I’ve told you before how much I dislike paper/pencil morning work. Blah! I mean, like anything, if it works for you, GREAT! But it has never really been an effective or engaging activity for my students. I needed something that would provide hands on practice but give them a chance to work cooperatively.
I’ve gave you a glimpse of what these morning work bins look like mid-year a couple of years ago when I posted about using spinners (click HERE to see that post), but I wanted to show you what they look like today! You know, what I need them to work on now is very different from what they will be doing later in the year. But we have to start them somewhere, we have to get them from HERE today–the today where they can’t hold a pencil or write their name or cut on a straight line–to the tomorrow when they are reading and writing and adding and subtracting. It doesn’t happen overnight, so we have to take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen those little fine motor muscles–morning work is perfect for that! (If you’re interested in checking out my monthly posts on Fine Motor Morning Work Stations, just click HERE.)
Last year my district made the decision to discontinue our Junior Kindergarten program. (That’s a debate for another time, and nothing I have control over.) While we have an amazing pre-k readiness program, what we have seen is an influx of children who have never been to preschool and have very little exposure to basic kindergarten skills. They have very little previous experience with a classroom setting let alone writing their name or letters or numbers. So starting at the beginning for these little ones is a MUST. And for the ones coming in a bit more prepared, they have been on summer vacation hiatus and need to re-ignite those fine motor muscles as well. It’s because of this, that my morning work is strictly geared toward fine motor activities the first few weeks of the year. They lay the foundation for writing and many of the tools they use I will integrate later into more academic activities to keep them building and working those fingers.
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HOW IT WORKS?
When I was planning on the set up for these morning work bins a couple of years ago, I knew that I would have one very LARGE mountain that I needed to conquer–SPACE. My classroom is very very small. So whatever I was going to use to house my activities, it needed to take up minimal space.
That’s why I chose this 12 drawer unit. I knew that if I had around 24 students, I could assign 2 to a drawer and there would be plenty of activities for everyone.
Each drawer as you can see has a number.
Those numbers also correspond to the pocket chart I have hanging on my cupboard above the drawers. Ideally I would have these lower, but I just didn’t have space. So this is where they live for now.
So when students arrive in the morning, they look to see which number is next to their’s and their partner’s name. Let’s say it’s number 1.
They simply pull the drawer completely out, carry the drawer to a location of their choosing in the room and start the activity. It’s super simple. I let them choose where to sit–unless it’s an activity that needs to be at a table because it will destroy the carpet. (If you’re eyeing my numbers and want to get a set of your own, just click HERE and they are available in that post.)
While they are practicing with their activities, I can herd late children through the door, gather notes and lunch money and take attendance. They get practice, they get to visit with their friends while they work and I don’t have to worry about collecting unfinished work or correcting papers. Woohoo.
So now for the good part. What do I have inside each of the 12 drawers? I’m going to show you. These are all just set up so I don’t have any ‘action’ shots but I promise I’ll have those for you this week sometime.
Drawer 1 – Paper Punches and Bright Paper
Now I know you’ve seen my FREEBIE for letter/sound recognition paper punches, but before I can get them to that skill, they first need to be able to actually use a paper punch. This station is just punching. They punch to their little hearts content and then the added bonus is that they have to pick up all the little holes that have fallen with their pincer fingers and put them in the little baskets. These Astrobrights colored papers are perfect for projects later on down the road so I collect the circles to use at a different time. This is absolutely the quietest activity EVER. They concentrate so hard when they are here. It’s tough and it is definitely a challenge and engaging for those needing to build some hand muscles. And if you’re interested in a letter/sound hole punch freebie for later, it’s available on the side bar of my blog.
Drawer 2- Pop Beads
Pop beads are a class favorite for fine motor every time. My kinders like to make patterns and see how long they can make their ‘chains.’ These are so versatile. You can add a die and make them a game. But for now, I just want them to explore with them and use them to build those tiny finger muscles.
Later, we’ll be using letter pop beads to build words. A reader found them and I can’t wait to use them. My set is on back order and can’t get here soon enough.
Drawer 3 – Mini Spirograph and Stencils
It take great hand -eye coordination and dexterity to work these spiral drawing tools. I love stencils for the same reason. The added bonus for this little activity is that it is especially appealing to those artistic learners who only get to Art class one time a week.
Drawer 4 – Pokey Pin Pictures
We use pokey pin activities quite a bit in the beginning of the school year. I like it for letter recognition and names, but these little pictures are great trainers for learning ‘how-to’ beforehand. Students select a picture that they want to ‘poke’ around and when it is completed, I remove the outer page for them and they can see the picture by holding it up to the light or a window. If you’d like pokey pins yourself, Mrs. Miner’s Monkey Business has a great set you can check out. Just click the picture below.
