20 Ideas For Students Who Finish Their Work Early

What Can You Recommend For Students Who Finish Their Work Early?

by TeachThought Staff

How to respond when students finish their work early is a classic teacher challenge.

Most of it boils down to lesson design–creating learning opportunities where students are naturally funneled toward extending, improving, and sharing their work so that ‘stopping points’ are more of a matter of scheduling than learning itself.

Most of it boils down to lesson design–creating lesson opportunities where students are naturally funneled toward extending, improving, and sharing their work so that ‘stopping points’ are more of a matter of scheduling than learning itself. We’ve written previously about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi ’s flow theory , where being ‘in flow’ is the ultimate form of focused, intrinsic motivation, and where students are so engrossed with what they’re doing that they lose track of time. 

In a perfect world, students are so moved to tap into this creative stream throughout the day that, upon hearing the bell at the end of each class period, they will join in collective protest to beseech their teachers to let them continue their investigations…

That modern teachers are bound by an antiquated, time-bound teaching schedule is no fault of their own; however, until we get to the point where a lesson ends when a student’s ‘flow’ comes to a natural stopping point, it is useful to consider how to differentiate content for students who will inevitably take more or less time than others to complete assignments.

With that being said, we’ve drawn inspiration from Mia MacMeekin’s infographic: Early Finishers – What to Do? What to Do? and provided specific examples of activities for the ten suggestions we feel are the most likely to enhance learning and prompt higher-order thinking.  

There are some suggestions we have purposefully left off of the list–while napping certainly has its benefits and texting can prevent a student from causing disruptions in the class, they don’t fit into the pedagogically sound types of activities that are designed to extend student thinking and learning. Also, if some students in the class are texting or napping, other students may see that as unfair and place their focus on those students, rather than their own development.

Most of our suggestions are compatible with in-person, hybrid, and remote learning environments, though there are a few that are exclusive to each mode. We’d love to hear about your suggestions for strategies that motivate students to stay in “flow” or willingly pursue further learning and investigation–let us know what works for you and your students!

What Do I Do Now Early Finishers Students

The Best Ideas For Students Who Finish Their Work Early

1. Dig: Ask the student to go deeper into the topic. Scaffold.

TeachThought addendum: Given the right access to the right materials (a book, app, collaboration, audience, etc.), this could be a default/bare minimum ‘what to do if you finish early’ strategy. 

When a student approaches a teacher to let them know they have finished a task, the teacher can use that opportunity to foster critical thinking and conversation. Ask questions like, “What was the most interesting thing you learned from this activity?” or “What’s something that you are curious about and want to continue researching?” or “How could what you learned today serve you in the near or distant future?” 

Based on the student’s response, the teacher can guide them to dig deeper – to conduct independent research and report back to the teacher with their findings, to initiate a conversation with their family members or friends at a meal, or to propose a solution to a problem that they want to solve. This ‘digging’ could also take place within a journal, where the teacher and student can communicate back-and-forth with each other about the student’s inquiries and learning.

2. Level-Up: Prepare levels, like in a game. Students start at level 1 and can move on to harder levels if they finish early.

TeachThought addendum: In 10 Specific Ways To Gamify Your Classroom , we mention creating challenges or quests as a great strategy to engage students in learning. Educators can level up an activity by challenging the student to engage in higher-order thinking tasks.

For example, when the teacher shares the learning objective at the start of each lesson, they can display what level 1 mastery looks like, as well as what level 2 and level 3 might look like. Whereas level 1 might require students to summarize a concept, level 2 might prompt them to come up with an analogy and level 3 might challenge them to create their own project–like an infomercial, experiment, or campaign.

3. Self-Assess: Give students the rubric and let them score the work. If their work is lacking, let them revise.

TeachThought addendum: Self-assessment is never a bad concept, provided students understand how to do so. In this case, it can help to provide examples of what ‘good’ work looks like. 

