Morning Work! Yuck! Seriously . . . yuck! We feel like we need to have something for our kiddos to do while they file into our room haphazardly in the morning. Most of them are on time, but many are 5, 10 or 15 minutes or more late for class.
I hate starting a new lesson without all of them there, so I have been forced to have SOMETHING for them to do for those first 20 minutes or so of the day. Morning Work! Blah!
While I have no opposition to a daily activity sheet now and then in the morning, if it’s done everyday it’s boring for them and even more boring for me. Did I tell you I hate paperwork? I understand the necessity of paperwork for demonstrating understanding or for accountability from time to time, but I also believe in the benefits of meaningful and engaging practice.
So I changed my morning work.
Every kindergarten class has their own personality, likes and dislikes, motivators and favorite activities. This year’s class is all about spinners and sensory tables and by changing the way I do morning work, I can give them that.
Here’s how I set it up.
I have twelve drawers with various, differentiated activities inside. (These drawers are by Steralite and you can get more information about them HERE.) Most are spinner games which they beg for, but, because my students are also loving sensory anything, I also included a sensory activity as well. But really, you could put anything in there. These are just things that are currently on my students’ most ‘want to play activities’ list and my most ‘want them to practice’ skills list.
Next to the drawers, I have a pocket chart with corresponding numbers and student names. The number next to the student names is the drawer that they work out of that day. This is very similar to how I set up my math stations.
Students are partnered up with other students who they work well with or who I think can challenge each other. The different colored name tags indicate different tiers of instruction. However, this does not limit who they may be partnered with. I am just as likely to put two same tiered students together as I am differently tiered students. And . . . just because you are orange one day doesn’t mean you will be orange everyday. I often am moving students to different colors based on their ability level for a specific task, recent assessments or observations. That’s why my name tags are never ever printed. I want to be able to change their tier quickly and simply. I do that by laminating the tags and using a dry erase marker.
At the end of the day, the numbers all move down so that students work out of a different drawer the next day. With 12 drawers, that’s more than two weeks of morning work if you only go through the drawers one time. However, I often have students travel to each drawer twice (They always want to go back to familiar drawers and never get bored believe it or not.) and that can make the drawers extend for an entire month.
I know from experience that in order for any ‘station’ type system to work, it is necessary for students to be responsible for it—themselves!!! I don’t want to be pulling out drawers and walking around setting up activities. So I showed each and everyone of them the way to pull out the drawers and put them back in squeezing the sides in when the drawer stopped to release the ‘brake’ system.
So they match their number up with the drawer number, grab their drawer and away they go.
Inside their drawer it might look like this. (You’re going to notice that I attached my transparent spinners to my cd cases this time with washi tape, because I always get so many emails asking how I get them on there. No drilling . . . it’s just a transparent spinner taped to the outside of cd case.)
In this drawer, everyone uses the same laminated response sheet but has differentiated spinners. So the spinner case is empty when they get their drawer.
Like using the drawers, I have also trained my kinders how to load their spinner cards into cd cases as well. So they take out their leveled spinner, place it in the case . . .
. . . close the case up . . .
. . . and they’re ready to get started.
By the way, I really like these spinners from Learning Advantage. Click on either of the pictures above to get more information on them.
Independence also means giving them the tools to take care of problems that might arise as well. So I always have a bucket of extra spinners at their disposal along with other necessary items.
With 12 drawers you are probably wondering where everyone’s working. As you can see, I let them choose. I only have one rule for where to work: Bingo dotters have to be used at a table.
My other expectation is that everything goes neatly back into the drawer. It takes practice, but they do get it.
One of the ways that these activities stay independent, is by including the activity card in each drawer. This gives students a visual of what they need to do with the materials and refreshes their memory of the activity. It also has the Common Core Standard on it so that if my principal ever wants to know what skill the activity addresses, it’s right there.
Because these activities are familiar, even when I change themes each month, students easily adjust to the skill or difficulty level, because they know the activity or game. That allows me a few precious minutes to finish attendance and walk around to see if everyone is completing tasks as they should be.
By using a small portable tote, I can also include sensory activities into this morning work rotation.
Students search through the sensory goodies for sight work I-spy cards.
Using a magnifying glass, they find their sight word and record it on the recording sheet. It’s differentiated, of course, so everyone is challenged at their own level of ability.
I love hearing their conversations and watching them interact with the materials and their partners.
It’s a good time for letting them problem solve and help each other out. This little one below was an incredible teacher to another student in my class. I sat back and watched her give him instructions without giving him the answer. They loved morning work that day so much, they asked if they could do this drawer during ‘rest time.’ Ummm . . . YES please!
Using dry erase markers and laminating the response sheets cut down on my paperwork immensely, and I still feel like I can get a good assessment of their understanding and skills by making a quick walk through.
I’m not going to tell you that my classroom is quiet during this time nor will I tell you that everyone is seated neatly at a desk and chair (I don’t even have desks for goodness sakes!), but I will say they are engaged and working.
And when they’re done, they pack it all up and slip the drawers back in where they belong.
That’s it! I’m sure this morning work system would work no matter what you put in the drawers as long as your students were being challenged at their own level of readiness, engaged in an activity that was interesting and the work is meaningful. Pick those activities that your students beg for more of everyday . . . smelly markers, play-doh, paper punches . . . And if you’re needing numbers for your drawers and pocket chart name labels, I’ve put together a super quick, nothing fancy, simple file with some that will fit HERE. Just click and you can download it to use yourself.
And if you’d like more information about any of the activities you have seen in this post, just click on the pictures above or the packets below to find out more.
So, what’s your morning work routine?