Thursday, July 7, 2016

Morning Work: Reading, Writing, Centers, or Spiral?

One of the many things I didn't learn in college was the importance of morning work. Having a consistent, efficient morning routine can either set you up for an amazing morning of learning or have you worn out by 10, trying to get your class back on track.

Morning work is a HUGE part of how effective your morning routine is. I've tried a lot of different things for morning work over the years and I can attest to how it prepares everyone, even me, for the day. There is no one right way to do morning work, it really depends on your group of students and your schedule. Today, I want to talk through some of the different types of morning work I used in the past and what I got out of them.

Spiral review is typically the morning work I use for at least the first quarter of the school year because it builds consistency. I use Evan Moor's Daily Math Practice and Daily Language Review books, so the students have 5 math review and 5 reading/writing review questions every morning. I typically copy either one week or multiple weeks at a time and have them keep it in their morning work folders. Students know to come in, complete the questions, and then read. When I ring my bell, students put their books away and move down to the carpet with their morning work for review. The math review from this book is not super challenging, but I have to say that the one year I used this morning work ALL year, without switching it up, my students ended the year with phenomenal number sense.

Independent journal writing is another type of morning work I've tried briefly in the past. I would put up a PowerPoint slide with a new writing prompt every morning and students would either write about that prompt, choose a topic from the monthly calendar glued into their notebooks, or select their own topic. This definitely helped students grow as writers as far as written expression and composition. It is not a replacement for formal writing instruction because usage, mechanics, and format still needed a lot of work. One of the rules my students needed was no drawing until at least 5 sentences had been written. I also had a "must-start" time. Usually right after announcements, I would ring my bell to signify students that their prompt selection time was up. If students had not yet chosen a topic and started writing, they had to use the prompt of the day on the board,

Reading as morning work was by far my favorite morning work ever! It is outweighed only by the fact that my students had such amazing number sense from the year I did spiral math every morning.

I am definitely not a morning person. Sustained silent reading as morning work was my favorite because I didn't have to prep anything for it, it started the students off quiet/calm, and it gave me ample time to get in attendance and lunch count. This year, SSR will be school wide morning work, for the first 30 minutes of the day. As the departmentalized reading teacher, I love this! In my state, third graders have language arts for 90 minutes a day. When you have to squeeze SSR into that time (along with guided reading groups, whole group reading instruction, and writing instruction), the block becomes very tight. Having 30 minutes of reading first thing doesn't technically take time from my reading block, so I get a full 90 minutes with both of my reading classes!

Centers as morning work is something I've only experimented with briefly during my career. Students absolutely love it, but it starts the day with a lot of energy, so it can be difficult to get them refocused for a mini-lesson once all the morning tasks are done. I've found that it is definitely something that takes a lot of teaching, both with explicit behavior expectations and with how to complete specific centers correctly. Procedures can take a while to learn because students are excited to see their friends first thing in the morning and want to talk about everything. We had to have several class meetings on what "math talk" sounds like at centers to help them stay focused in the morning.

I would love to hear from you guys, I always get such amazing ideas from feedback.
What do you use as morning work?
Does your entire team do the same thing?
Is morning work at all mandated by your building principal?

Leave me your thoughts!

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