In every subject, in every class, there will always be students who finish very quickly and others who need extra time. But, how do you keep the early finishers engaged and allow enough time for the entire class to finish?
I recently did rhythm composition lessons with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. We always complete an example on the board together and then they are given their own paper to compose on their own. Many students will finish quickly, others may need help and take longer.
These staggered finishes are perfect to allow me to also hear them perform their compositions. As they finish, they have to come to my desk and vocalize their rhythm while clapping, patting, or drumming on the edge of my desk. I tell them that an author wouldn't use words they couldn't read, so composers should not write music they can't also perform themselves. This also allows time for me to grade their papers in class and not have to take anything home! They get 2 grades during this assignment--one for their composition and one for their performance.
After performing for me, I needed something to challenge those early finishers. In the past, I've allowed them to get instruments out of the cabinet to perform their rhythms. But, this becomes very loud and distracting for those who are still composing. My 5th grade classes currently have 35 students each, so instruments were not an option. I've also challenged them to create more rhythms on the back, but only a few students were interested in that.
My newest idea was a great success!! I told the students to have others perform their rhythms and if they did so successfully, they can autograph the back of the music. I challenged them to get as many signatures as possible. They all loved this idea and were asking everyone to perform their composition. It allowed plenty of time for all students to finish their compositions with minimal distractions.
I'm sure the novelty of this activity will grow old if I use it often. So, please share your ideas below. How do you challenge early finishers?
More details about the lessons discussed in this post can be found at the following links: