write your spelling words three times each.”
  • “Choose a book from the classroom library to read.”
  • “Practice for this week’s math test by doing the review questions at the end of the chapter.”

Related: 80+ Fun & Educational Websites for Elementary School Students


13. Help the teacher. 

Let students help you staple papers, run errands to the office, wipe counters, etc. Check out this list of fun classroom jobs for more ideas!

14. Fidget out anxious energy.

Have pipe cleaners available for twisting or challenge students to “See how many paper clips you can link together.”

15. Do stream of conscious journaling.

Middle schoolers have big feelings and lots on their mind. Let them write it out – for their eyes only, unless they want you to read it.

16. Work on interest projects.

Assign students a presentation on anything they want. It could be a video game, theme park, scientific theory, career, etc. They can research and work on their presentation in their extra time throughout the semester. 

17. Watch a Ted talk.

Encourage them to pick a Ted talk that interests them or is relevant to what you’ve been studying to listen to with headphones.

18. Play educational games.

Allow students to use their phones or a class computer to play educational games. 

19. Do homework.

This is a great time to get an early start on homework.

20. Practice mindfulness

Here’s a great list of mindfulness apps students can use on phones or tablets.

21. Doodle vocabulary words.

Challenge students to turn vocab words into artistic doodles.

22. Design an activity for other early finishers to do in the future.

They just might come up with something amazing!

Early finisher activities for high school

23. Email a pen pal. 

Arrange for students to be email pen pals with an elementary student. Let them write their pal when they finish early.

24. Work on assignments for other classes.

There’s always work for other classes to do in high school.

25. Take a nap.

Being a teenager is exhausting. Give them the option to rest their head on their desk.

26. Write a review.

The review can be for anything – a new item on the Taco Bell menu, a current event, a movie, etc.

27. Do a puzzle.

Have a folder available with Suduko, crossword, and word search puzzles to choose from.

28. Window watch.

Allow students to walk over to the window and watch the world outside. 

29. Let students grade their own work.

Give students a rubric and let them access their own work.

30. Dig deeper.

Assign students to dig deeper into the topic the assignment they finished early is about. What other information can they find about it?

31. Brainteasers.

Include a few brainteasers at the end of the test or assignment for early finishers to work on.

32. Find fun facts.

Encourage students to pick a topic, research it, and come up with five “fun facts” to share with the class.

33. Find books to suggest for class reading.

Have students research books they think would be appropriate to read as a group and write a paragraph explaining why. Make sure to check out our Amy’s Bookshelf section for some awesome book suggestions!

34. Write their own Ted talk.

They can work on this all semester. 

Early finisher activities for all ages

35. Read for fun. 

Encourage students to keep a “just for fun” book in their desk or backpack. This could be fiction, a graphic novel, or something pertaining to their favorite hobby.

36. Write letters.

Have students write letters to someone who needs a lift, even if it’s a stranger. This could be a senior citizen, hospitalized child, or someone in the military. 

37. Write kindness reports.  

Create a bulletin board where students can stick kindness reports – a brief description of kind acts they saw classmates or school staff do.

38. Quietly organize desk, backpack, or folders.

From kindergarten to high school seniors, most kids have something that needs organizing.

39. Tend to classroom jobs.

If their job can be done quietly, this is a good time to do it.

Most of these early finisher activities can be modified for social distancing or remote learning. Most can also be adapted for other ages or abilities. Having plenty of options ready will keep fast finishers quiet and engaged until everyone else is ready to move on.


39 Early Finisher Activities to Keep Students from Saying, "Now What?"

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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