Morning Routine Tips

Through the years, my morning routine is one of those things that evolved.  I found that the more structured I made it; the better my entire day seemed to go.  Through my years of teaching kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grade, I was surprisingly able to keep a somewhat similar routine even though the ages of the students were different.  All children respond positively to structure.

Each school I have worked at has been a little different as far as where students wait in the morning before school.  It worked best when a school had one place to collect my class so I could line them up before I brought them to the classroom.  This worked so much better than the trickle in from three or four different places method.  But, as a teacher, you don't always have control over this so you work with what you have to.

  • Pick up class from our meeting spot.  Students are wearing their backpack and carrying their lunch if they brought one from home.  When arrive at the classroom, have the laundry basket that holds lunch boxes and lunch sacks outside the classroom door.  Students that brought a lunch from home, drop their lunch in the laundry basket. This saves space in their cubbies plus the inevitable spills on their work.
  • Walk to their table or desk and unpack backpack.  I love to use a binder system that you have probably seen different versions of floating around cyberspace.  I first found out about it here.  I have used this with all 3 grade levels that I taught and absolutely thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.  It's another one of those V-8 moments for me.  Why didn't someone show me this when I began teaching?  I think we sometimes assume that organizational skills are something that that children learn by observations.  But, look at how many of your colleagues, people with a minimum of a four year college degree, come to faculty meetings without paper and pencil to take notes, can't remember to turn in paperwork on time, are tardy to meetings, and their room (not just at the end of the day) is so messy you wonder how they find anything? Organizational skills or executive functioning skills are not as intuitive as many people might assume.  People who naturally have these skills assume everyone sees the world in color code and alphabetical systematic way that they do.  This is wrong on so many levels.  Just like some people can play music by ear, some are natural athletes, others are natural leaders, there are some people who are gifted organizers and others who are not.  For those who are not naturally organized, the binder system is a great way to enforce those skills each day because structured, daily, and everything has an assigned place.  Students quickly learn the routine.  When my students came in, they unpacked their backpack which included getting out their binder.  I called the binder different names depending on my theme that year.  Students got out the binder, but didn't open it yet.  That was something that was teacher directed later.
    • Unpack backpack includes getting a new book for their take-home reading folder.  They quickly choose a book, put it in their folder, and return the folder to their backpack.  Hang backpack on their hook when they finish.  I use calendar numbers like these above my calendar hooks so I don't have to change them every year.  It saves time in August when doing room prep for the new year.

After putting away their backpack, the next step of the morning routine was to go to our check in station.  

At the check in station, students will check to see what their group's assignment is for Morning Message.  This is how I differentiate my Morning Messages.  Next, students pick up their assignment, and trade pencils if needed.  There is a sharp pencil cup and an unsharp basket.  I have a pencil helper that sharpens pencils at the end of the day.  Students may turn in one unsharp pencil in order to get a sharp pencil.

As you can imagine, the morning message routine looks different at the beginning of the year when I taught kindergarten and first grade than third grade.  For third graders, morning messages was a whole group, teacher directed lesson the first week or two, depending on the class I had that year.  I introduced the differentiation system in the picture the third week.  Once the third graders got used to completing the assignment with one differentiation task (the card shown in the picture), I added a second task to the groups that I felt needed more of a challenge.  In the beginning, I had my students try to complete as much as the assignment as possible by themselves.  Then we went over it together.  Volunteers came up and completed the messages for the class.  Students could correct their answers.  Students who finished early could turn their paper over and draw a picture or write an extension about the message.

For kindergarten and first graders, this is a teacher led lesson much longer before I introduce the check in system.  Once again, it depended on the class.  There are some groups that quickly get into a routine and can handle adding something like this to their morning routine. Other classes, I waited until they understood all of our other procedures before I added this.  It's a judgment call.  Until I establish the check in station, I do like to have the assignment waiting at their table for them when they come in.  It seems to motivate them to put away their backpacks quicker.

