It may not be long before the rest of the class finishes the activity in hand, so any extra activity given to fast finishers must be something they can do quickly, or something that they can put down at a moment’s notice. Ideal activities for fast finishers are flexible in their timing.
Correction & feedback
Once all the students have finished the activity in hand, the teacher will want to move the class on to something else. This means that the activity done by the fast finishers may well be left unchecked; the students may resent the fact that their extra work has been ignored. Ideal activities for fast finishers lead the pupils to self correction.
Extra activities that fail to consider the above points may be good activities, but it is unlikely that they will make ideal activities for fast finishers. A distinction has to be made between the terms ‘extra activities’ and ‘activities for fast finishers’.
Ideal activities for fast finishers
Titles and headings are often unexploited part of coursebooks. Write the title (or the theme of your lesson) at the top of the board at the beginning of the lesson. Tell the class that anyone who finishes an activity early should try to write a list of as many words as possible using the letters in the title on the board.
Each lesson, write a category on the board, eg Vegetables, furniture, extreme adjectives, adjectives, ending in ‘less’. Tell the class that anyone who finishes an activity early should try to write a list of as many words as possible that enter into the category.
TIP! Always have scrap paper in class to give to fast finishers. If the extra work they do is on scrap paper, it means that you can collect it in at the end of the lesson, check it, write some words of praise at the bottom and return it next lesson. Failure to give any kind of feedback on activities done by fast finishers will make them reluctant to work in the future; it will leave them feeling that the extra effort is unrecognised and therefore not worth making.
Most coursebooks have list of words at the back. These are usually divided up according to the units in the book or themes. Tell the students that if they finish a pairwork activity early, you would like them to quietly test their partner’s spelling. They should turn to a list and hold simple dialogues such as the following:
St A: How do you spell castle?
St B: C-A-S-T-L-E
St A: Correct.
Alternative dialogues might begin with, How do you say ‘mesa’ in English? Or What’s the past of catch?
Write a vocabulary card
Many teachers write new vocabulary on small pieces of card (fichas) so that the class has a record of vocabulary learnt. These cards may have the English word on one side and the Spanish translation on the other. Alternatively, the new word can be written on one side with its definition or a picture on the other.
Fast finishers, if familiar with vocabulary cards, can be asked to make one or two new ones, recording recently learnt vocabulary. Alternatively, when you have enough of these cards, you can give fast finishers a handful to quietly test themselves with.
Write a comprehension check question
If students finish a reading activity early, encourage them to write a question or a true-false sentence about the text. They should write this on a piece of paper. When everyone has finished the reading activity, the teacher (or the students themselves) can read out the question for the rest of the class to answer.
Write another example
If students finish a typical grammar practice activity early (ie gapped sentences or tense discrimination sentences), encourage them to write another example. They should write their sentence(s) on a piece of paper. When everyone has finished the practice activity in hand, the teacher can write up the fast finishers’ examples on the board for the rest of the class to answer.