Purposeful Fast Finisher Math Activities Your Students will LOVE!

Every classroom has them; students who are fast finishers! As teachers, we need to plan for our lessons, but we also have to plan in place with additional fast finishers' activities.  Better yet, how about planning purposeful fast finisher activities.  This does NOT need to be a lot of work and stress.  

Purposeful fast finisher math activities that your students will love

Managing Students who are Fast Finishers

Before thinking about how you will manage the students who finish work, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Have they really finished the task to the best of their ability? 
  • Have they checked their work to ensure it is complete?
  • If they are always done their work early, is the task too easy?  

The first and second questions can be easily answered by checking in with your student and setting expectations for what "done" looks like.  Perhaps they are rushing to the "first one done," as is the case in my first grade classroom.  There is never any prize for finishing first, but first graders feel so much power in saying "I'm done" before anyone else.  

Take care of your fast finishers by keeping them engaged with math activities that promote skill practice.

If your students complete the task thoroughly and to the best of their ability and are still whizzing through the work, then perhaps the work is too easy.  If this is the case, it is time to make sure you differentiate for your higher achievers.  Making a change to a more challenging task will keep them working longer and reduce the need to have other activities available to them.  

I'm Done, Now What?  Traditional fast finisher activities.

My go-to activities for fast finishers activities for first grade have been the standard:  read a book, draw in your doodle books or write in your journal.  None of these tasks are overly engaging, but they all have merit.  Students practice reading and writing, but wouldn't it be better to practice math skills when they finished early in math (or any other subject).

Purposeful Fast Finisher Activities

My fast finisher activities are math tubs that I use for centers, morning tubs, and fast finishers.  Each tub is filled with the necessary manipulative and several activities to go with it.  All of the material needed is in the tub so students can take it to a spot to work and get busy right away.  There is no lost time collecting manipulatives etc.  

Math fast finisher activities that are grab and go.  Put the manipulatives in a pencil box and add the activities to a bin and your are ready to go.

The benefits of using activities like this over traditional fast finisher are many; Students are more engaged in what they are doing - it is not another worksheet or page in their journal.  It is a hands-on activity. 

Students are practicing current unit math expectations or reviewing previously learned content which is beneficial for retention of the content.  Finally, students are encouraged to finish early because these tubs are highly desired tasks that they want to use.  

Try out one of these activities with your students and see if they like it!  Click on the image below to join my email list and access this free activity to use with your fast finishers or as a morning tub or math center.  The beauty of these activities is that they serve many needs in the classroom.  

Free Pattern block activity cards that are perfect for your fast finishers.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can use these activities in your classroom?  Check out this blog post that highlights how these activities can be used as part of your morning work or math center time.  

5 Simple Reasons Why You Need to Switch to Morning Tubs.

Before you go, take a minute to pin this post so you can return to it later! 

Try purposeful fast finishers activities that promote skill practice in math rather than the go-to activities of reading and writing in a journal.  It's a better use of your student's time.

Until next time, 

How to Effectively Teach Phonemic Awareness Skills Online

Teaching phonemic awareness skills can be a challenge, but what if you are trying to teach phonemic awareness skills virtually?  How does that work?  Keep reading to learn more about some things I tried while teaching phonemic awareness skills online.  

how to effectively teach phonemic awareness skills online and helpful resources to use.

First things first... Knowing what Phonemic Awareness Skills Are

Perhaps you need a refresher on what phonemic awareness skills you should address with your students.  Well, you are in luck.  I have a handy quick reference guide that lists all the skills and examples.  You can grab it by clicking the link below.  

Sorting out the Logistics

Just like in the classroom, there are things to sort out before teaching, and it works the same way in a virtual environment.  First and foremost, your students need to know how and when to use the mute button.  Phonemic awareness is all about listening, so they need to be muted so they can hear you and not speak over you.  

Another consideration is deciding when you will do your phonemic awareness instruction.  Will it be during your whole group teaching time or during small group time?  It can work in both situations, but I prefer working on this in a small group.  Here is how I handle both scenarios:

Whole group instruction:  

All students are muted, and I let them know I am looking at their mouths to see their responses.  I say a word related to the skill I am working on, and, just like in the classroom, I pause to give students a chance to think and then answer.  I am looking at their faces during that pause time to see them moving their mouths in response. I then say the answer and compliment a few students each time, so they realize I am watching them even though I can't hear them.  

Small group instruction:  

This is my preferred method.  I can work on many more skills in different ways in small groups because the students can unmute themselves to respond.  I have had students take turns and unmute to share, and I have had all students in the group unmuted, and I call on them one by one.  

I can work on more skills in a small group, especially early skills like rhyming and beginning, middle and end sounds.  You can show them pictures of things and ask for words that rhyme or you can ask them to identify the beginning, middle or ending sounds.  You will have more opportunities to cover more skills in a small virtual group.  

Using phonemic awareness word lists online with your students is a good way to provide practice.

What resources can I use? 

I use the same resource in my virtual classroom as I use in my face-to-face classroom, phonemic awareness word lists.  My phonemic awareness word lists can be easily used to teach phonemic awareness skills virtually.  Since it is a listening skill, the word lists work just fine virtually because you still need to provide words for students to respond to and manipulate.  

Get a free set of phonemic awareness word lists to try with your students online or in the classroom.

Using digital activities is another way to teach phonemic awareness skills virtually.  My favourite for this is Boom Cards because students get immediate feedback about whether they are correct or not.  I am more likely to assign boom cards to my students to practice for asynchronous learning time than during our live meetings.

Teaching virtually is challenging, but having a solid plan and resources that work makes a huge difference in the success of your instruction.  

