Early finisher activities for kindergarten and first grade. Fun activities to keep fast finishers learning after center activities are complete or during extra time throughout the day!
Early Finisher Activities
I am sure you would love to have a collection of perfectly timed activities in which all of your students complete their tasks at THE. EXACT. SAME. MOMENT… that is not reality. If you use any of my literacy or math centers, you know that some of them are never-ending, meaning they are never done. However, some center activities do have a beginning, middle, and end. That is where fast finisher activities come in! These are tasks that continue to provide learning opportunities for students who finish the assigned activity while the rest of the class may still be engaged in those never-ending centers.
Dessert Tubs... AKA Early Finisher Activities
Some time ago… I started making “Dessert Tubs.” I got the term “dessert” from my clever friend, Cara Carroll. That is what she called them and… well… I DO love dessert!
When students have finished an activity during literacy centers or anytime throughout the day, they simply go and grab a “dessert tub.” These were a great way to cut down on the visiting and gypsy-like movements in my classroom. And of course, my students ALWAYS had the option to read a book at their desk instead. It was important however, students understood that dessert tubs were only to be accessed when they had done their best work on the assigned task. I have had great success using dessert tubs in my classroom and have a few ideas to share with you.
What goes in the tub?
There are a variety of activities that can be used in dessert tubs. For my tubs, I had 3 guidelines for my early finisher tasks:
- I wanted the activities to be self-explanatory and something students were already familiar with. This was important to be sure students wouldn’t need to interrupt my small-group time to ask for step-by-step directions.
- I wanted the activities to be “paperless” meaning… no paper activity sheet. Students may only be at these tasks for a few minutes. I didn’t want MORE paper in my life… save the TREES!
- I wanted the activities to provide meaningful work in a fun way.
Early Finisher Ideas
Here is a list of early finisher activities that are low prep and can be used throughout the school year.
Number and Letter Formation
Can you ever have enough handwriting practice? These number and letter formation cards, along with dry erase boards make a great dessert tub activity for handwriting skill practice.
I may have a million of these little ABC games. They are quick and fun to play. They can be played with a partner or they can pretend to play with “Dexter” (my dog… who was not in the classroom). That would always make my students giggle.
As the year progresses, you can add CVC and CVCe word cards.
These board games are a great option for practicing literacy skills.
Time Me ELA Fluency Games
Time Me! is a great activity for practicing fluency. You can start the year with the alphabet cards, then move onto sight words. You can create several sets of cards and therefore differentiate this activity. SIMPLE! (There is a free sample at the end of this post).
Plus, this game is editable so you can add your own sight words. You can also give students the option of working with a partner to help them keep time and also validate their accuracy.
Sequence is a fun game that my students seemed to never grow weary of and they loved playing it during free time. Students will spin a spinner, then look for a picture that starts the same. The example below offers ending sounds BUT (once again) I have a bunch of versions… from letter ID to more complex phonics. These are a great warm-up for small groups, too!
If you’re looking to save colored ink, check out the printable pack! You can colored chips OR an ultimate kindergarten favorite… daubers!
Roll, Say, Keep
Another card game that has a TON of different versions for fun practice all year long.
Again, this game is editable so you can add your own word list.
There are also Roll, Say, Keep games to practice math skills! Check it out here:
Eraser Sort (FREE FILE #1)
I get so excited about new erasers in the dollar bin at Target! This eraser sort is a fun activity that you can add to the dessert bins any time of the year. Just change out the erasers for the season!
Your students will LOVE this early finisher activity!
BUMP Games are perfect for dessert tubs because of their predictability and they cover so many different math and literacy skills. You can see more about these games in this blog post.
100 Chart Mystery Puzzles
These differentiated mystery puzzles are so fun and make great fast-finisher activities that can be worked on over time by multiple students. This would be an early finishers activity that stays in a hundred chart somewhere in your classroom.
Your students will love the fun puzzles for each season of the year! You can try out a free sample from this blog post.
Word Building Task Cards
Your students will stay engaged in learning with these hands-on spelling activities.
I purchased the letter snap cubes from Amazon. You can read more about this word building activity and find the link for the snap cubes in this blog post.
This next activity is a new resource that provides a pair of students with a great opportunity to practice reading fluency.
The readers theater scripts are decodable and are perfect for the kindergarten and first grade level.
Climb and Slide Board Games
Another fun board game to practice alphabet and phonics skills. The seasonal board games are great resources to use during the entire school year.
Clip It Activities
These clip it activities provide engaging language arts practice. The best part, students work on developing their fine motor skills, too!
Play Dough Activity Mats
Dough mats are great for independent work and are often a popular free choice pick for students.
These play dough mats are an engaging way for early elementary students to practice math and literacy skills.
You can find out more about these play dough mats and ideas for using them throughout the year in this blog post.
Decodable Fluency Practice
That speedy student of yours will love these fluency practice cards. Add a sand timer to make this early finisher activity extra fun! These also double as a quick assessment tool!
Digital Choice Boards
If you want to go completely paperless with absolutely no printing involved, you can opt for a digital choice board with digital activities for students. A while back, I created a digital choice board template that provides student choice for early finisher activities that can be played using a tablet. You can download the free template and check out some different ways to provide extra practice using technology in this blog post:
I hope you can use some of these early finishers activities for your dessert bins! Don’t forget to snag 2 more free files below!
Dessert Tub Labels (FREE FILE #2)
If you are going to have dessert tubs, you need dessert tub labels!
Time Me Fluency Practice (FREE FILE #3)
Add your email address below for a free download of the Time Me! Activity.