The Early Finisher 

“Education is not something you can finish.” – Isaac Asimov  

As teachers, we often face the challenge of students who work at different paces.  And while in an ideal world, every lesson would be individualized and differentiated, with our time constraints, availability of resources, and other unforeseen challenges, it’s sometimes not possible.  So, when we hear “I’m done, or I’m finished, or what now?” we ask ourselves how can we engage these early finishers with fun, focused, and constructive practices of the targeted concepts and skills we’re teaching.   

The problem with some early finishing assignments is that they are often something students already know how to do, are unrelated to the topic, or aren’t moving them forward in their knowledge or understanding of the material.  And what we don’t want is to give them “busy work” to keep them quiet. 

The first place we start before having students move on is to establish if they are, in fact, finished.  We do this by having a system in place to ensure the current assignment is completed to the best of their ability.  When students know to expect this as part of their ability to move on to something else, they may give pause to rushing through it. 

Consider establishing a checklist or exit ticket that includes questions like: 

  • Did I follow all of the directions? 
  • Did I explain my reasoning? 
  • Did I put forth my best effort on this assignment?
  • Are the spelling and punctuation correct? 
  • Is there anything I can do to improve the assignment? 

Once students have answered yes to these questions, they are ready to move on. 

One of the greatest things about technology is its ability to individualize instruction.  It gives us the ability to pick and choose resources that are more complex for higher-level students and ways to reinforce concepts for those students that may need information presented differently.  Although the internet provides us with various readily available resources for our students, it can be overwhelming when trying to sift through what’s worth it and what’s not regarding content.   

And so, Nitty Gritty Science has done that for you by creating a PADLET for early finishers.  The PADLET is comprised of over fifty websites filled with science-based content.  These PADLET resources fit into or follow the steps of the 5E Model which personalizes and individualizes learning and promotes active learning.  Students learn to ask questions, observe, model, analyze, explain, evaluate, and draw conclusions.  

New to the 5E Model?  

The first step, Engage, is where students make connections between the past and present, demonstrate understanding by expressing ideas and sharing observations, and ask questions about why, what, or how a potential phenomenon occurred.  

The second step, Explore, invites students to investigate events or topics, make observations, establish relationships, and discuss problems with classmates. 

The third step, Explain, is where students explain evidence using terminology and scientific language and answer questions that make learning more meaningful and interactive.  

The fourth step, Elaborate, encourages students to extend, apply, and elaborate on concepts, skills, or processes.  They make connections, draw conclusions based on evidence, and communicate understanding to others. 

Finally, students Evaluate.  This is where students are evaluated on their understanding or progress and often includes a summative evaluation with a rubric.  Additional questions are asked for a deeper understanding.  

The PADLET offers resources ideal for reinforcing Life, Physical, and Earth Science concepts.  For example, if you happen to be teaching a unit on Mapping Earth’s Surface and have a student finish an assignment early, GeoInquiries are short, standard-based activities for teaching map-based content.  This one, in particular, comes with a clickable, interactive link and follows the 5E method step by step with questions related to the activity.  Or if you only have about five minutes left at the end of class, have students watch a Crash Course Kids video on topography.  This great resource on YouTube has short, engaging videos highlighting vocabulary students should know related to a topic.  

Regardless of what you decide, the next time you hear “What’s next?” you’ll know exactly where to go because the PADLET gives you more time for planning and teaching and your students more engagement in the science classroom.  

Check out all of the PADLET resources by clicking the link here.