When students first enter the classroom in the morning it is a time of excitement, but it can also be a time of complete chaos. Having a clearly defined morning routine and morning work for students to complete can help the day start off more smoothly.
Most teachers have students complete morning work as a way to get students ready to begin the academic day, but finding appropriate morning work for your students, and then making the endless copies of morning work, can be a drain on your time and your paper budget.
Thinking about Morning Work Differently
I changed my morning work routine and regained my sanity after hearing the amazing Anita Archer speak. She mentioned that many elementary teachers (myself included) were usually very concerned with improving our students’ reading fluency, but we put little thought into improving our students’ writing fluency.
All teachers know that if a child can’t read fluently, comprehension will be a struggle because the child is spending most of their brain power focusing on decoding words. This same concept applies to student writing – if our students are struggling to write quickly and fluently, their writing (grammar, organization, content, etc.) will suffer. Anita’s suggestion was very simple – have students practice writing by copying a reading passage for five minutes every day.
That sounds easy enough, except I knew my district would not approve of me spending our limited language arts block on something that was so unrigorous (is that a word? If not, it should be!) So, I decided to try using my morning work time to build my students’ writing fluency. It worked out better than I had hoped.
Setting up the Morning Work Routine
Basically, every week I would give students a copy of a reading fluency passage that was part of our reading curriculum (but you could use anything – poems, science text, etc.). Students would copy the reading passage in a spiral notebook that was designated for morning work. They would copy this exact same passage every day for a week. If they finished the entire passage, they would start back at the beginning. The next week, they would get a new passage to copy. Simple enough.
There are several reason why using this as my morning work had a positive impact on my classroom:
It Freed Me Up to Do Other Morning Tasks
Every single one of my students, even my special education kiddos, were able to complete this morning work independently. Nobody ever needed to ask me questions or ask for help with their morning work. This freed up my time to complete the other morning tasks I needed to do – talk to parents, take attendance, make sure my pencil sharpeners were doing their job, collect field trip money, check to make sure all my students had eaten breakfast, etc.
My Low Students Started off the Day Confident
I thought my students would get bored doing this every day, but they never did. My struggling students loved this task because they always felt successful. They knew what to do, and they could start off the day confident rather than frustrated.
My Tardy Students Didn’t Start the Day Behind
The school I taught at had a huge tardiness problem. Sometimes it was just because parents dropped their kids off late, but we also had consistently late buses and kids who were late because they hadn’t gotten breakfast in the morning. I hated penalizing students for not completing their morning work when most of the time, it was completely out of their control. Using this as morning work eased many of my problems with tardy students. If students didn’t get a chance to finish, it wasn’t a big deal – they could just start again tomorrow. Although they missed an opportunity to build their writing fluency, they didn’t miss any important content practice and wouldn’t be behind in reading or math.
No More Stressing About Making Copies
For some reason, making copies for morning work always slipped my mind. I would arrive at school in the morning and prepare for the day/week. About 5 minutes before students would arrive, I would realize I didn’t have any morning work prepared and would have to rush to the copier. Using this as morning work made my year so much easier. At the beginning of the semester, I would make copies of the reading passages all at once so I never had to worry about it again. I saved a lot of time and money by simplifying my morning work routine.
And Most Importantly…My Students’ Writing Improved Drastically
Over time, I was absolutely amazed at the difference this made in my students’ writing. The effect was not immediate, but by the end of the year it was incredible to see how much more my students’ writing had improved compared to my classes from previous years. We were able to accomplish so much more during our actual writing block because it didn’t take as long for students to write. And, we were able to incorporate writing more often into all other content areas because writing wasn’t a struggle for them anymore! Even better, my students were able to concentrate less on the actual writing and more on improving their writing – paying attention to their grammar, word choice, organization, etc. When I changed up my morning work routine I was mainly looking for a way to make my morning less chaotic, but improved writing was a very welcome, although unanticipated, side effect.
Why This Morning Work Method Might Not Work For You
There are a few reasons why using writing fluency as morning work might not work for you. If the majority of your students already write fairly fluently, you will probably not see the benefits I did. My district focused heavily on reading skills, so writing was often put on the backburner. When my students had to write anything, it was painstakingly slow.
Also, using this as morning work might not work well for your classroom depending on the amount of time you spend on morning work. In my school, students could enter the classroom around 8:50 and we were moving on to our reading block by 9:05 or 9:10 at the latest. With all the other things my students were supposed to do as a part of our morning routine, my students were writing for 10 minutes at the most, and they never got bored. If you need more time for your morning work, this might not be the best solution for you.
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