Our Favorite Extension Activities for Early Finishers

Veteran teacher and Advisory Board member Tara shares her tips for creating extension activities for early finishers.

Updated on: February 3, 2020

extension activities for early finishers

“I’m done. Now what should I do?” This is a question I used to dread. My first year teaching, I had a small group of students who would finish every assignment before the rest of the class. I knew I needed to find some extension activities for those early finishers.

Planning Extension Activities

When I first started planning extension activities, I knew they had to be meaningful. My students weren’t going to be engaged with busy work, and I didn’t want to have to spend time checking something that wasn’t giving me good data. I wanted to find activities that would challenge those early finishers and allow them to dig deeper into the concept we were studying.

The extension activities also needed to be something that the rest of the class didn’t have to finish. Since some students take the whole time to complete an assignment, they don’t get a chance to work on the extension activities.

Finally, I needed extension activities that my students could get started on independently. When they finish an assignment, I’m usually working with a small group. I didn’t want them to interrupt my group by asking what they should do. I wanted to find activities that they could work on without my help.

Over the years, my extension activities have changed and evolved. Here are five of my favorites that work for any subject.

5 Favorite Extension Activities

1. Choice Boards

Choice boards are my ultimate favorite extension activity. They allow your students to choose activities that fit their unique learning styles. Even though they are doing different activities, all the students are still practicing the same concept.

For example, if you’re studying weather, one student could pretend to be a meteorologist and design a weather map while another student researches clouds and makes a book about the different types.

Check out the choice boards for math, language arts, science, and social studies that are available on TeacherVision.

2. Technology

If your students are 1:1 with devices, a href="https://www.teachervision.com/blog/morning-announcements/diary-of-a-busy-teacher-using-technology">technology can provide some great extension activities. There are lots of websites for every subject. I like to create a Google Doc with a list of links the students can do if they finish early. Then, I assign it in Google Classroom so they can easily access it.

For math, I use websites like Prodigy and Freckle to give my students extra practice with the concepts we’re learning. When my students finish a reading activity early, they choose a book on Epic Books or Storyline Online. For science and social studies, I find websites about the topic we’re studying. My students love doing webquests to find the answers to extension questions.

3. Reading a Book

Reading is always a good activity for your students to do. You can go to the library and gather a collection of books, magazines, and articles about the topic you’re studying. When they finish an assignment, your students can choose a book to read to learn even more.

4. Design a Project

As your students are learning more about a subject with books and technology, they can make a list of interesting facts. Then, they can use those facts to create a project to share with the class.

I like to give my students a choice about the type of project they want to make. Some of them enjoy designing slideshows while others like to write books.

At the end of the unit, we set aside a day to share any finished projects. That way, the students who didn’t have time for extension activities can still listen to all the extra information.

5. Teaching Others

When students finish activities early, they usually have a good understanding of the material. If you have other students who are struggling with the concept, you can pair them up with your early finishers.

One of the best ways to learn is to teach someone else, so your early finishers benefit from this extension activity. It is also great for your struggling students, because they can often understand the concept better when one of their peers explains it to them.

Managing Extension Activities

I like to mix up the extension activities I give my students based on the lesson and assignment we’re doing. For some units, I have choice boards ready to go, so my students know to pull those out any time they finish early. Sometimes, they are working on a project, and they know to start it as soon as their work is done.

Having a variety of extension activities keeps students from getting bored. Giving them a choice about the activities they can complete allows them to express their creativity and show what they know in a different way.

When your extension activities are meaningful and engaging, your early finishers will be excited to work on them when their assignments are finished. They will get started independently, and you’ll never have to hear the question, “What should I do now?” again.

How do you use extension activities? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tara Dusko is a third grade teacher in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania. She's spent the past 14 years finding engaging ways to make her students love learning. When she's not planning lessons for her classroom, she is spending time with her husband and two children or trying out new recipes in the kitchen. Get some tips for reducing the stress of teaching on her blog, Teach Without Tears.