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How can you support fast finishers in the classroom?

Have you ever wondered how you are going to keep students engaged who finish tasks before their classmates? Teachers are usually time poor and the last thing you want to be worrying about is planning extra activities and tasks that you might not need. That is where fast finisher activities that can be used at the end of any lesson come in!

In this blog post, we are going to talk about why you might need fast finisher activities as well as how you can support fast finishers in your classroom. We are also going to explore why fast finisher activities might not be right for you and what to do instead.

What is a fast finisher?

A fast finisher is a student who completes their learning activities or tasks before the rest of their classmates. There can be many reasons for this, including that they are gifted in the subject area or are very focussed on their learning. On the other hand, they may be rushing, not checking their work, or taking their time.

What are fast finisher activities?

A fast finisher activity is an activity that the teacher has prepared to engage any students who complete learning tasks before their classmates. These activities could be linked to the learning in the lesson and can be used to encourage further thinking about what the student has learned. Alternatively, they can be a fun activity that gives students extra practise at other previously learned skills. These can be a range of activities, using different skills and can be done verbally, written, through drawing etc. They can also be done independently or in pairs or groups. Depending on time, fast finisher activities can vary in length from a quick activity to a more extended piece of work.

Why do we need fast finisher activities?

Fast finisher activities not only keep students busy and engaged if they have completed tasks before their classmates they can also be used to reflect on learning from that lesson. These activities can be used to encourage more in depth thinking about learning and to identify next steps in learning too.

Fast finisher activities can also be used to add breadth to student’s learning and to give students further practise at previously learned skills. These types of activities can also encourage students to present their learning in different ways, meaning teachers can assess students in different ways too.

Fast finisher activities promote choice and enjoyment within students as you can allow students to choose their own fast finisher activity to engage with. They can encourage independence and give students ownership of their learning.

Fast finisher activities can be used to add a new level of challenge to your student’s thinking as they can use what they have learned to solve a problem or create something. These activities can also be used to encourage your students to consider how their learning can be applied to real life and show its relevance.

Aside from impacting your students learning, fast finisher activities also free up your teacher time. You are free to support students still working on the original task as your fast finishers are kept busy.

Why might students finish early?

Students may finish early as they are gifted in that subject area. They may find the concept you are teaching easy or have previously learned the material.

Another reason is they could have rushed the task and not completed it to the best of their ability or checked over their work. They could even have misunderstood the task or missed parts out.

Lastly, you could have planned an activity and students have completed it more quickly than anticipated. This is ok! It happens to use all. We just need to keep this in mind for the next lesson.

How can we support fast finishers in the classroom?

How we support students who finish early depends on the reason why they have finished early. If they have completed a task early because they are talented or gifted in that subject area, we could first encourage students to consider how they could improve or add to their task. If they have truly completed the task to the best of their ability, then they can move on to a fast finisher activity. However, it would be a good idea to consider how to effectively challenge this student in future lessons, so they don’t finish as early.

If a student has finished early due to not completing a task to the best of their ability, you would need to spend time supporting this student, so they are able to complete the activity correctly. Once the student has done this, they can move onto a fast finisher activity.

Although you may be thinking about how to further challenge or support students so they don’t finish as early remember to have a limit on how many “extra” activities you may be planning. Instead, maybe think how you can adapt the original activity, so you are not adding to your workload.

You can also use fast finisher activities if you are unable to check over student’s work there and then. Students can work on fast finisher activities while you check over their tasks and if they need to revisit their task, they can then do that. This means they are not hanging about waiting and doing nothing.

When students have completed tasks and you are satisfied they have done these to the best of their ability, you can then give them fast finisher activities. These can be range of short or longer activities where students can practise knowledge and skills they have learned to further consolidate learning. Fast finisher activities can feature skills that you would like your students to get extra practise at. For example, reading, writing lists, writing instructions, problem solving, designing or math skills. My fast finisher activity cards include 100 engaging activities. These activities can be done independently and encourage independence and ownership of learning. These activities can also be done in pairs or small groups to encourage communication and collaborative working. They can also be shared with groups or the whole class to encourage students to talk about their learning and for classmates to give feedback and peer assess.

