For me, having well thought out arrival procedures is absolutely crucial to my survival in an upper elementary classroom. Not only does the morning routine set the tone for the day, but it is also the best time of day to do all those annoying tasks like sharpening pencils and turning in field trip forms.
It’s also one of the craziest times of day (other than after recess and dismissal). The morning time is when everybody wants your undivided attention. Your students want to tell you about their baseball game or dance practice last night. Their parents want to explain to you while their child didn’t get a chance to do their homework the night before (because of the baseball game or dance practice). Administrators drop in to give you heads up about the new student you will be getting in about 2 minutes. And while everyone wants to talk to you, you’re wondering when you’re going to get a chance to make copies for a math activity later that day.
Needless to say, your life will be a lot easier if your morning routine runs like a well-oiled machine (even if that machine is chatty, inquisitive, and sometimes a little bit smelly).
Setting Up Your Arrival Procedures
There’s not one “best” way to set up your classroom morning routine – in fact, every upper elementary classroom morning routine is going to look a little different. However, I’ve found that most successful morning routines include some version of the following:
1. Greeting Students
2. Having Students Turn in Homework and Other Papers
3. Having Students Organize and Prepare for the Day
4. Taking Attendance
5. Having Students Begin Morning Work
You might not want to include all of these tasks, or you might want to add a few of your own. The important thing is that you plan out your routine before hand. Otherwise, students will create their own procedures.
1. Greet Students
This is usually your first interaction in with your students in the morning, so it is important that it is a positive one. This was so important to me, in fact, that I have another blog post completely devoted to the topic. Find out about how this small change in my morning routine made a huge impact on the rest of day. However you plan on greeting students in the morning, making an effort to greet each student individually (even it it just a smile) can really help you day start off on the right foot.
2. Have Students Turn in Homework and Other Papers
With all of the other things that students are doing in the morning, turning in important papers and homework is often the first thing to get neglected.
My brother was absolutely TERRIBLE at turning in his homework. He always completed it – my mom made sure of that – but he never remembered to turn it in. I remember my mom being absolutely horrified one night after opening my brother’s backpack and finding almost 2 months of homework. When she asked my brother about it, his excuse was that he “didn’t know where to turn it in.”
This was a pretty pathetic excuse on my brother’s part, but it is important to make sure all your students know exactly where to turn in homework and other important papers. At the beginning of the year, I would always have my students point to our “turn in trays” as we practiced our morning procedures, even though they didn’t have anything to turn in. By making it a habit from the first day of school, you will have less problems later.
3. Have Students Organize and Prepare for the Day
This is the part of the morning arrival procedures where you have students complete all of the tasks you don’t want to be interrupted with later on in the day. This can include things like having students:
Whatever you want your students to do in the morning, make sure you are very clear about your expectations. If you are expecting your students to do several things, it might help to post a list of all of the tasks to help remind students about what they are supposed to do.
Buy using this time wisely, you will have less interruptions later on and more time for actual learning.
4. Take Attendance and Lunch Count
My first year teaching, it was embarrassing how many times I forgot to take attendance. Fortunately, my school secretary was the sweetest lady in the world and never seemed aggravated when she had to call me to remind me to take attendance (like she didn’t already have enough to do…)!
Part of the reason I constantly forgot to take attendance was that I was simply using the “glance around the room and see who’s missing” method. Once I started making students more accountable, I rarely forgot.
There are a variety of charts and fun ways to take attendance. Clutter-Free Classroom has a Pinterest Board with several different ideas.
Since I used ClassDojo as classroom management tool, I also had students use it to take attendance. They would simply touch their avatar on the Smartboard to let me know they were here.
The vast majority of my students were on free lunch, so lunch count was not very complicated in my classroom. If you are looking for ideas on lunch count procedures, check out these posts by Tale of a 4th Grade Math Nut and Adventures in Teaching.
5. Have Students Begin Morning Work
When deciding what kind of morning work you want your students to complete, there are a lot of factors to consider. Will students be able to complete it independently? Will they need help? Will they finish it too quickly?
In my Morning Work Made Easy Post, I consider all of these factors and explain how to simplify your morning work routine for free. Even though I have a 3rd Grade Daily Morning Work Product that I sell, I would rather recommend a free, easy solution for teachers. Read about it here.
However you decide to set up your morning routine, the most important thing is that you have a plan and are prepared to teach it. And of course, have your students practice, practice, and practice some more!!
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