Drawer 5 – Therapy Putty and Beads
Therapy putty is different from your traditional play-doh. It has more resistance . . . almost like Silly Putty. I have several containers of it as I use it for Take-Home Fine Motor Kits, but I also like to include it in these drawers as well. If you add simple pony beads to the putty, you can have races to see who can remove all their beads first.
Drawer 6 – Nuts and Bolts
While these are available in a large plastic version, I prefer to use the real thing. My students always seem more engage with ‘real’ items so when possible, that’s what I’ll use. With these, students work to see who can get the most matched nuts and bolts and get them one all the way. Once all of them are on, then they race to see who can get the most taken apart the fastest.
Drawer 7 – Play-doh Extruders and Scissors
If you want to really provide some resistance for your students when they work with play-doh, throw some dough extruders into the mix. My students LOVE working the extruder to see what shape will come out the other end once they push it through. After it’s out, I have them cut the extruded dough into tiny little bits of play-doh, work it back into a snake shape and start all over with a new extruder.
Drawer 8 – Munchy Mouth Characters
This simple game is made from a tennis ball, a couple of google eyes, beads or any other small manipulative and dice. My students roll a die and count that many beads, mini erasers or whatever manipulative you choose to use and ‘feed’ them to their munch mouth monster. You make the monster by cutting a small slit in the tennis ball and hot gluing his eyes on. Then students can pinch the monster with one hand to open his mouth and feed him. The first student to feed all his beads to his monster is the winner.
People always ask me where I go my animal pattern tennis balls, and, while I can’t remember the exact place, I do know it was in a discount department store’s pet department. That’s where I would check if you’re wanting this exact type.
A regular tennis ball works just fine, but there is something about opening up that drawer and seeing this little buddy smiling back at me.
Drawer 9 – Plastic Links
Simple plastic links. For new kinders, these things are like magic. They love to make patterns with them, see how long they get their chains or just sit there and quietly ‘link.’ Since I will be using these for the whole year in a variety of activites, it’s great for them to get used to how they work and build that experience with them. Working those little fingers is a bonus.
Drawer 10 – Fill Your Lily Pad
I love using these tiny frogs just to have students pick them up with their pincer fingers. However, when I get them to use a tong to pick them up one at a time, then I’m able to give them a bit more of a challenge. In this game, each student has a lily pad. They take turns rolling the die and then placing that many frogs on their lily pad. They must pick up frogs one at a time, and, if a frog falls off their pad while they are placing other frogs on it, they must put that frog back in the ‘water.’ When all the frogs have been placed on a pad, students count to see who has the most. You can imagine, this is a class favorite.
Drawer 11 – Fancy Scissors and Astrobrights Papers
The only thing that could possibly make fancy scissors more fun would be bright papers to cut. Astrobrights papers fits that description. My goal is to get them engaged with cutting. They have such little practice and they absolutely love the different shapes and patterns that my ‘fancy’ scissors can make. I let them cut to their heart’s content asking only that they make their final pieces smaller than a coin. I use these pieces for a project for later on.
Drawer 12-Straws and Scissors
Want to know what makes a really great sensory filler? Little pieces of cut up straws. Guess how I get them? You’re right! I have my kinders do it. It is great practice to use their scissors to cut up straws. The straws offer more resistance than a simple piece of paper, and I love telling my student how they are ‘helping’ me by creating sensory filler. It’s an important job and they are more than happy to help me out. I never feel bad asking my parents if they can maybe help out our class by donating a bag of straws, especially when I can use them for my morning bins plus use them later for sensory bin activities. They are always more than willing to help me out if they can.
Strong fine motor control does not happen over-night, but by giving them lots of opportunities to pinch, squeeze, twist and cut, they will build those muscles. It’s important to build these kinds of activities into our curriculum and squeeze them in where ever we can. Morning work gives those muscles a wake up call for the day. But sometimes you need a little help from home as well.
I like to send this little brochure home to give parents some simple ideas on how they can help their child and why fine motor work is so important. For those cases where you could really use an extra 10 minutes of practice at home, I also provide take home kits for some of my students as a means of getting additional practice at home. Check out this post HERE to get a copy of my brochure and free take home kit printables for your own class.
I’ll be back later this week to show you these morning work drawers in action. So make sure you check back.
If you’d like to see the rest of my monthly fine motor morning work stations, just CLICK HERE to be directed to a list of each months’ activities.
UPDATE: After spending the last year posting about morning work and presenting workshops to teachers across the country, I had numerous special requests from teachers who required more than just 12 stations, ‘I Can’ sheets with standards and skills indicated and who had numerous questions. Taking all those requests and questions, I have put together a Getting Started With Morning Stations packet. If you’d like to learn more about this packet, just click HERE or on the pictures below.