Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rise and Shine: A Morning Work Menu!

As far as morning work is concerned, I'm all about using it to make my life easier!  Instead of stressing out about how I am going to "fit it all in", I transplant skill sheets from our series into our morning work slot to use as formative assessments.  This not only helps me monitor progress and pull kiddos aside for mini-intervention sessions, it also frees up a TON of time during the hour and a half I have to teach my Language Arts block each day.  Of course, I don't just throw Reading Street worksheets at them.  I DO mix it up based on needs!  I try to make sure my morning work aligns with our current skills 100% of the time... even if I pull something cute and seasonal or if they are journaling.  Using teacher resource books with daily review sheets just hasn't worked for me in the past.  I realize that's a personal preference, but since I teach in a testing grade AND the pressure is ON with Ohio's new Third Grade Guarantee, I have to make the most of every single moment.  :) 

With all of that said, the seat work component is always short and sweet.  I alternate days with my teacher partner.  Essentially, I provide language arts practice for our homerooms, and she provides math practice, then we alternate back and forth.  :)   We always start the day with some form of seat work to get our kiddos focused after they have unpacked.  Our kiddos start to arrive at 9:05, and usually my last kiddo straggles into the room around 9:25.  That means that for twenty minutes, I have twenty-nine kids walking into the room at totally different times depending on their buses and whatnot.  After they unpack and check in on the SMARTboard, I always have them do their seat work.  I have them turn it into a purple bin on my small groups table, and then I check it over once attendance is completed and I hug all of my fourth grade friends who come back to visit me on a regular basis.  :)  (Love that!)  Once the seat work is turned in, my students choose from a menu of activities while I check over their morning work and pull kids back for reteaching as needed.

Of course, since my twenty-nine kiddos arrive at different times, they finish their seat work at different times.  I've decided to view it as a blessing, because I don't get hit with too many questions at once, and since their seat work trickles in, I am able to grade, conference, and assist at a more relaxed pace.  I don't feel like I have to squeeze it all in by a certain amount of time, and that is FREEING, friends!

Honestly though, this post is not really about seat work at all.  It's more about what happens AFTER the seat work.  It's more about the options my kiddos have.  Again, since we are a testing grade, there's a ton of accountability, and our district really enforces Accelerated Reader and Study Island for third and fourth graders.  They have quarterly goals to meet, and let's face it, there's not enough time in the day sometimes, and I can't always count on students doing it at home, especially if they don't have the Internet at home.   So, one BIG reason I give them a short and sweet seat work assignment, is so they can have time to READ and take quizzes online for AR or Study Island.  (Disclaimer:  I have my own opinions about Accelerated Reader based on scholarly research, but sometimes you just have to follow the rules!)

Anyway, not every kid is ready to take a quiz every day, so I give them other options as well.  They might be writing, reading independently, reading with a buddy, working on spelling words or sight words in the word work center, practicing math facts with flashcards and whiteboards, practicing skills with task cards, listening to the featured story in our listening center, or conducting research on a topic that interests them.   I want my students to be engaged, and I want them to have SOME choices.  I work my seasonal centers into the mix on a monthly basis too, so I always let the kids know when that is an option too.

Of course, even though I give my students the same options every day, I still occasionally get questions like, "Can we do fact attack?"  or "Can I read with my friend?"  So, I decided to make it a little easier on myself and make the menu more tangible.  I created a file to trim, laminate and stick on a ring for students to refer to when they get stuck and don't know what to do next.  The ring will allow me to change options in and out like my seasonal centers, the research center, or computers (if the Internet happens to be down one day).   It also will allow me to display individual posters on the board if I want to limit the choices or if I just want everyone to read independently after their seat work is completed.  I am hoping that this new routine... and its inherent flexibility... will become a helpful organizational structure once my kiddos get used to it.  If you are interested in checking this file out for your own kiddos, you can find out more about my rationale and the contents HERE:

In other news, I made it ONE DAY after returning from our holiday break before having to take a day off due to round two of the flu.  Boo!  Hiss!  Of course, since I was only back one day and ended up going home immediately after school with one of my EPIC and frequent migraines,  I wasn't necessarily super prepared for a substitute.  So, I called off online & typed my plans into a template in my Sub Tub, and drove to the school in my sweats to make a few copies and attach a few Post-Its to everything.  :)  Fortunately, since I have a Sub Tub and usually have everything copied in advance, I usually don't have to drag myself in to school when I'm feeling crummy, and when I do, it's a lot less painful and takes a lot less time.  Of course, my OCD can really kick in once I am there though, and then I have a hard time walking away, so it's just better if I can stay at home. Ha!

I had to add on to my plans a tad once I got to school because of a fire drill.  :)  Note the chicken scratch from rushing!

This shows how I try to group everything for a substitute.  You may be able to see that I also laid papers out in the distance!

I have a little bit of an issue with Post-Its... see? I put them on everything if I am out for a day! :) 
Now... we're reviewing for our Benchmark... so this is NOT anything to write home about, BUT you can see how I stack my materials and attach Post-Its with numbered directions to correspond with my Sub Tub.   I spread them out on a table so they can be easily found by the sub.  You can see how short & sweet the morning work is here too!  :)  Cohesion?  I think so!
Of course, I kinda-sorta missed my kiddos over break, so I had to leave them with a love note! :)


  1. I also do morning work with my students, but we as a school we are only allotted 15 minutes or until 9:15 and then instruction needs to begin. My students arrive in my room at 8:45 so technically I have about 30 minutes. I know what you mean by trying to fit everything in when you have a testing grade. I teach 4th and I am trying to work in English/Writing, Reading, Centers, Information Resources and Social Studies within a 2 hour and 45 minute block. Crazy!! Love your SS anchor chart and note to your students. Hope you'll stop by my blog and check out my 13 goals for the new year at

  2. I am PSYCHO about putting sticky notes on EVERYTHING I leave for my sub, too! My sub plans so super detailed because I don't want my kids to miss out on anything! :) Love your Sub Tub! :)

    Primary Polka Dots

  3. I am so glad I'm not the only one that covers my desk in sticky notes when I'm going to be absent :) I put a sticky note on everything! I have things for a sub if I'm absent, but for some reason it's never occurred to me to make a sub tub. I guess because I have a T.A. and I know she knows where everything is in my room. If I ever don't have her, I'll definitely be creating a tub :)

  4. goodness girl, you gotta get better!! I cannot wait to use these!

  5. You are so organized...I'm sure the sub loved all those post its...VERY helpful! Get better!

    Third Grade All Stars

  6. I loovee post-its!! I use them all the time!! Your sub tub is amazing! I need to get one together as well. I'm not absent very much, but it'd be nice to know that I have something as a back-up in case something does come up! Hope you feel better!

    Lessons with Laughter

  7. Just bought this. I can't wait to use it with my third graders. Thank you so much!

  8. As a former sub, I always appreciated the teachers who put post-its on their handouts and activities for the day. It made things so much easier! I love your Sub Tub idea. I really need to get this set up for my class.