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 can help the day start off more smoothly.
Typical morning work for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students usually involves a reading or math worksheet. But finding appropriate morning work that can be completed by students independently is difficult. And making endless copies of something that some might consider busy work can be drain on your time and your budget.
Thinking about Morning Work Differently
I changed my morning work routine and regained my sanity after hearing 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.
As teachers we know that a lack of reading fluency leads to a lack of comprehension because students are spending too much of their brain power focused 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 this Free Morning Work Routine
Setting up this morning work routine was easy and eliminated a lot of prep work.
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.).
My 3rd grade 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.
Why I Love This Easy Morning Work
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.
I Didn't Have to Stress About Making Daily Copies
My Tardy Students Didn't Start the Day Off 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.
I Didn't Have to Stress About Making Daily Copies
The only thing 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students need to complete this morning work is a pencil, paper, and a reading passage or poem to copy.
My 3rd graders had a morning work spiral that they used, so I didn't have to worry about providing paper daily. And providing a reading passage for them to copy is easy enough!
You could have your students copy a paragraph from a book they have in their desk. Or you could display a reading passage on your Smartboard or Projector.
And Most Importantly...My Students' Writing Improved Drastically
Over time, I was absolutely amazed at the difference this daily writing practice 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 do more fun writing activities together 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 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 third, fourth, and fifth grade 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, they were 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.
If this morning work idea doesn't work for you, then you might want to check out these other morning work ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade - or this 3rd grade math morning work freebie.
You might also like these other classroom management tips:
Simplifying Classroom Jobs
Rethinking Your Classroom Library Checkout System
Overcoming the Pencil Problem
Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!
Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!
Where do you get your passages? I would love copies of these to use this coming school year.
My district provided reading curriculum that had fluency passages that went along with our vocabulary every week, and that’s what I used in the mornings for students to practice their writing fluency. I know longer have access to those fluency passages, but you could use absolutely anything, even a textbook.
This is so brilliant that I am truly speechless! Wow! So simple, yet so powerful for students AND teachers! Thank you so much for this wonderful idea! I will start using this in my third grade classroom after Christmas break!
I hope it makes your mornings less stressful!
I love your idea of copying a passage for morning work, but I would love to know what grade level you did this with. I teach fourth graders and while they could use the practice, I worry about them getting bored. Thanks!
I taught 3rd grade – I was worried about them getting bored too, but most of my students loved the predictability. I think as long as you are having them write for shorter time periods (no more than 10 minutes a day), you should be fine. Every now and then I would let them do it in colored pencils or markers, or have them write in cursive to shake things up a little bit. If you do try it out, let me know how it goes!