It is a good idea to store fast finisher activities in a place that students can access on their own. Ensure to teach them a routine of going to get their own fast finisher activity. This means they are not disturbing you if you are supporting other students who need help with the original task.

How do you differentiate activities for fast finishers?

Having activities that encourage students to reflect on their learning provides an extra level of challenge. Activities that solve a problem using skills and encourage more in-depth thinking would be ideal for those that are talented in the subject area of your lesson.

If students maybe need support with the original task it could be a good idea to give a fast finisher activity that gives them extra practise at the skills and knowledge they need support with.

Why might fast finishers not work for you?

If you notice that a large proportion of students are always finishing early, it may be time to consider why this is. This may be because they are finding tasks not challenging or alternatively it might be because they are too tricky and are not completing them correctly. If this is the case, you may need to consider if you are choosing tasks that are the correct level of difficulty for students.

You may notice that students are rushing the original tasks to get onto fast finisher activities as they may see these as more “fun” activities. If this is the case, you may want to change how you use fast finisher activities. You can limit the number of fast finisher activities your students can choose from, so you are directing what they are doing when finished. Alternatively, if there is a particular fast finisher activity they are drawn to, is there a way you can use this in your main lesson?

If you are tight on time having fast finisher activities may not work for you. It can be quite time-consuming planning additional fast finisher activities. You may want to spend your precious planning time ensuring the original learning activities are differentiated to the best of your ability. You may also need time to check over fast finisher activities that are completed too, giving you extra marking. However, if you still feel you may want some fast finisher activity options, my fast finisher activity cards can be used with any age group. Once they are prepared, they can be used over and over again, reducing workload and making best use of your time.

What is an alternative to using fast finisher activities?

Instead of instructing students to complete a certain activity as a task, give them a time limit to complete a task. For example, instead of writing 5 sentences summarising the chapter of a book (which students will spend varying lengths of time completing), ask students to spend 5 minutes summarising the chapter. This means that everyone is finished the task at the same time.

Another alternative to using fast finisher activities is once they have finished a task, students can use their time to share their learning with a partner or small group and can peer assess. Students can also look over their own work and self-assess.

Don’t feel like everyone needs to complete all of the task in a set time. Your students can finish it later or not all. If you’ve seen enough of the task to determine if they have understood the learning you can move on.

Another way to reduce fast finishing students is to introduce stopping points throughout the lesson when students are completing their tasks. Stop regularly to ask students questions about their learning, give them other things to consider or share a good example of a piece of student’s work to show what you are looking for. This will encourage students to constantly be thinking about how they can improve and do their best work possible.

Fast finisher activity ideas

If you feel like you still need fast finishers, only you will know if these will work for you and your class, there are many activity ideas you can explore. Below I have created a quick list of some fast finisher activities you can use with your students. These activities can be used no matter what subject you are teaching and encourage students to further develop general reading, writing and math skills.

· Write a journal entry about your day.

· Write instructions on how to take care of a pet.

· Write a letter to your favourite celebrity.

· Find as many 3D shapes around the classroom as you can.

· Pick a book. Write a prediction about what you think will happen.

· Write instructions on how to play your favourite game.

If you are looking for more fast finisher activity ideas, you can save precious planning time if you purchase my Fast Finisher Activity Cards here. This resource includes 100 fast finisher activity ideas so you will never run out of ways to keep your students engaged.

Overall, fast finisher activities of some sort can make your day run more smoothly and help maintain good classroom management.

Remember to consider if fast finisher activities are right for you and your class and that you may need to try out alternatives if this works better for your students.

Keep in mind different ways you can support fast finishers in your classroom. There are many ways you can extend the original learning task without extra planning. You can also make use of reusable fast finisher activities such as my activity cards here.

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