5 Ways to Avoid the Time Trap of Preparing Daily Early Finisher Activities

Picture this. You've just finished teaching a super math lesson, and your students are engaged in an independent task. Ten minutes later, you've got a couple of students who are already finished, while most have lots to do. Are you prepared? Are you spending unnecessary planning time preparing for these students or constantly telling them to pull out a book? Here are five ways to avoid the time trap of preparing daily early finisher activities.

Photo of math morning work activities and manipulatives with text, "5 Ways to Avoid the Time Trap of Preparing Daily Early Finisher Activities."

Having early finisher activities ready to go when your students need them takes work. 

Paper activities require photocopying. How many will you need? How will you monitor which students have completed which pages? 

Photo of confused teacher wearing red shirt with chalked arrows pointing in different directions around her.

These activities are often meaningless busywork that isn't directly related to the curriculum. You need something fast. A puzzle or word search will fix the problem of students with nothing to do, but is it time well-spent?

Let's face it. Without suitable early finisher activities, you risk having bored, disruptive students.

How to Avoid the Time Trap

Choose Open Tasks For Early Finisher Activities

When you choose open activities such as task cards, your students can revisit the same activity repeatedly and always have a different experience. Resources like these allow you to prep once and be done instead of having to look for something new every day.

Photo of money task card and coins inside purple task card holder.

Use Materials You Have Already

Base your early finisher activities on the things you already have in your classroom, like math manipulatives. You don't want to have to search for materials to engage your students. I like to have the following manipulatives on hand at all times:

  • money
  • dominoes
  • linking cubes
  • beads
  • base ten blocks
  • dice
  • tangrams
  • pentominoes
  • geoboards
  • pattern blocks
  • snap cubes
  • counters

Photo of math morning work task cards and a variety of math manipulatives and bins.

Choose Engaging, Hands-On Tasks

When you choose engaging, hands-on activities, your students are more likely to stay on task during the work period. If kids are bored, they'll find something else to interest them, and that will often be chatting with their friends who may still be working. Having a variety of hands-on options means there's something for everyone, and the power of choice is HUGE! When students choose how they spend their time, they will be less likely to disrupt others.

Photo of beads and task cards on top of large container of task card holders.

Simple Enough to Use Independently

You don't want to be caught explaining extra work while trying to teach lessons or support the students who are still working! Be sure to prepare early finisher activities that students can manage and understand independently! 

  • Keep text instructions brief.
  • Include visuals to support students.
  • Provide choice so they may move on if stuck on one activity.

Photo of math morning work task cards with linking cubes.

Easy to Access and Store

I would recommend choosing activities that are easy for students to access independently and not a problem for you to store throughout the year. Students shouldn't need your help to find and get started with early finisher activities. You want as little disruption as possible for the students who are still working on lesson content.

Also, your early finisher activities shouldn't be a hassle to store. Do you really want a trifold board sitting on a table in the corner of your room all year? Will this withstand the frequent handling throughout the school year, or will pockets tear with repeated access? 

Choose a reliable, easily accessible location, activities that won't take up much space, and ensure they will withstand frequent handling to take the work out of preparing them!

The task cards in this post are a great early finisher activity option! They take up no space, and students love them! I print, laminate, clip them together by manipulative, and store them right in my math manipulative containers.  

Photos of math task cards for different manipulatives held together with binder clips.

I have more than 280 task cards ready to go and an editable template for you to make your own or adjust to meet the needs of your students! Click the image below to grab yours today or enter your information to try them free here:

Photo of math task cards with text, "Click here to get 16 Free Math Morning Work Activities."

Cover of math morning work resource.

If you'd like to check out more awesome morning work ideas, you need to check out this post:

Photo of math morning work task cards with text, "Fun Morning Activities For Elementary Classrooms."

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Photo of beads and task cards with text, "5 Ways to Avoid the Time Trap of Preparing Daily Early Finisher Activities."

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