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Ideas for Early Finishers in Art

This month, the Art Ed Blogger’s Network is talking about how to enrich art class for students who finish early.

I think this is an ongoing concern for most art teachers.  Kids work at all different paces.  Some students will finish their artwork lickety-split with half the class period left.  Others will work on the same technique or project and spend multiple periods working on the same piece.  So you will often have students at all different paces and at all points of finishing the project.  I see students twice per week for 40 minutes.  When kids know they have art twice a week, I think there is even more lingering over a project and not having the urgency to finish.  I have many tricks up my sleeve now for challenging students and to keep them engaged if they are a student that finishes quickly (and it’s usually the same students who are the first to finish.)

I have a poster for sale which lists many ideas for early finishers.

What Do I Do When I’m Done?

Clean up your area
Help a friend
Read a book
Work in your art journal
Share your work and get suggestions from a friend
Help with a task in the room
Collage Center
Make a card for someone
Do an art worksheet
Draw on whiteboard
Building center
Make an Artist Trading Card
Do a coloring page.
Draw your own comic.
Use a “how to draw” book.
Write a thank you note to someone.
Work in your sketchbook.
Do an art activity sheet.
Free Draw
Choose an object in the room to draw.
Put together a puzzle.
Draw a maze.
Do a word search.

If you would like to buy this poster which can be easily downloaded and assembled, check out the poster here.

Here are my GO-TO activities.

 1.  Have them do another. 

This is the easiest thing to do if you have the supplies to do so.  Let’s say they are making foam prints with a specific teacher-directed theme.  After they have made one, challenge them to make another one using their own idea of whatever they want.  They can practice the techniques and go in a new direction.

2.  Independent, ongoing project.

Along the same lines, perhaps you have a student that has their own special interest.  I have one student who really likes to make paper pop-up sculptures.  He is a quick worker and will finish anything I assign in half the time as everyone else.  When he finishes his class project, he moves on to making paper pop-up sculptures.  He has made a some interesting sculptures (including a pop-up safari scene) that were admired by many kids in other classes.  Another girl was interested in sewing.  She had a giraffe stuffed animal she worked on in between other projects.

3.  Extension of lesson.  

There are many ways you can extend a lesson.  Let’s say you are going to mount the artworks onto a construction paper backing.  The kids that finish early can take their mounted artwork and add mosaic pieces, cut paper shapes or patterning with paint or colored pencils to embellish their borders.  Here is an example of a mosaic/shape border on Primary Color Hands.

Adding a mosaic, shape or patterned border to an artwork to embellish the project.

Another example of “extending the lesson” is this Dr. Seuss landscape project.  First the students drew their own Dr. Seuss inspired architecture.  This was the main project.

When I teach this lesson now, I have “Create Your Own Seuss Character” handouts available to students to draw their own funny creature after they finish their landscape.  They can draw them on a separate piece of paper or cut out and glue to their landscape.  That gives an extra extension assignment to the early finishers.  I got the handouts from Deep Space Sparkle.

Dr. Seuss Creatures by Deep Space Sparkle

4.  Art Sketchbook or Journal

I have made sketchbooks in all sorts of ways with my students.

The easises is to simply staple some blank pages inside a large folded construction paper or manila folder.  I have many printable sketchbook pages you could print for your students to work on in their free time.  I like to combine some “learning sheets” with some free-draw paper and staple together.

5.  Coloring or Activity Pages

I know some art teachers frown upon coloring pages, but I think coloring is a fun to help people of all ages de-stress and spark creativity. It can be a way to meditate and focus on the moment.  I wouldn’t have students do coloring pages in replace of an actual art lesson, but when there are some free moments during the day it can be a fun extra activity.  I have a number of coloring packets in my shop.  Click on the image below to browse them.

A 1st grade girl colored this fun smiley emoji sheet.

6.  Read a book

Students can always benefit from more reading.  My bookshelves are always stocked with plenty of interesting childrens’ books about art, picture books about artists, how-to draw books and more!  Check out these listings for some great ideas.

6.  Art Prompts

Give them a drawing prompt to work with!  My Art History Sketchbook prompts are very popular.

7. Special Projects or Contests

I sometimes have special projects going on where kids can help color in a large banner or create a piece of something to attach to a large mural.

Once in awhile I will have a contest kids can enter.  Recently, some of my students entered the Life is Good contest where they drew something that represented why life is good.  I love this one!!

Let me also say that I used to have Legos, blocks, magnet tiles, kinetic sand, Play-doh and things like that available but I found that many kids would tear through their art projects just to be able to play with these fun activities.  So, I ended up saving the super fun building toys for center days or “free days” which they earn through a whole class reward system.

Art Teacher Blogs
This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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About Marcia Beckett

Marcia is an elementary art teacher and loves painting, drawing, sculpture, art journaling and clay. Her blog, Art is Basic, features many exciting art projects for kids.

2 Responses to Ideas for Early Finishers in Art

  1. Pingback: Brava Art Press » Students who finish their work early

  2. Pingback: 6 Early Finisher Activities Featuring Works of Art | Art Class Curator

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