How does your classroom look after the bell rings, first thing in the morning? Do your students know exactly what to do each morning and the classroom has a calm, orderly feeling, or is it somewhat chaotic, leaving you and your kids with a feeling of stress? If your morning routine could use a bit of improvement, here are five tips to create an effective morning routine.
1. Set Up Easy to Follow Procedures
Kids need to know exactly what you expect them to do in the morning and it needs to be explicitly taught, practiced, and reviewed. Just like any procedure, you'll need to think through the step by step process of what kids should be doing, before explaining it to them. Things like where to put coats/backpacks/snacks/lunches/notes and what to do first or what to do if they're done early. If you don't explicitly train your kids to follow your procedures, being the wonderfully smart kids that they are, they will come up with their own procedures, and trust me, you probably won't always like them.
Here's what I do but of course you'll want to adjust these based on your needs:
1. Kids line up at the door and I greet each child as he/she walks in the door.
2. Kids use the pocket chart (shown above) which is placed on the wall, right next to the door, to take roll. They move their cards to hot (buying in the cafeteria) or cold (eating a sack lunch from home) and if a card is not moved, I know that child is absent.
3. Kids hang up backpacks and jackets on their chairs and keep lunches and snacks in their backpacks.They place any notes to me in a special note box (they never hand them to me because I might misplace these).
4. Kids read the Smart Board for specific directions or reminders for the morning.
5. Kids complete Morning Work and then we correct together.
6. We go over the schedule for the day together.
7. We have a morning meeting.
2. Choose Morning Work Carefully
There are so many options for what you can do for morning work but to me, it's really important that I'm using this time wisely. Since my students spend about 30 minutes a day on their morning work, I want to make sure that it's meaningful, and not just a stream of busy work. For years, I tried to piece together work for them that I thought was valuable but I was never really 100% satisfied with this approach because what I really wanted was something that was guaranteed to hit all of the standards I needed to hit, something that spirals to keep skills fresh, and something that gave my students a little bit of everything (reading, language, math, social studies, and science) over the course of a week. I finally decided to take the plunge and make this unique resource. The great thing is that this Morning Work gives my students the practice they need, and the bonus is that I know the whole year of morning work is planned out and checked off of my to-do list.
If you're looking for a more complete, print and go Morning Work, here are the units I created for 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th Grade.
Whatever type of morning work you do, you'll want to to have it ready for kids as soon as they sit down. I like to set the morning work on student desks before they arrive. I actually set it out before I leave the day before. Besides handing it out as a separate page, another way is to bind it together for half of the year or for the whole year at a time. Of course if you bind it, you'll need to have the "don't work ahead talk" or one or two kids may complete pages ahead of time.
3. Check Morning Work Together
To me, morning work is a time to practice skills and to reinforce learning, and should be work that students can complete independently. The process here is what is important to me as a teacher, more than a finished product for the grade book. So, after Morning Work time, it's time to correct and I have each student correct his/her own and we go through the page together. Kids get immediate feedback, extra direction if needed, and I'm not stuck with a stack of papers to grade. It's a win-win for all of us!
4. Go Over the Schedule for the Day
The first time I created a visual schedule was years ago when one of the kids in my class was a little boy with autism. After learning how much a visual schedule and extra structure was helpful to him, I also noticed that the rest of my class benefited from it too. Since then, I made simple picture icons for each subject area or scenario I could imagine for our school day. I laminated these to use year after year and hole punched the top of each icon to hang it on a pin, which works like a hook. I use markers and write on post-it notes if anything comes up that isn't covered by an icon. The icons are stored in a little box next to my board (in the green box next to the plant, in the picture above) and I switch them out after the kids have left at the end of each day to get ready for the next day.
I do know that some teachers like to have times associated with their activities too, but this wouldn't work well for me. Of course recess and lunch are at set times, but we may finish word work at 10:00 or 10:05. If kids know the sequence of subjects and activities, this is usually enough for the great majority of the class and it prevents the "but you said that reading starts at 10:00 and it's already 10:05" kind of thing.
Once you have your visual schedule in place, it's a great idea to go over it briefly each morning, so kids know what to expect for the day. I do try to sound enthusiastic and cheerful about each activity to keep everything positive so we're all looking forward to a good day!
5. Have Morning Meetings
After we go over the visual schedule, It's Morning Meeting time, and kids gather around to share this time together. My students have always loved Morning Meetings and holding these meetings is not a luxury to me. Even though we live in a testing era, to me, Morning Meetings are one of the most important things a teacher can do in the day. Not only do they increase classroom community, they decrease misbehavior, and in my experience make a huge difference in the classroom atmosphere. During class meetings, we share what's going on in our lives, do character education lessons, have read alouds, games, and do quick activities together. I really believe that once you start doing Morning Meetings, you'll find that the time you spend in this social-emotional learning setting will be given back to you many times over!
If you'd like more specific information about how I run Morning Meetings, click here.
If you'd like to read about how I add Character Education to my classroom and to Morning Meetings, click here.
One of the things I like about teaching is that it's never too late to try something new. If you'd like to make some changes to make your morning routine run more smoothly, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to make an important part of your school day a little better.
Thanks so much for stopping by and please let me know if you try any of these ideas and how they work for you.
I'd love to connect with you!