fun morning work ideas and activities for upper elementary

14 Morning Work Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

fun morning work ideas and activities for upper elementary

There is no one right way to do morning work in your 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classroom.  There is a wrong way, however - to not have a plan at all.  These 14 morning work ideas can help you come up with a plan that works for your classroom.

When coming up with morning work activities for your classroom, consider carefully how each options fits into your students' morning routine, as well as your own morning routine.  How much time do you have to prep for morning work?  How much time do your students need to do other tasks, like hang up backpacks and sharpen pencils?  

Use the morning work ideas as inspiration as you consider the needs of your own upper elementary classroom!

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Morning Work Ideas and Activities

1. Journal / Writing Prompts

This is a popular morning work idea, probably because it is so low prep.  All students need is a notebook and a pencil.  You could have students free write whatever is on their mind, or you can use daily writing prompts to mix is up a little.

6th grade teacher Makayla Adkins uses this as a way to have conversations with her students and to get to know them better:

"Last year I began journaling back and forth with my students. I started off writing every student a letter and ended with a question. Students read and responded. We did this back and forth and it allowed me to get to know things about my students that I would have never been able to know!"  I learned about students weaknesses, what they like that a teacher does and what they don't like, their favorite games to play, their family, and SO MUCH MORE!"

Writing back and forth with your students requires a lot more time on your part, but it also makes this a much more engaging activity with a huge potential for student growth.

2. Soft Start

Soft starts allow students to settle in before doing any academic tasks.  It's the childhood equivalent to sipping a cup of coffee when you wake up - giving your brain a chance to prepare for the day.

Usually classrooms that utilize soft starts provide students with a variety of choices as they come in, like:

3. Social Emotional Learning Activities

SEL (social emotional learning) is quite the buzz phrase these days, and probably for good reason.  Our students have been through a lot, and helping them navigate social and emotional issues is essential for success later on.

Using SEL activities as morning work is a great way to fit in time for this valuable skill.  Check out this freebie to get started.  

You could also use this quick mental health check in every morning as part of your morning routine.  

4. Have Students Complete Morning Tasks

If you often find that there isn't enough time in the day for students to complete different tasks that need to be done, then have students complete these tasks as part of their morning work.

You could have students do things like:

  • complete their classroom jobs
  • take attendance
  • make their lunch choice
  • check out books from your classroom library
  • fill out agendas/planners
  • turn in homework
  • prepare materials for later in the day (cutting, coloring, etc.)
  • if you use a classroom economy for classroom management, have students check balances, buy rewards, etc.

5. Brain Teasers

If your students are up for a challenge, then a brain teaser might be a fun morning work option to start the day.

You could have students complete:

6. Review

Students will always benefit from a review of skills they have already learned, and mornings are a great time to do this.  This requires more prep than a lot of other morning work options, since you will have to prepare some sort of review activity daily.

Some teachers use already made spiral review activities to minimize the prep work, but the chances of those activities aligning perfectly with your own curriculum are slim.  Inevitably, students will be asked questions over topics you haven't covered yet, which can lead to frustration.

This 3rd grade daily math morning work avoids that problem by scaffolding the skills.  Even if students come across a completely new skill, the questions are set up to help students be successful.

There are also a lot of resources out there for daily reading comprehension practice or daily grammar practice, both of which make great reviews!

7. Finish Work

Let students use this time to finish any work they still need to complete.  This allows students to catch up without utilizing valuable class time.  You will have to have a different morning work idea in place for those fast finishers that have already completed everything, however!

8. Math Fluency / Writing Fluency

If you don't have very much time in your school day for students to practice different math fluency skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.), then mornings can be a great time to get that much needed practice in!

This also might be a good time to build number sense, and there are a lot of no prep number of the day activities out there (like this free one).

Or, use this time to build different writing fluency skills - practice skills that are often overlooked like cursive and typing, or consider using this free, no prep morning work that helps build students' writing fluency.  

9. Morning Work Choice Boards

Choice boards provide students with different options, and then students get to choose the tasks they want to complete.  They are often used for early finisher activities, but can also be used for morning work.

If you're interested in using choice boards in your classroom, then this free example might help.   

10. Morning Message

If you want to change it up every morning, then some sort of morning message might be a good option for you.  Every morning, write (or type) a short message with morning work instructions for your students.

This allows for a lot of flexibility.  You could have students complete any task   You could have students complete any of these morning work activities!  Some days students could work on a review activity, other days they might play with Play-doh, sometimes you might want students to finish an assignment,

4th grade teacher Ashley Uy has a unique twist on this.  In her classroom, each day of the week has a different theme with a different activity.  For example,

  • Motivational Monday
  • Think it Through Tuesday
  • What Would You Do Wednesday
  • Think Outside the Box Thursday
  • Friendship Friday

In Ashley's classroom, a possible Motivational Monday activity might be having students plot themselves on a mood meter and then write down a few goals for the week.

11. Genius Hour / Passion Projects

With all of the state testing students are required to do, students need a little more time and space to work on things that they are passionate about.

Consider letting students work on passion projects as they enter the classroom in the mornings.

12. Computer Time

Because of COVID, many teachers now have more one-on-one tech options that they didn't have before.  You can take advantage of this and make it a no prep morning work option.  Utilize programs like:

Or, have students practice their typing skills!

13. Center Games / STEM Activities / Makerspace

Use this time for different math or reading centers.  Set out games for students to play as they come in the classroom.

Or, give students freedom to tinker and create.  Place a variety of materials in a tub and let students get creative with a classroom Makerspace or by completing STEM challenges.

14. Independent Reading

If you don't have a time in the school day dedicated to independent, silent reading in your classroom, then this might make a good morning work option for you!

Have students read a book at your desk from your classroom library.  If your classroom library is a little skimpy, then these tips for stocking your classroom library for cheap might help.

If you're looking to add some quality literature to your classroom library, then check out these books that upper elementary students will love!

You might also like some of these other back to school ideas.  

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