Keeping students actively engaged in quiet activities as they prepare for the school day is a challenge. It's also a great opportunity to include developmentally appropriate morning work that students will love!
There are times in the classroom when you need students to work quietly while you take care of things like attendance, progress monitoring, or other tasks. How can you keep your students busy and engaged during these times?
Play-based activities and other quiet choices are developmentally appropriate and fun while giving students a chance to naturally develop critical social skills. Kids are losing opportunities to be kids in school. Play centers are often a thing of the past but they don't have to be!
Instead of assigning paper-pencil morning work packets, consider allowing students to play in fun, educationally-based activities in morning tubs.
Hear me out – I know time is limited. Time is precious and we have a ton we need to cover in a year. But kids are only 5 and 6 once. They have the rest of their education to sit quietly at desks and work on worksheets and other assignments.
Morning tub options give students a chance to work together as a team. This means they will practice important social skills like working together, getting along, communicating clearly, etc. So often these are the skills students are lacking. The more opportunities we can give students to work collaboratively, the better.
Every morning give your kindergarteners 3 morning work choices. Keep the rules simple: work quietly (level one whisper voices), stay at your table spot, and be respectful. Students love choices and getting to be creative. You will love watching them interact with each other while you complete your morning tasks.
Morning Work Choice 1: Read a book
Each table had a rotating basket of books to read from. Some were decodables, some were “easy readers” with familiar characters, and others were picture books.
Morning Work Choice 2: Draw or Create
Put old copies and scrap paper in a drawer with miscellaneous crayons, markers, etc. in an area of the room. Students can create whatever their hearts desire with those materials. Sometimes they may even choose to complete the old worksheets, sometimes they may make fancy “crowns”, other times they may write stories and letters. When they are given the freedom to create what they want, the possibilities are endless.
Morning Work Choice 3: STEM Bins
You can rotate 4 or 5 STEM activities through your tables or groups each month. They can be themed bins, new building materials like magnet blocks, or old favorites like pattern blocks. Rotate the tubs daily or weekly to keep things fresh. I know with COVID restrictions, students may not be able to share supplies but you could do individual tubs and sanitize between uses.
Giving students choices gives them ownership over their work. Setting simple routines and consistently enforcing your expectations will keep everyone on task. It's amazing how much you can get done while students work on their morning work options. And the best part is, you don't need to make copies, assemble books, or prep the activities!
Need some alphabet stem activities to get your school year started? Click here to check out our Letter Building STEM mats.
Where to find Morning Tub Materials
Finding affordable STEM materials for morning tubs can be a challenge. I did a Donor's Choose project to get materials in my kindergarten classroom and the rest I bought over the years or found at yard sales. You do not need to spend a fortune on building materials for your tubs, but I will list my favorite morning tub bins below. These are all Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you purchase anything using my links. I'm only sharing materials I really used and kids loved.
Morning Tub Storage Containers
For storage, I prefer to use plastic totes with latching lids to prevent spills. I like these Sterlite Containers for smaller materials.
This medium size is a good option, too.
My favorite Morning Tub Materials
First up –Brain Flakes. These are fun to build with and easy to store.
Connecting Cubes – These are great for all sorts of things in the classroom!
Foam Pattern Blocks – the foam version is quiet and still lots of fun!
Bristle Blocks – you may need more than one set of these if kids are sharing.
Stick Blocks – The ends of these blocks can break, but kids love building with them.
Squigz – There are knock-off brands of these now that may work, but I haven't tried them. Squigz were always a big hit!
LEGOS – always a big hit. You can ask families to donate old LEGOs or find them at yard sales, too.
Gears – I got mine from Scholastic bonus points.
Playstix – There are lots of possibilities with these interlocking sticks.
Interlocking Blocks – These are fairly inexpensive but novel enough to keep their interest. Kids loved building houses and things with these.
Magnet Rod Blocks – Kids were always creative with these, but warning – the spheres do roll all over the place!
Magnet Cube Blocks – These are a fun twist on traditional magnet blocks.
Magnet Tiles – The off brands are less expensive, but the Magnatile brand does hold up best long-term.
Lincoln Logs – I was always surprised by how many kindergarten students had never played with these!