Morning Work: My Favorite Part of the Day!

My first few years of teaching, I would stand at the door greeting every student as they walked into class and began copying the objective and word of the day.  I thought it was a genius thing to do- we engaged, then they immediately had something to do.   My low-functioning students knew exactly what to expect each day, were independent, it was a no-stress no-prep routine for me, and I rarely gave it a second thought. When I moved to a new school, I followed the same procedure, and it was working great (or so I thought). But after a while, I realized my students were not learning from just copying, and the routine had become stale.  I needed something for them to do that was low or no prep, followed a routine, and could be done in the first 5 minutes of class. After lots of research, blog reading, and trial and error, I found my solution: morning work! 

I spent a few hours over the summer with my pacing guide and created an outline with the topics I wanted to focus on during each month.  They fell into the categories of writing, grammar, phonics, and vocabulary.  That was a perfect way to organize my week.  I decided to keep the format for each week the same in order to provide the structured routine my learners needed. I included things my students could do independently, as well as things they would need help with, as well as topics that would promote class discussion. 

After just a few weeks with our new routine, my students were able to greet me at the door like usual, then come in and get to work on something that tied in to what we had learned or would be learning.  I found myself re-arranging some of my lesson plans to better incorporate my morning work topics, and vice versa.  If there was something scheduled for Thursday but we were learning about it on Monday, then I just switched up the days.  

Each Monday my students added the week's prompts to their own notebooks, and each Friday they turned them in.  I didn't grade each day's work, but we always discussed the prompts as a class before continuing on with our work. 

I could print them 2 or 4 to a page, depending on the size of my kids' notebooks, which varied year to year.  But since we've gone paperless, the kids use OneNote or Google Classroom to open up each week's file of work. 

one of my students researches the prompt of the day using his tablet

Morning work time quickly became my favorite part of the day.  I found myself really looking forward to the discussions we would have or reading the 20 word stories the kids would write.  Sometimes I'd let my students work in partners or groups to complete the day's assignment and that was always fun, too.  

I made a version for Google Drive, too!
If (and when) my principal walked in during the first 5 minutes of class, he would see my students actively engaged in review or enrichment that was on their level, not just boring seat work.  That alone filled me with a sense of pride, and dare I say, *hoping* that he would walk in just to see it.

independent morning work, great for 3rd and 4th graders. get the bundle!:

There were some times when my kids got really invested in a prompt, such as the research writing prompts on Mondays, that we'd skip Tuesday and Wednesday morning work and just work on writing.  I'd often have students suggest topics for the writing prompts, and most of the sentences contained the names of their sisters, brothers, and friends.  This was more than just busy-work or seat-work- it was a framework for our entire classroom.  There were many times I'd hear "Remember, we talked about that in Morning Work?" 

Just this simple change revolutionized the way I teach, definitely for the better.  Have you revolutionized your teaching? Tell me all about it!

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