Fast finisher activities are a must-have for middle school teachers when the students in your classroom finish lessons and assignments at different times, and it’s always good to have a plan when the situation comes up and you need an activity.
Ask any experienced teacher and they will tell you that a common classroom management issue is students have too much free time. They need to be kept busy with meaningful activities and schoolwork. Having some ideas for fast finisher activities can also help with classroom management.
Do you need a refresher on fast finisher activities – or perhaps some new ideas – for the fast finishers in your classes? Read on for both in-person and digital fast finisher activities in a variety of subjects.
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What’s a Fast Finisher?
There are generally two types of fast finishers you probably encounter in your classroom. There are the ones who race through just to be done and the others who likely finish because they understand the task and apply the lesson or skill to a high degree of success.
It’s easy with a quick glance at the work to tell which student is which.
If it’s the first type, instead of providing the next activity, I like to provide them with specific prompts to review their “raced-to-be-finished” activity:
- Make sure they include at least two of the unit’s vocabulary words.
- Make sure they have written in complete sentences or prompt them to underline keywords in their answer.
- If there’s a rubric, encourage them to figure out where their work fits right now; what more could they do to improve?
For the second type of student, it’s essential to have something for them to do next. The goal is not to increase busy work but to challenge, to provide space and time to think creatively and critically, and, in some cases, to provide some simple downtime before tackling a more intense next task.
Fast Finisher Activities
These fast finisher activities are ideal for the rotary teacher with many subjects. If you’re teaching English and Literacy, you probably already have a routine such as independent reading or using an article of the week.
Still, these suggested fast finisher activities might just spark something new for you or something you’ll want to share with a colleague in the same department or school. Use the ideas in the article and create your own fast finisher activities choice board for your classes. Students can select a different activity each time.
Read on for more options for fast finishers in your classroom. These suggestions include a mix of digital activities, as well as offline activities that are more low-key paper and pen tasks.
- Podcasts, especially short ones, are a good opportunity for fast finishers to practice their listening and comprehension skills. Plus, they can dive into a variety of subjects that may be of interest but are not covered in classroom lessons. Read this post about why you should be using podcasts in middle school. You can also check out this free listening comprehension activity to use with the Six-Minute Podcast.
- The Daily News with KidNuz podcast wraps up current news in 5 – 8 minute-long daily podcasts. This could be paired with a Current Event Assignment that’s ready for you to implement in your classroom right away.
- The Quill.org site includes free literacy, grammar, and comprehension activities with either a teacher or student sign-up.
- Students are usually not given enough time to think and express themselves creatively. Try some Creative Writing Activities for students who complete their work and need an additional challenge.
- Classic board games such as Bananagrams or Boggle can be played solo, in pairs, or in small groups.
- Blooket includes tons of created gamified lessons with questions from a variety of topics, or you can create your own. Tower of Doom is a Dungeons and Dragons-like game mode that is a good solo option for students. They gain strength and succeed in the game as they correctly answer questions.
- Students can also work on their reading comprehension skills with high-interest articles such as Japan’s Cat Islands Non-Fiction Article. Here is a full set of high-interest articles that you can use with your students. Assign one each week and your students will always have something to work on.
- www.Code.org – This website provides tutorials about coding, including an Express course with shorter options that can be completed in smaller chunks of time. Once students gain some knowledge and comfort, they can create their own apps and programs too.
- Classic dice, cards, and board games like Yahtzee can be played solo, in pairs, or in small groups. We Are Teachers has 20 Fun Dice Games Teachers and Students Will Love.
- Logic Puzzles such as digital escape rooms and online games like Brainzilla, Sudoku and KenKen are all great ideas.
- Digital Escape Rooms are a perfect fit for logic combined with other subject-specific topics. Download this free pet-themed digital escape room that can be completed independently or in small groups in about 30 minutes.
- Check out Brainzilla, which has loads of fun educational games, including puzzles for all levels. Their Einstein Puzzle is a challenge that apparently only 2% of the world’s population can solve!
- If you want to stay offline, buy a big book of puzzles like Sudoku and remove them from the binding so you have a stash of loose-leaf options available. You can also show your students a similar numbers game called KenKen.
- University of Waterloo Problem of the Week – The site includes a weekly problem for grades 3-12.
- Podcast episodes are great for students to see math in real life. Check out this one – Podcast Listening Comprehension Lesson – Unit Pricing. Don’t forget to download this free lesson about Subscription Boxes and how companies are using these with their customers.
- Have students explore DNA with this free lesson on Dog DNA Tests.
- Seterra Anatomy and Science Quizzes – From plant cells to human anatomy to chemistry to cloud types to microscope labelling, this site has a ton of quizzes that are self-correcting.
- Outrageous Acts of Science videos on YouTube – There are 228 videos that challenge thinking about science, such as freezing anti-freeze! Each video is about 2-3 minutes long, and you can challenge students to come up with a topic of their own and research the potential. They don’t have to go as far as creating a video but can focus on a deep dive into the problem.
- Try having students work on hands-on STEAM activities – Using construction objects such as lego, blocks, or playdough can provide innovative ways to connect to the lesson. These might seem juvenile at first, but connecting them to course content can elevate them. For example, if you’re completing a unit like this one about Structures and Mechanisms for grade 7, adding building opportunities can reinforce the lesson.
- Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History – These critical thinking challenges ask students to explore and potentially solve different mysteries, such as the death of Group of Seven painter Tom Thomson. If students are short on time, the mystery quests would be ideal.
- World Geography Games has a series of games that will quiz students on world capitals, flags, oceans, mountains, volcanoes, and more!
- Geoguesser is a free online program that requires a sign-up. To play, you get placed somewhere in the world and have to guess where you are based on images, including Google Street View.
- Get your free lesson about China’s One-Child Policy, or be ready anytime with this bundle of 14 different lessons about contemporary issues.
- Try Tradle – Students examine the different exports shown on the screen and have 6 guesses to find the correct country.
- Mindfulness activities such as Zentangle which is a combination of mindfulness and art.
- Art Sketchbook or drawing challenges to think outside the box
- Have a page of pre-drawn circles with instructions that these are not circles. Students create other things from the initial object.
- Thinking outside the box with a “finish the drawing” activity. Part of an image is created, and students complete it, but with the twist that the anticipated image can’t be completed. For example, if it looks like the start of a fish, then the completed image cannot be a fish!
- And if you’d like to provide students with some time to focus on their own interests regardless of subject, you can try one of the fast finisher activities from this list:
- Homework for another class
- Typing practice
- Organize a section of the classroom
- Read a book from their collection or your classroom library. Check out this post about creating a dynamic classroom library.
- Classic puzzles – set it up in your classroom where students can contribute to the completion of it over time.
Benefits of Fast Finisher Activities
These fast finisher activities will keep students engaged in the classroom, reducing boredom that can lead to classroom disruptions. Additionally, you can mix some of these activities to create sub plans when you need to take a day off.
Do you need sub plans? Check out these Middle School ELA Sub Plans.