Let’s say that students are working on a writing assignment that will be scored using a rubric. Many students may appreciate the opportunity to view submissions that fall into these categories: does not meet the standard, approaches the standard, meets the standard, and exceeds the standard. 

A teacher can provide 2-4 examples of previously submitted assignments, along with a rubric, and challenge each student to score the assignments. Once they’ve done so, they can either meet with a partner to discuss their findings or corroborate their analysis with the teacher.

Even if their self-assessment isn’t very ‘good,’ the ways that it isn’t good is also a kind of data to further inform their level of understanding–not to mention that it requires them to review their work, fix any obvious (to them) problems, and improve their retention of the learning.

4. PBL: Create a larger/ longer problem that the students are working on throughout the unit. If they finish early they can pick up solving the problem.

TeachThought addendum: This strategy works for any content area. The teacher can challenge students to solve a complex math equation or linguistic riddle. Perhaps there is a real-world problem that students can solve using the tools and skills they are in the process of building. In addition to making efforts to solve the problem, students can also provide feedback to their peers’ attempts to develop solutions. 

See also  20 Simple Assessment Strategies You Can Use Every Day

5. Master: Encourage early finishers to master the skill as opposed to finishing the skill.

TeachThought addendum: This would be a challenge to implement–designed into the lesson itself, if not the entire curriculum. But it’s a fantastic idea if done well.

To start, teachers can ask the student to explain the difference between meeting a standard and exceeding a standard. From there, what would it take for the student to go from meeting the standard to exceeding it? The teacher can suggest a pathway for the student to take, or even better, the student can generate their own idea.

Let’s say that a student can identify the three branches of the U.S. government and explain how they work together to provide a system of checks and balances. If that level of comprehension constitutes meeting a standard, then the student can attempt to master that standard by identifying loopholes or applying that system to a different sociopolitical context. 

Alternatively–might the student seek out the opportunity to interview someone who has experience working within the federal government? Could a student create their own system of checks and balances that improves upon the weaknesses of the current system? You can see here how mastery of a concept requires a student to engage their thinking skills beyond mere recall and recognition.

6. Team: Have on standby team-building activities that early finishers can engage in with their team.

TeachThought addendum: Whether your game challenges students to build a physical structure, solve a hypothetical problem, or complete a scavenger hunt, team-building activities encourage students to listen to different perspectives, show cooperation, consider varying solutions, and experiment with group roles. We offer up several student-friendly suggestions in 10 Team-Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking .

7. Document learning via KWL chart

TeachThought addendum: If you’re unfamiliar with this type of graphic organizer, a KWL chart consists of three columns with the following headings from left to right: (1) What do I already know about a topic/concept? (2) What would I like to know about a topic/concept? and (3) What did I learn about a topic/concept?

Typically, the student will fill in their responses for the first two columns at the start of a lesson. Many students use the second column to write questions they hope to find answers to during the lesson. For example, if a class is learning about proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, they might include the following questions in the middle column:

At the end of their lesson, students can complete the third column of the KWL chart by summarizing what they’ve learned. Ideally, they’ll be able to answer some of the questions from the middle column. Better yet, they will have learned more than what they were hoping to learn.

8. Partner: Create a partner system. When your partner is done, trade, assess, support, and/or critique.

TeachThought addendum: Choosing the right ‘fit’ in terms of readiness, reading level, ability, personality, etc., would be important for this to work. It may also be useful for students to purposefully seek out opposing perspectives. 

We love an activity called Ongoing Conversations where students are required to converse with each student in their class for a minimum of two minutes and synthesize those comments with their own thinking before they can continue a conversation with someone they’ve previously spoken with. Many teachers get frustrated when students seek out the same partners to work with; this activity gamifies the process of collaborating with different people and can help more shy and reticent students move outside of their comfort zones.

9. Plan: Ask students to help plan the next level.

TeachThought addendum: This would do wonders to improve understanding and strengthen content knowledge if students were engaged enough to ‘care’ and do this well.

