If you’re reading this post and you are a supply teacher, you’ve definitely experienced this phenomenon more than once. The early finishers. The students who seem to fly through all of the assigned lesson material and work that their regular classroom teacher has left for them. While I admire these students for the enthusiasm for learning and their clear work ethic, it is important to be prepared for them as a supply teacher. Here are a few steps I like to take in order to do so:
- Check their work: Is there a name on the paper? Have all of the directions been followed? Is there a spot where the student might be able to add more detail to his or her work? These are all questions to ask the early finishers before they truly decide that they are ready to hand their work in to you.
- Offer a fun activity page that requires mindfulness and/or active thinking: In cases where all of the work for the period is complete to the students’ best abilities, I always ensure to have extra activity sheets in my teacher bag for them to move on to afterwards. This is sometimes frowned upon as “busy work,” but I am personally a supporter of this strategy when it is used well. I try to find fun pages that allow students to use either Math or Literacy skills (word searches, crosswords, decoding, colour by number, suduko pages, etc.), and even during times when the kids choose a standard colouring page, I am still okay with this because at this point, the work assigned to them is finished, and the colouring gives them a mindfulness break.
- Give them a job: Often times, the early finishers are students with strong leadership qualities. And sometimes, I look around the classroom and find a small job that can be done when a student’s work is finished. Are there any smaller spaces that need tidying? Anything that needs to be sorted or organized? Are the class pencils in desperate need of a sharpening session? Ask the student if he or she would like to help you (and in turn, the regular teacher) out for a little while. This strategy tends to work better with children in younger grades, but it is a great idea to keep in mind when students claim that they have nothing to do.
- Stick to the classic “Extra Time Killers”: If all else fails or for whatever reason you do not have backup work with you for the day, I like to suggest a trio of extra time killing activities to students who finish early. These activities are: reading, drawing, or completing a free write. The most popular choice will vary from class to class, but I love this suggestion as a final resort because in all cases, the students will be productive and learning, but in a way that they personally enjoy.
I hope that you found this post helpful! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what your favourite activity for early finishers is.