Some things that have worked for me with working with first graders; I also
have them for a 50 minute period, which for me is great, but sometimes
feels too short. Perhaps part is because I always spend a good 15 minutes
at the beginning of class in a group discussion, using prints, etc., about
what we'll be doing that day. I don't have troube with attention
span--0the children love to talk about art. Then, for children who finish
early: I have a choice of activities. Drawing with various materials is
always a choice. I also have a collection of art-related books, some that
I have been buying through PTO moneys each teacher in our building receives
each year, some which I check out from the library. I have been amassing a
collection of art games, also; such as Art Lotto, etc. which children can
work with. (again, out of PTO moneys). Later in the year I turn on the two
computers in the room., one to Kid Pix, the other to the CD Rom "With Open
Eyes" (those choices have to be time-monitored). Another choice has been
games made from the designs off the cover of School Arts magazine.
Sometimes, I will have gather students who have finished early gather up
front with their projects for a group discussion/critique.
Hope these ideas are helpful. I have also used them with kindergarten children.