Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What to do about "I'm done!"

We all have experienced the joys trials of teaching a group of students who work at very different paces.  There are those children who must be encouraged, coaxed, and refocused so that their work gets finished.  There are the kids on the opposite end of the spectrum who, it seems, have finished the worksheet before their classmates have even managed to get started.  What to do with the children who finish early? 

Obviously, you want to ensure that they're producing their best work and not rushing through an assignment simply to be finished.  I had one child who was such a pro at finishing everything quickly that I always saved my classroom chores for him (passing out papers, sorting things, taking a note to a classroom, etc).  It helped him to have something physical to do because he was very prone to getting into trouble and pestering other children within seconds of being finished his work. 

Other than classroom chores and the overused, "read your free reading book," there weren't many options in my classroom for early finishers.  I decided that this was the year I needed to make it happen! 

I'm going a totally different route with my Early Finisher choices.  I'm putting together brain teasers, puzzles, pentominoes, tangrams, 24, and the like with instructions for a short activity.  It's sort of an homage to elementary school math centers.  Each center will be stored in a zippered pencil pouch that the kids will select and take back to their seats.  I think the fabric pencil pouches will hold up and be easy for the kids to use.  I put a binder ring though the zipper on each pouch so it's easy to hang.  My hope is that these stations will build logical and spatial reasoning which are applicable across many subjects.  The start-up cost for me was about $20 for the pouches ($1.50 each at the discount store in my town, probably at Dollar Tree but not worth the drive for me) because I already had the other materials.  Most of them were sitting unused because I either didn't have enough for the whole class to use at once or because they weren't strictly related to my curriculum.  This is a step in the right direction!  I hope to create enough materials so I can swap these out mid-year.  Every term would be awesome, but I don't have enough materials for that just yet. 

These pouches are left over from previous students.  I purchased 12 more (not pictured) for a total of 16.

I also set up my classroom library in a much more inviting way than in years past.  I stacked some file crates sideways and used them as my bookshelves.  I placed some books related to math in a display.  I was so close to selling that pink locker storage piece because the pockets are so deep when it occurred to me that I could stuff the bottom with paper so items would sit up higher and be visible.  Duh!  My library last year, in comparison, had all of my books piled in one crate that was placed under a chair in a corner.  Not exactly inviting!  I could use some better books; most of what I have is so dated I don't even want to pick them up.  I will try to make it to a library sale this year in hopes of adding some attractive books to the collection and I'll go through my books at home to see if I have any that are age appropriate for the kiddos. 

Finally!  A classroom library with a bit of character.

Do you have any great ways to keep kids' brains active when they've finished their assignments?  Please share what works for you.

Miss B

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