The importance of quality morning work is often overlooked in the elementary classroom. Your morning routine is the perfect time to set the stage for the day and sneak in some valuable learning time. If done right, your morning routine can be one of the most significant parts of your instructional day. Morning work should be manageable, relevant, and a useful teaching tool. After years of teaching and trying out many different resources, I’m here to help you get the most of out your morning work!
Why use Morning Work in your Classroom?
Why should I have morning work? – THIS is the question I get asked often. The answer is more straightforward than you think.
- Morning work acts as a transition for students. It takes them from what could be a chaotic morning and gets them ready to learn.
- Time is valuable. Having morning work that is effective can turn twenty random minutes in your day into quality learning time.
- Sets the tone for the day – Again, this is about getting students ready to learn.
- Reduces behavior issues – Instead of trying “calm” students when you are ready to teach, students are ready for learning
Characteristics of Quality Morning Work
There is “good” morning work, and there is “bad” morning work. If you are giving your students something to do just to keep them busy, that is not quality morning work. Don’t beat yourself up over it because we have all been there. However, when you do find the right resource, magical things can happen. Here is what I ask myself when looking for a quality moring work program.
- Is it Manageable? – To be effective, morning work should be doable. Students should be able to complete it in the allotted amount of time. Think of it like “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.” You want your morning work to be “just right.” If my focus is math, I like to give about 6-8 problems (depending on the concepts). For reading, a passage with just a few questions is ideal.
- Is it Relevant? – Any work that is given should be relevant to what your students have learned or the skills you would like them to master. I always make sure my morning work is directly aligned with my grade level standards and reviews the skills I know my students are required to learn.
- Is it Useful? – When I say “useful” I mean, is the work providing you with insights into your students’ progress? As a teacher, are you able to use the work assigned to see where your students are and where they still need help? For me, this is the most critical criteria for quality morning work. This is one of the main reasons I use a spiral review system in my classroom.
Spiral Review as Morning Work
After years of trying out new strategies for my morning routine, I finally tried a spiral review system. To put it simply, spiral review is when you consistently review concepts with students. What goes around comes around. You can read more about “Spiraling in the Classroom” in another post. Here is why it works so beautifully.
- Spiral reviews are short and manageable.
- The repetitive format increases independence, which is precisely what you need this time of day.
- Students get time to practice skills they have learned, on a daily basis.
- Teachers can collect data and see where students still need help. (progress monitoring)
- The data can be used to drive future instruction.
Here is a photo of what my spiral review morning work looks like for math, reading, and grammar.
My Weekly Morning Routine
At this point, I’m sure you understand why a spiral review is a great tool in the morning. However, you may be wondering what this looks like in the classroom.
- On Monday, I start by placing a new spiral review sheet on each students’ desk. Sometimes I focus on math, while other times I focus on reading and grammar. That depends on your students’ needs.
- Each morning, students complete one column.
- Before the day begins, I take about 5-8 minutes to review the answers. I often project the answer key on the board, and we discuss.
- On Friday, instead of their typical spiral review sheet, my students get a mini-quiz that explicitly targets the skills they have been reviewing all week.
- This assessment is what I use to collect data on where my students are currently performing and where they still need help.
If you interested in downloading an entire year of spiral reviews for your grade level, find the link below to get started. You will also want to check out my perfectly aligned spiral assessments.