If you are looking for more information on phonemic awareness, you can check out these posts: 

phonemic awareness vs phonological awareness - what is the difference?

Phonemic awareness - using data to drive instruction.

I hope this post helps you navigate teaching phonemic awareness skills online.  

Until next time, 

How to effectively teach phonemic awareness skills online and the best resources to use to be successful.

5 Helpful Google Extensions for Stressed Out Virtual Teachers

Pivoting to virtual learning has not been a fun experience!  Kudos to all of the teachers who have been running virtual classrooms for quite some time now.  It is a totally different way of teaching! Not only do you need to teach, but you need to be a tech expert in navigating platforms, websites and extensions.   I am not claiming to be an expert, but being thrust into the world of virtual teaching has meant that I have spent a lot of time looking for ways to save my time and my sanity.  I am sharing 5 extensions that I am using and finding helpful.  

Let's Talk Extensions!

1.  Dualless

Dualless gives you the capability of having 2 screens when you only have one.  They call it the "poor man's dual monitor solution."  You can view two pages side by side.  It's a fantastic extension that enables you to see your students and present to them simultaneously.  

Try dualless to make a single screen into a dual monitor

2.  Fullscreen Interactive Google Slides

This extension allows you to present your slides full screen and edit at the same time.  To do this, you don't click present but the extension icon, and it mimics the page in presentation mode.  The only drawback I notice is that when you're sharing your screen, it decreases the screen's size, but you can still edit it.  I love that it takes away the sidebar, so it's not distracting.  

I love this extension!  I highlight text and instructions I want to call student's attention to during instruction.  The laser pointer is also a cool feature to make sure students know where to look on the slide.  I've found this extension extremely helpful when doing reading groups virtually.  It helps me guide the student's attention to words or sections of text I want them to pay attention to. 

Annotate in present mode - highlight and use a laser pointer to draw attention on your slide

This extension comes recommended by a colleague who is running breakout rooms.  She shared that it solves the problem of audio coming from multiple tabs.  She mutes the tabs of rooms she's not checking in on and then hops from room to room, unmuting as necessary. 

mute audio on tabs in your browser


5.  Just for fun options:  Confetti & Custom Cursor

Confetti! Confetti all over! is a fun extension that you can use to celebrate right on the screen.  I have used it when students answer a question correctly or at the end of a great online session.  If you're looking for something fun, check it out.  

Custom Cursor is another fun one with a different purpose - keeping the kid's attention where you need it on the screen.  Change your cursor to a crayon, pizza or any of many other options, and I guarantee the kids will be looking where you want them to look.  

Fun extensions like confetti and custom cursors keep students engaged in virtual classrooms

I hope you find some inspiration for your virtual classroom!  Stay tuned for another post that shares 5 FREE websites that I have found super helpful for planning my virtual classroom content each week.  

Until next time, 

How to Use Morning Tubs When You Can't Share Manipulatives

In the age of COVID, so many things have changed, especially how children can participate in hands-on activities like morning tubs.  Despite these changes, you can still get those morning tubs and manipulatives into your student's hands, and I'm going to share with you exactly how!  

You can use morning tubs in a socially distanced classroom during Covid.  Learn how to set up morning tub kits so kids can still have some hands on fun.

How Digital Task Cards Can Keep Kids Learning At Home

Distance learning, online teaching, distance education.  Call it what you want, but millions of children are learning from home.  As teachers, we have been moving rapidly from teaching our children in our classrooms to trying to provide instruction to them through the computer.

Use digital task cards, like boom cards to keep student engaged and learning while at home.

I recognize there are many models out there.  Some teachers are conducting online classes via video streaming platforms, while others send out content for parents to access.  Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I want to share with you a resource that will help.

Boom Cards!  

There are boom cards for many math and language skills including number recognition, addition, sight words and spelling.

Why Boom Cards for Teachers?

Boom Cards are digital task cards.  They are available on the Boom Learning website as well as Teachers Pay Teachers.   

Boom Cards give teachers the option to provide individualized practice for their students online in an easy-to-manage way.  You set up your class with Boom Learning. You can set up your class by manually adding each student or by importing a class from Google Classroom.  Assigning cards (or decks as they are referred to) is straightforward.  You can assign different decks to different students.

The reports inside of Boom Learning give insight into which questions students got wrong.  It shows their wrong answer so you can see if there are trends with their errors.  The reporting options are available to everyone now but only available with a paying account after June 30. 

You can check out a set for free by clicking on this image. 

free boom cards for addition

Why Boom Cards for Students?

It is easy for students to log into their accounts.  They can log in a few different ways:

  • Teachers can create a username and password for students to use when they log into Boom Learning. 
  • They can sign in with Google by using their sign-in for Google classroom. 
  • NO sign-in is necessary if students are given a fast pin to play.  

They are fun!   Students get immediate feedback about whether they are correct or not when answering the question or completing the task on the card.   Many decks have students manipulate something on the card, listen for instructions or type in their answers.

There are Boom Cards for every skill!  I have Boom decks for sight words, word families, blends, spelling, addition, subtraction, money and phonemic awareness skills.  You can find all of my boom cards and digital resources here:

Boom Cards and Digital Resources

Distance learning has become the new norm for teaching right now during the pandemic.  Use digital task cards or boom cards to have students practice important skills. Boom cards are fun for students and provide informative reports for teachers.

Good luck as you continue to embrace distance learning.

Until next time,

4 Tips to Help Manage Transitions in the Classroom

Transitions in a classroom are always a challenge, especially in a primary class.  Some of my first graders are super speedy, and some are like sloths!  I am here to share a few tips to help speed those kids up when you are trying to transition from one activity to another.

4 tips for managing transition times in your classroom