This post originally appeared on the blog Surfing to Success.

As the end of the year approaches, are your early finishers getting into mischief? Here are a couple of simple ideas to focus students on early finisher activities that will keep your classroom running smoothly at the end of the year.

Early Finishers: Being Thankful

Teaching gratitude helps students learn an important life skill. In the last month of school, create a list with your students of everyone who has helped your class this year including the people who keep your school running. Every time I do this activity, I’m amazed at who the students think of. Some people may include the principal, vice principal, school secretaries, custodians, librarians, specialists, parent volunteers, tutors, instructional assistants, and bus drivers. Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try.Once you have this list, post it somewhere in the classroom and leave room for additional names. Early finishers can work on thanking the people on the list. There are many options for this. Just pick the one that fits your kiddos best. A student could write a thank you letter from the class and then check that person off the list.

Each student could write a letter or draw a picture for that person that you make into a book. You can even turn it into an art project.

One art option is to die cut letters or print the person’s name in block letters. Let early finishers cover the letters in paper or tissue squares.
Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try.
The 1st graders that made this for our school secretary are probably in high school by now.
Another option is to make a poster. Some students can create the heading for the poster and everyone can create something for it and glue it on. An example would be a poster that says, “Thanks a bunch!” and each child makes a flower to add to a bouquet.
 
Several years ago, my 1st graders made a fun poster for our principal who loves Indiana Jones. The heading said, “Thanks for being our fearless leader!” I made a background that had Indy hanging from the ceiling and the kids each made a snake. I wish I was taking pictures of projects back then!

Early Finishers: Being Helpful

The end of the year is a busy time for teachers. (Like I have to tell you that!) With a little forethought and a class meeting to spell out expectations, your early finishers can help alleviate some of that stress work. Take a moment to create a list of end of the year projects that your students can help with. Some examples:

  • Go through markers, test them, throw out ones that no longer work.
  • Go through glue bin. Discard any dried up glue.
  • Go through colored pencils. Sharpen pencils. (Handheld sharpener recommended)
  • Wrap washi tape around class scissors, pencils, markers, etc.
  • Sharpen pencils.
  • Test white board markers, discard dried up markers.
  • Clean individual white boards with white board cleaner.
  • Go through each bin / shelf in the library. Put books in their proper place.
  • Go through bins of math manipulatives. Organize.
  • Use dish soap and a sponge to sanitize math manipulatives. (Clear guidelines recommended!)
  • Organize a drawer or cabinet.
  • Hole punch drawings and letters to the teacher and put them in a binder.
  • Take things off the wall and put into a container.
  • Wipe down surfaces that are forgotten.
  • Clean chairs.

Once you have a list, call it “Special Assignments” and keep it on a clipboard. An early finisher can request a special assignment from you. This way, you can assign a job that matches their ability / focus level. Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try.Remember, you want to be careful not to start special assignments too soon. You may want to call them Spring Cleaning rather than End of Year special assignments. Students start to get anxiety around the end of the year and connecting these tasks to the fact that they are leaving could trigger unwanted behavior. We are, after all, trying to make your job easier, not harder. Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try.
   Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try. Everything you’ll need to use these strategies is in this freebie. There is a letter writing page for Kinder, primary, and upper grades for the thank you letters. I’ve even included a special assignment checklist. One checklist has ideas to get you started and another is blank. If you like it, please take a moment to leave feedback. Are your early finishers needing some focus at the end of the year? Here are some simple tips to try.

While you’re there, be sure to check out my other K-6 freebies! 

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Mercedes HutchensMercedes Hutchens is a K-6 Intervention teacher with a passion for helping students meet challenging yet obtainable goals. In her 18 years of elementary education, she has fallen in love with taking complex concepts and breaking them into fun manageable chunks for her students, and then sharing them on her blog, Surfing to Success, and on TpT.  She enjoys taking photos while on adventures with her husband and puppy. She recently started sharing those photos at Dollar Stock Photos. You can also find her on Instagram, Pinterest, her Surfing to Success Facebook page, and her Dollar Stock Photos Facebook page — or you can look for her at the beach.