Sunday, July 28, 2013

Early Finisher Task Cards : Beyond Busy Work!

My first year of teaching, late one Friday night while working on plans for the next week, I told my barking dog to "SIT DOWN AND READ A BOOK."  This is not a joke, a lie, nor an exaggeration.  It actually came out of my mouth.  In that moment, I realized that my early finishers had one option: "sit down and read a book."  I went straight to the teacher supply store the next day and got a few books that boasted FUN! for early finishers.  I made a tub for them, and the kids blew right through them, and I had a big pile of word searches, crossword puzzles, and the like sitting in my "turn in" bin.  {Granted, this was before TpT was around and some of the brilliance that is out there now would have likely saved me from making this mistake.  Oh, how I wish TpT had been around when I was beginning. }

Since then, I have totally redone my early finisher procedure, and this year, I'm making it even easier for the kids to access their choices and for me to change it all out.  I get emails all the time about my early finisher task cards and how I use them, so I thought this was the perfect time to go through it!

Here is how I go about using task cards for early on for a limited time freebie for your early finishers!  Keep in mind, also, that you can do this with ANY task cards that you already have.  At the end of the post, I have included a list of cards I use.

Each of my students begins the year with an Early Finisher & Incomplete Work folder.  They put any incomplete work in one side, and then they have an early finisher work log in the middle brads followed by notebook paper where they do all of their tasks.  The "rule" is that they can't have any unfinished late work if they are working on early finisher task cards.  They have a log where they have to record the date they finished early and the assignment they finished early in order to work on early finisher assignments.  I do this for a few reasons:

1) If they turn in work that is not up to standards just so that they can get to the the early finisher work, I have record of it.

2) If I have a student finishing EVERY single assignment early, that tells me they need more than *just* early finisher options.  They need enrichment and extensions in the core content.

3) I have a record to show parents.  If a student has never finished their work early, that tells me a lot when conference and report card time roll around.

I have them turn in their folders periodically (2 or 3 times a quarter) and thumb through them to look for these things.  I also look at the early finisher work they are doing (on the notebook paper behind the log) and write a few comments on it.  I DO NOT grade early finisher work, but the logs stay in their folders for the entire year.

You can download the cover and log for FREE.  Click HERE!
I have always kept my early finisher cards mixed in with my task card board, and this year, I wanted to make it easy for students to see what they could work on.  I searched high and low for a good container to organize everything in, but I ended up with a flip flop holder from Bed Bath and Beyond!  It hangs pretty much anywhere, is nice and sturdy, and task cards fit on it perfectly.  I just punched an extra set of holes in the task cards, put two binder rings on, and they hang so nicely and it takes no time at all.  I needed something that didn't take up much space, and this is it!

I kind of love it (even when it is hanging from my curtain rod).  There are enough hooks for 6 sets of task cards, BUT you can put them on both sides (it swivels on the hanger) for a total of 12.  The only thing that gets tricky with that is that it gets a little bit harder to take one set off without taking the set on the other side off, but it takes about 10 seconds to maneuver it.

Right click on the image above to save it and print it for your display!
My plan for this year is to leave one side (the side that is showing in the pictures) with purely creative and critical thinking task cards.  There are enough there that should last them through a year.  The other side will have my early finisher math and reading task cards, a set of task cards for literacy and math that reinforce the skill that we are working on in class, and a set of reading fluency task cards.  That leaves me with just two or three to change out throughout the year.  Easy peasy for me but engaging and meaningful for the students!

A picture of the package, in case you want to use one, too! Don't forget your coupon!
I just finished a new set of creative thinking task cards for my early finishers, and you can download them for FREE for a limited time (before they go up on TpT) by becoming a fan of my fanpage at Teaching With a Mountain View.  Click on "Fan Freebies" and you can get your own set of Creative Thinking A-Z Task Cards!  I'm pretty excited about these, and I think my students will be, too.

These task cards were free for several weeks on my Facebook Fan Page, and now they are available in my TpT store.  Check my Fan Page for new freebies!

Here is a list of all of the task cards that are hanging on my display as of right now.  I'll be adding the specific content ones as we begin working on them.

Early Finisher Task Cards

(Includes Language Arts/Reading, Math, and Critical & Creative Thinking)

(I plan to hang the monthly reading version as well!)

(From the brilliant Rachel Lynette.  I blogged more about her critical thinking task cards HERE.)

If you have any great ideas for your early finishers, I would love to hear them in the comments section!


  1. Thank you for giving me an idea of what to do with an octopus laundry hanger I've had for years!!! LOVE IT!!! I will be following your blog!

  2. Love this idea! I am pinning it and sharing it on my FB page right now!
    Patti :)
    A Series of 3rd Grade Events

  3. Your work is outstanding. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to using the task cards in my classroom

  4. What do your kids do the actual work on for the task cards? Do they have notebooks to records their answers.

  5. I absolutely loved that you shared this. I will definitely be purchasing some of your task cards. Thank you!

  6. I love seeing creative ways to display/organize materials! Will have to look for the hanging organizer over Thanksgiving break. :)

  7. How do the task cards that you have hanging on the one display last for an entire year? I am a little confused but love this idea of having an early finisher folder/notebook.

    If You Give a Teacher a Treat

  8. I love it that you realized your students only had one option (via the poor dog) and that you acted on that. I have observed so many teachers use that same statement and the boredom that shows on the child's face. I am excited that I have come across your blog and plan on implementing some of your ideas into my future classroom.

  9. do you have a link for the "early finisher task card sign"? /totally loving this idea, and am going to incorporate it this next year.

  10. You have really inspired me with your ideas. I had already realized that I too asked my students to sit and read a book. There is a limit to doing that, and I was doing it too much. I want to give my students more of a choice for early finishers. I really like your task cards. I already have your early finishers bundle. Now I need to put them to use.

  11. On your Early Finisher Work Log it says "Level 4 effort on your assignment". What is your Level 4 effort on your assigment look like?

    Thanks so much for sharing this idea. I am already planning for next year and will be using this idea.

  12. Thinking of using algebra task cards with my high school geometry classes, to help them review for the state test.
    How many copies of each task card did you have made? Do the students have to start on Task A?

  13. This is a shot in the dark but would you sell the laminated cards in a bundle already done and hole-punched? I would ABSOLUTELY buy it.. I love this idea.

  14. Do you sell any of your interactive notes for math?

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