One of the things I quickly saw and loved with the little ones was how they turned this assignment into a cooperative assignment.  I'm sure a part of this is because kindergarten and first graders usually sit at tables.  I usually arranged my third graders' desk so they were in teams.  But, for whatever reason, they didn't seem to want to work on this as a group as much.  It was so exciting to see these blooming readers try to figure out the daily message and see all of the strategies they were using.  

For me, morning message was a great way to review skills.  I did not take a grade on it.  I assured my class that I wanted them to try their best and we would go over the answers together.  I wanted them to check their answers and correct them if they made a mistake.  Volunteers came up and helped fill out the example.  When we finished with this, students read a book while I quickly went around and spot checked their message and stamped them.  For kindergarten and first grade, I had a basket of books sitting on each table that my students read or looked at while I was stamping.

We began our binder check after I finished stamping our morning messages.  Keep in mind that this takes quite a bit longer at the beginning of the year, but the time spent training them is well spent.

Binder check was very structured and I tried to say the same thing each day so it became rote memory for them. Example:
  • Open your binder.
  • Look at your first section.  Is there a note or lunch money from your parent?  If yes, take it out and put it above your binder on your table.  Has everyone who has money or note done this?  Now, let's turn to the next section. I have a helper who picks up all the notes and money.
  • Behavior section: captains please check charts.  Stamp the chart if it is signed.
Routine continues until binder is checked.  The last step is having my students put their morning message in the pocket of their binder.  Parents love reading the morning message.

One of the questions I have been asked by some of the buyers of my morning message packets is what do I do on the other days.  My morning message packets have 10 days of messages for the month.  I did not do morning message every day.  

On Fridays, my class made a class book for the star student. It is our journal assignment on Fridays, which takes the place of morning message.  When one of my students celebrated a birthday, we make a class birthday book.  On those days, it takes the place of morning message. Click HERE for a free copy.   

Each school I taught at had a different schedule for specials, which affected my morning routine.  Some schools it was 6-day routine and other schools it was a different schedule every day.  

It seemed like there were always interruptions.  But, to make it less disruptive to our routine, I had my students pick up their birthday book or star student book assignment at the check in station.  But, there weren't any differentiation cards in the pocket chart.

What do you do if you want to do morning messages everyday? Some of my buyers are purchasing the grade level above or the grade level below.  Some of my buyers are purchasing the themed morning message packets.  I plan to work on fall fun packets this week which could be used September - November.

I thought you might like to see a sample page and answer sheet of morning message. 
Click HERE to download this sample.

Themed packets:
I also have monthly packets for the following grade levels:
By request, I bundled my September - May grade level packets.
By request, I bundled two grade levels together.  There are 10 messages of each grade level in these packets (20 messages per packet).

Kindergarten - 1st grade
1st and 2nd grade
2nd and 3rd grade
By request, I am adding more grade level packets for teachers who do morning message daily.  You can follow my store or Facebook page if you want to be notified when I add more of these packets. I am selling Volume 2 (10 messages) separately and as a combo with Volume 1 (10 messages) so teachers have the option of having 20 messages.  Below are the ones I've finished so far.


1st Grade

2nd Grade

3rd Grade

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.

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Unknown said...

i just want to let you know how amazed I am by your blog. You have such wonderful information to help out all teachers. I have taught for many years and your blog and materials give me a chance to look at what I do in new ways. You not only help many teachers but thousands of kiddos. Thanks for all you do. I sometimes hear such negative talk from some tired out teachers, but you always inspire me and help me take things a step farther. I always read your blog first . Keep up the great work. You are very appreciated!

Traebarrry said...

Just wondering if your task cards are included in your morning message packets?

Michelle said...

Yes, the cards that I use to differentiate the assignments are included. Thanks for asking!

Michelle said...

Thank you Sue! I am glad you stopped by my blog.