This post is intended for those of you who might be newer to teaching and could use just a few tips about morning routines and centers. We partnered with Evan-Moor to bring you this short video and our best morning routine activities and strategies.
We want our students to feel welcomed in the morning, so this is a great time to stand at the classroom door to greet them and start their day the right way. While we are enjoying these short conversations as the students enter, we need to make sure that once they are in the room and their things are put away, they have a predictable yet meaningful morning routine to follow.
That said, we truly believe kids to be curious and social, so we don’t necessarily want this warm greeting to be followed by an entire classroom of quiet, independent morning work each day. But we also don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with planning and prepping for what might only be a 15- to 30-minute timeframe each morning. For this reason, we have always loved morning centers as a way for our students to start the day.
Planning Your Morning Centers
To start, here are two management ideas that might help.
- First, if you have a grade-level team that works together to plan, have each person create a morning center to match the month’s focus or theme. Each teacher can then create enough materials for all of the teachers. It’s so much easier to create four of one center than having to come up with all different centers on your own!
- Secondly, think about placing your students into smaller groups and planning for a six- or seven-day rotation of centers. This really helps to keep weekend work less overwhelming. (We all know we do it!!) Who needs to worry about changing all the centers when you are already trying to plan everything else for the week? A six- or seven-day rotation gives extra time to find more meaningful and engaging centers and keeps weekend work from getting out of hand.
Our Best Morning Routine Tips
When creating a morning routine, try to focus on activities that engage students and invite them to prepare for their day by sparking their energy and enthusiasm for learning. Here we have pulled together some of our best tips to consider when you are crafting your morning.
- Some predictability in your centers is a good thing. Routines often feel safe and welcoming to many students. Keep some of your centers the same all of the time. Independent reading, math fact practice (Bingo, math fact war with playing cards, or even flashcards with friends), and sight word practice can almost always be in your rotation and require very little planning.
- Another idea is to use Evan-Moor’s Daily Fundamentals series, which is ideal for morning work. This is a new 2017 title that provides daily one-page practice of reading, math, and language skills. Daily Fundamentals is available for grades 1–6 in teacher’s edition print or e-book formats as well as student books.
- Give your students a hands-on option. This is relatively easy to do if you think about keeping things open-ended and focus on math skills. Some quick and easy ideas for review or exploration might be:
- Measurement – Place 10–12 items in a bag for students to measure, and then place rulers and tape measures at the center along with paper and pencils. You could also provide names of larger classroom items (tables, tile floors, etc.) on note cards and add them to the bag. In that case, be sure to add some yard/meter sticks to the center. Change the items or the unit of measurement after all students have rotated through and you instantly have another rotation all planned!
- Mass/Weight Balance Scale – Place weights and several small objects in bags or tubs at a center for students to explore and compare.
- Counting Money – Set up a simple store with items, price tags, and coins/paper money. Students can practice counting out money and making change with their small group.
- Make use of technology. Students love the opportunity to take turns on an iPad, research a favorite topic on the computer, or even better, play a game on the SmartBoard. Of course, always have a backup in case technology fails you!
- Give children a chance to show their artistic side. Do your art smart students often get the chance to showcase their talents? Provide an art center for students to visit. It might be simple, such as allowing students to complete an observational drawing of a tree outside, a class pet, a plant, or even a historical object that goes with your current unit of study.
- Try to have at least one morning center that is review and skill-based that changes for each rotation. If you are learning addition with regrouping, provide extra practice at a center with manipulatives, dry erase boards, and problems to work. Try to think ahead and prepare some of these over the summer if possible so that your rotating centers will be ready to go as you need them throughout the year.
Finally, be sure your students know what they can do once they have finished their morning center if there is still time before the start of your day. We love jigsaw puzzles as one option. Not only are they engaging, but they also encourage children to work together as they assemble the pieces. For a challenge, we like to find a spot where we can leave a larger puzzle out at all times. It might take many days or weeks to complete, but the sense of accomplishment when students work to place the last piece is wonderful!
We hope these ideas will help to get you started on making your mornings meaningful and manageable!! Have any more ideas we could all benefit from? Be sure to leave a comment below to share!
This video and set of tips & ideas for morning centers was created in cooperation with Evan-Moor. This is a sponsored conversation written by us on behalf of Evan-Moor. The opinions, text, and created resources are all ours.
Jill McEldowney and Cathy Henry are neighbors and friends who both have significant experience teaching in the same large and diverse school district. Together, they developed and operate www.thecurriculumcorner.com, a site where busy teachers can find current, relevant, meaningful, and ready-to-go lessons, activities, and resources that fit their classroom structure and also meet national and state standards.