Let’s drop into a foreign language class where students are learning how to order different foods and beverages in a restaurant. By challenging students to plan for what comes next, teachers might find that they think of really creative ideas! For example, one student might propose a plan to turn the class into a food court, where students are divided into small groups of 4-5 students who are charged with developing a concept and menu. Students can then float from restaurant to restaurant and practice ordering the different items on the menu. Talk about food for thought!

Using Scattergories, students can time each other to generate related ideas to a learning objective that starts with a single letter. For example, one student might choose the letter S, and other students would have two minutes to jot down as many concepts as they can think of which are related to photosynthesis and start with the letter S.

10. Game: Allow students to create a game.

TeachThought addendum: Challenging students to create a game out of a new concept or skill is a great way to move them into a state of flow. You can either prompt them to design a new game from the ground up or provide them with board games to ‘re-invent’ for their own purposes. 

For example, the game of LIFE could be used as a base for illustrating any kind of timeline or process across disciplines. Students learning about climate change could create a game, based on LIFE, that rewards players for environmentally-friendly behaviors while penalizing them for environmentally-harmful or unsustainable choices.

Early Finishers: Other Things Students Who Complete Their Work Can Do While Waiting

Here are a few other ideas though the fit for each can be narrow. A game of chess could actually dissuade some students, while others could hastily complete an assignment just to go play the game. As always, use your best judgment as a teacher.

11. Play a game of chess

12. Play Civilization VI

13. Meta-cognitive journaling (use a prompt to write a short journal entry about the assignment and their thinking/’doing’ during its completion).

14. Genius time (see here to read more about Genius Hour )

15. Ongoing passion projects (like mini-PBL projects mashed with Genius Hour)

16. Write a short letter, email, text, DM, etc., to a fictional character or historical figure

17. Doodle (it’s actually good for creativity)

18. Meditate (if they’re willing, this may be the best use of their time of all the ideas here)

19. Write a gratitude journal entry

20. Ask and improve a question (or simply brainstorm a list of questions about anything–from the lesson, from your content area, their personal lives, things they’re curious about, etc.)

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What does "Awaiting Reviewer Scores" mean within the context of a ScholarOne submission system?

I submitted a paper to a Taylor and Francis journal that uses the ScholarOne submission system. The manuscript status has changed from "Under Review" to "Awaiting Reviewer Scores".

What does this change mean? What is the flow chart of the different statuses for a manuscript?

Jeromy Anglim's user avatar

6 Answers 6

With a typical ScholarOne configuration, "Awaiting Reviewer Scores" means that it is actually out with (at least some) reviewers, while "Under Review" would instead mean the previous stage, where it is being considered by the handling editor(s) and might still be rejected without review.

After the review scores come back, a manuscript then returns to the handling editor for a recommendation, and thence up to the chief editor(s) for a decision.

jakebeal's user avatar

enter image description here

None of the answers above are accurate at least in my scenario. I had a revision decision, and after I submitted the revision, the status went to "Under review", and after about 4 weeks, it has now changed to "Awaiting reviewer scores". In this case, the reviewers were already lined up to get the revision, and so it doesn't make sense for "awaiting reviewer scores" to just mean that the reviewing is in progress -- in fact, it's "under review" that means that, and it doesn't make sense for "under review" to mean pre-screening. What the "awaiting reviewer scores" most plausibly means here is that the reviews are now due! 4 weeks is also the time I'd expect the AE to allot for the reviewers (from past experience), and so the timing is right for the status to change from "Under review" to "Awaiting reviewer scores" - so it just means some reviewers haven't yet submitted it and the reviews are either due or overdue. This explanation also makes sense if you just look at the English of the status "Under review" and "Awaiting reviewer scores" -- the scores aren't awaited unless it's due! It's probably why they chose this language for the status message. In addition, for all my submissions in the past, the "Under review" status has always meant that the paper was actually with the reviewers as opposed to with the AE waiting for the assignment; papers have been in the "Under review" status for me for several months after which they change to "Awaiting AE recommendation". So it makes no sense that "Under review" means pre-screening (as suggested by one of the comments) - it may be different for different journals but I doubt that is the case for any journal.

nineth's user avatar

"Awaiting Reviewer Scores" means that the paper has been assigned the minimum amount of reviewers that the Associate Editor has set for the manuscript. The minimum would be either two or three depending on the publication but the associate editor might have sent a few more invitations around. "Under Review" means that reviewers have been selected and invitations have been sent out but some of them have not responded yet or some of them have rejected the invitation and the editorial board is still looking for reviewers.

