5 Ideas for Project Early-Finishers



“I’m finished!” That dead phrase all teachers don’t want to hear.

So what’s next?

First, I teach my kids that “finished” is the F-word. We don’t say that in our class when it comes to projects. There’s no such thing as finishing an open-ended project. You’re only satisfied, not finished. You ran out of time…or it’s good enough. But you’re not finished because there’s always something else you could do to improve your work. Like this blog post. I will reach a point where I’m satisfied with it…and I’ll slowly and reluctantly hit “Publish.” And then I will come back to it and edit some more. 😉

When we assign an open-ended project, it’s inevitable that some kids will become satisfied with their work before the deadline. Then what?

I give my students options, but I’m always aware of this: If the “finished” choice is more enticing than the project itself, then the quality of the project work goes down…drastically.

    • Mentor. My favorite thing to do with these kids is have them mentor other students. I ask the mentees if they’d like Sarah to mentor them, walk them through the project. If both parties agree on the working relationship, I do a bit of coaching (don’t force your opinion on the mentees, listen to their needs, stay with them, your goal is mentee independence, don’t do their work for them, ask me if you’re confused, you don’t have to know all the answers, etc.) Here is some impromptu footage of Jake mentoring Alyssa and Karla in my 5th grade classroom.

  • Create another mini-project. If enough time remains, students can zip through the creation process on any topic they’d like. This option reinforces the process and gives the students another iteration to improve quality. One example: How about you make another movie but do it on your favorite hobbies instead of the American Revolution.
  • EduChoices. I ask the students what they’d like to learn about in the 20 minutes they have left. 99% of the time, I say, “Go for it! Have fun learning about ____.”
  • Be a classroom helper. Some students enjoy contributing to the classroom environment by picking up, tidying, cleaning, etc.
  • Share about our class. One other “finisher” activity is to ask the students to report something about what we are learning to the community. They can write a blog post, create a documentary-style video for YouTube, or write an email to the principal…anything that shares and reinforces their excitement for their education.

What do you have your students do when they’re fin… satisfied?

Step-by-step student guide for making an Adobe Spark Video project

The 5-Minute MishMash Education Podcast

Published by

Tim Bedley

Tim Bedley has been teaching elementary school since 1988. He was recognized as the 2013 Riverside County Teacher of the year. Tim is also the founder of America's number one educational rock band, Rockin' the Standards. He also produces two podcast found on iTunes: The Bedley Bros. and The 5-Minute MishMash. Tim and his brother Scott are co-founders of Global School Play Day, a grassroots movement to promote unstructured play with today's youths.

One thought on “5 Ideas for Project Early-Finishers”

  1. I really enjoyed this post on what to do when students are finished. It reinforced what I do in the classroom already and introduced new strategies. The video shows the students in action and I could see the students connected to their classroom mentor. This is such a helpful video for anyone looking for ways to keep students interested and engaged after they are have completed their projects.

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