Stress-free Morning Work

How do you keep your students engaged during arrival time? You know, that window of time during which students trickle into your classroom. I've tried a number of tasks to keep my students occupied in the mornings until everyone is present: handwriting, journal writing, math facts, spelling work, but they all created more work for me with very little benefit. I got tired of keeping up with photocopying and checking worksheets. I also found that students would finish at different rates, leaving some with "nothing to do" and the slower workers frustrated because they never finished a task! I finally realized that there IS a stress-free morning work that I could assign to my students- read on!

Each day my students check out 1 book from their book box filled with "good fits" and free choice books to take home that night to read. (If you'd like to read more about my classroom library, you can click HERE and check out a recent post.) Each student has a folder with a reading log inside (I did not make the form you see in the photo- I found it online, and can't find where I saved it, if I even saved it at all! Sorry! You can find lots for FREE on TpT.)

They record the date and title of the book, put their book inside their canvas book bag (supplied by my school) and put it away in their mailbox (small classroom cubbie) until pack-up time in the afternoon.

The following day, students rate the book out of three stars by coloring them in on the log (keeping it quick and easy). Then they cross it off as returned and put it back in their box, so that they can check out a new book for that evening.

This routine is simple, and once it's taught and closely monitored during the first couple weeks of school, students can do this independently, freeing me up to check last minute emails, or prepare things for morning lessons.

So what do students do after they check out their books??? They READ. That's it. So simple. I have two large area rugs in my classroom; the shelves next to the "calendar rug" house students' book boxes, so I have students read on the other rug. I set out two classroom library book boxes on the floor, usually one fiction and one nonfiction, and let them have at it. Sometimes I grab a bunch of magazines from the school library, like National Geographic for Kids- they love the photographs!

With this routine, I get to remind my students about all the different kinds of books we have in our classroom library. Some boxes are more popular than others when they book shop, so there are book tubs that don't get much attention- I try to pull those out more often to get students interested in them. Most kids generally only read for about 10-15 minutes or so, but they are really engaged and excited. They share and chat with one another when they find something cool or interesting in their books! It's a nice social time- they get to greet their friends and talk about books, and it's just short enough that it doesn't get out of control. Another plus is that reading from these book tubs is no prep for me, and easy clean up! Everyday students use our sticker system to return all the books to the correct baskets. AND, no more worries about who has finished what- they're all done at the same time!

So what do your students do in the morning? What are your routines? I'd love to hear what works for you. :)

Thanks for stopping by!
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  1. We start each day with 30 minutes of free choice centres. The kids chat and socialize and play while I pull one or two students over for mini or catch-up lessons. There are also one or two parents in the hallway calling kids out to do their home-reading check. I just started doing this in October and I love it. It's a very relaxing and, I think, worthwhile way to start the day.

    I love your book session! It also sounds like a relaxing, but useful way to begin the day:)

    1. I love that your students get to start with free choice! Great social time, and catch up time for you- win/win situation. My kids have an early snack recess, so my schedule wouldn't allow for this, but it's something to remember for the future. Thanks for sharing, Barb!!


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