I also think that it is up to the specific settings of each journal to show the different status of the review process. In some you can see "Under Review", "Awaiting Associate Editor Recommendation", "Awaiting EIC decision" etc but in others you just see "Under review" for the whole process.

o4tlulz's user avatar

Yes, Indeed mine is undergoing the same process as we speak. under review basically means that your manuscript is still with the handling editor and is being reviewed if instructions were followed, thus fit enough to be sent to blind reviewers. Awaiting reviewer score, it has been sent out to selected reviewers and is still awaiting for their scores (comments).

user32537's user avatar

Awaiting reviewers scores simply mean the article is with the reviewers and the journal office is waiting for the comments.

Under review also can mean that the article is being considered by the science editor for technical and English language check or it is with the subject editor and he is evaluating it for external review, or the article is with the reviewer for evaluation.

So, the former (Awaiting reviewers scores) is a direct statement that the article is with the reviewers.

user41177's user avatar

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Q: How much time would it take for the status to change from 'Awaiting Editor Assignment'?

I submitted my paper two weeks back. For one week, the status was ‘Awaiting Admin Processing.’ After that, and till now, it is ‘Awaiting Editor Assignment.’ What does this mean? What would be the next status? How long should I wait for the change of status?

Asked on 21 Apr, 2020

You have three queries. Let’s take them one by one.

Meaning of ‘Awaiting Editor Assignment’

This means that your manuscript has cleared the admin check, that is, it was found matching the journal’s scope and also adhering to the journal’s guidelines, apart from a cursory check of the novelty and quality of the study. Your manuscript is now waiting to be assigned to an associate editor (AE), who will go through it in greater detail. If they are satisfied with the basic science in the paper, they will send it for a peer review. If not, that is, if they believe the paper is not of great scientific merit, they will convey their decision to the Editor-in-Chief (EiC), who will make the final decision.

Next status

We can’t really predict the next status update, or when it will be. However, as just discussed, there could be either of two decisions. The paper could be sent for peer review, which could be indicated by a status such as ‘Under Review’ or ‘Under Technical Review.’ (The exact status description depends on the specific journal.) If it is not sent for peer review, the status could be something like ‘Decision in Process,’ with the EiC having to make the final decision on the paper.

For an explanation of similar status updates, you may refer to the following queries by other users:

Waiting time

As it has been only two weeks since you submitted your paper and only one week since the status changed to ‘Awaiting Editor Assignment,’ you may need to wait for some time, let’s say, two-three weeks, for the next status update. If there is no update by then, you may consider writing to the editor about it.

For a greater understanding of journal statuses and communication, and being a regular subscriber to the forum, you may find it especially worthwhile to invest in the following handbooks :

For the same reason, you may also wish to check out Researcher Voice , a new social-media (Facebook) group that brings together researchers from different fields, where you all can talk about various aspects of the researcher or academic life: aspirations, challenges, career paths, and so on. You may learn more about Researcher Voice here: Join a group that supports your research journey

For now, though, all the best for your submission!

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Answered by Editage Insights on 24 Apr, 2020

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This content belongs to the Journal submission & peer review Stage

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  1. 20 Ideas For Students Who Finish Their Work Early

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    In addition, for all my submissions in the past, the "Under review" status has always meant that the paper was actually with the reviewers as opposed to with the AE waiting for the assignment; papers have been in the "Under review" status for me for several months after which they change to "Awaiting AE recommendation".

  5. How much time would it take for the status to change from

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