ATTENTION, ATTENTION! You can be the FUN teacher but still, be the teacher who runs a TIGHT SHIP! 

So, in my classroom, I am known for running a tight ship, but a FUN one! Yes, you can have both! A HUGE component of having a successful ship, aka classroom, is ensuring you have established routines from DAY 1! Don’t worry if the kids like you or not. They will (trust me), and they will like you much more if you set up an organized, structured, consistent, FUN, and safe environment for them to learn in. 

I have found over the years a huge hiccup in all this “structure jazz”: those pesky (jk…sorta…) EARLY FINISHERS! Right?!?!? Those kiddos that are done their must-do assignments early bird status and are either standing at your side asking what to do next and/or who begin to poke the friend next to them because they don’t know what to do with themselves. Anyone, anyone?!?! Today, I will teach you all things early finisher and how to lock those kids down with FUN  and STRUCTURE. The answer to your prayers? Choice boards in the classroom.

Choice Boards In The Classroom

Please meet, Mr. Choice Board.

Okay, okay I don’t actually call him Mr. but it sounded good so I went with it. Moving on…

The early finishing kids seem to happen in all grade levels, but FIRST GRADE HAS IT BAD! I personally believe it is because there is such a HUGE RANGE of reading levels in our grade level. Therefore, kids really do finish assignments at such different rates of speed. I don’t want my high flyers/readers thinking they have nothing to do when they finish something, I want them instead thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait to pick something just right for me to do when I am done.” Different mindset, makes happier classrooms. 

How Does The Choice Board In The Classroom Work?

So, where do they do this picking (I could have inserted a nose joke here, but I will refrain)?!?! I teach my kiddos from DAY 1 about the choice board in the classroom. This is the hub of early finisher work. Teaching about the choice board in the classroom during morning meeting is a great strategy. 

It is literally a board (I made mine out of a piece of poster board) with boxes on it. Each box has a square of Velcro in the center. Super simple to make!

I label it CHOICE BOARD, and then I talk to the kiddos about what on earth this thing is used for! I lay out all of my Choice Board cards for them to check out. We read through some and chat about what some could mean.

I then introduce the first card that is going to go up on our board. My first card every year is READ TO SELF. On the first day of school, my main classroom library is closed (we learn how to use it and eventually open it during Readers Workshop). But I want and NEED my kiddos reading from Day 1. So, in each of the table groups, I have a bin of books that are accessible for my students (especially my early finishers!). We add the first card up onto the choice board in the classroom. 

Will They Really Pick from the Choice Board?

I explain to my kiddos that when and if they finish something early in our classroom, I haven’t given them a “must do” next activity. They automatically should look at the choice boards in the classroom, read the choices available, and pick something off of the choice board to do (they don’t literally take anything off of the board, they just pick the activity in their mind and go to do it). 🙂 

NOTE: I am also super structured with how I give my directions and I always make a visual list on the board for what they must do and in what order. Since I am so consistent with this, my kiddos learn quickly that if there isn’t a list on the board, they go right to the  choice board upon finishing.

They are NOT to ask myself, another teacher, or another student what they should do next. We practice this and we are SUPER consistent with it from Day 1. By the end of the first week of school, MOST of my kiddos have it locked down for the year. 

ANOTHER NOTE: The choice boards in the classroom is also not optional, meaning they MUST pick something from it to do if they finish early. The good part is that as the year goes on, you fill the board up with lots of different choices and the kids will still feel that freedom. By the end of week 1, I usually have 4 options on the board.

a choice board in the classroom with pink background and different options for kids

What Do You Put On That Gorgeous Choice Board?!

Yay! This is where the fun comes in! ALLLLL the choices! Let me share some I have used: (NOTE: Please remember each of these is taught in isolation and they are NOT all added at once)



  • Math Games
  • Coding Apps
  • Math Apps
  • Word Work Apps
  • Letter Writing
  • Writing Center
  • Class Journals
  • Share with Sheldon (he is our sharing sheep)
  • Partner Reading
  • Handwriting book
  • Pouch activity
  • Journal Jar
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Art and Draw
  • Center Time
  • Relaxation Station
  • Task Cards
  • Literacy Stations
  • Tech Time
  • Listening Center
  • Clipboard Activities
  • Word Sorts
  • STEM/STEAM station
  • Makerspace station

Choice Board In The Classroom: Tips And Tricks

1. Keep the Choice Board FRESH- no not with Windex…I mean change out the options OFTEN. You can even “present” the options during your morning meeting at the beginning of the week. I sometimes do this after a long break or if the kids need a refresher of what and how to use the board properly. 

2. Even putting the choices/cards in a different order sometimes freshens it up just enough. 🙂

3. Put some random SUPER fun stuff up there too (limited time “choices”) like Find a Friend to talk to, Listen to Music, Free Choice on the Ipad, Free Draw, etc.) These are things obviously you don’t want the kids doing ALL the time, but sometimes I do “flash” choice board options that last a day or so. This is also good as a motivator if you are doing something that you need the kiddos to speed it up a bit. 

4. Use it as part of other organizational techniques. For example, I also use a Ketchup and Pickle chart in my classroom on the board that shows the kids exactly what the must do activities are before moving onto the “pickle side” where they get to pick from the Choice Board. Check out more about this HERE!