“I’m done! Now what?”

You are in the middle of a small group lesson when a student walks up to you and says, “I’m done!  What should I do now?”  My first thought it usually, “Read,” but sometimes there is actually work for them to do but I just can’t remember in that moment.  Here’s how to solve this problem!

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Take a file folder box and create a hanging file for each student.  Inside that file include ideas of what they can do when they finish an assignment.  At the beginning of the year, teach them this system.  Maybe even hang a big “I’m done, now what?” sign over the box.  Let them know they should never ask you what to do next because of this box!

What to put in the box

  • Missed assignments.  Since each student has their own file, you can put work that specific students have missed in their own files.  If they are absent, anything you pass out to the class can go right in their file.
  • Make-up work.  If students don’t get to finish an assignment, they can put it in their file and know they will have time to finish it later.  You can also put in assignments that they need to correct.
  • Extension activities.  This can be especially helpful for students who are always on top of everything and never miss a day of school.  Include things like brain teasers, riddles, and puzzles.  For more ideas you can follow my pinterest board Extension Activities.
  • Menus.  Have a “menu” of items the students can pick from.  This is awesome because you can differentiate it so easily.  Make up different menus, at least 3, that you can put in different student’s files.  Have one to challenge students who are gifted, one to extended activities for students who are average, and one to support students with learning difficulties.  There are also some menu ideas in my “Extension Activities” pinterest board or you can download differentiated extension menus from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
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Here is a sample of the differentiated extension menus for independent work that I’ve made.  You can download them from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

  • Be creative!  Maybe it’s close to a holiday and you have so many fun activities but never enough time.  Put some of these activities in the files and if students don’t get around to them, they can take them home to work on.  
  • No name.  Have one file with papers without a name on them.  Before students can look at their file, they need to check this one and make sure none of their work is in it.  It’s helpful to put a sticky note with a list of names of who it might belong to on each sheet.  This way students aren’t playing detective on every page!

My hope is that this saves you time and sanity instead of feeling like more prep.

More than just “I’m done”

These files will hopefully be something the students want to work on!  It can motivate them to get their required work done so they can check their file.  Keep them fun and engaging, even though sometimes there is make-up work in there.  

This bin is also a great resource to use when the schedule is messed up or for when there is a substitute!  Instead of the substitute getting through the lesson too quickly and classroom management becoming an issue, the students will already know what to do and will be filling their time in an engaging meaningful way.

And of course, don’t forget about reading!  Somedays you can put a lid on the box that says, “Closed: please read.”  Maybe you haven’t had time to work on the files lately or you know the students haven’t had much silent reading time.  Reading is always awesome!

Ok, I’m done.  Now what?