When students are entering the classroom in the morning, teachers have the opportunity to focus on goals like, a) making that transition calm and peaceful, with intentional activities planned and, b) infusing a quick yet valuable learning opportunity into the day. If you haven’t given much thought to what your students will be doing as they enter the room and begin their day, read on!
The beginning of the school day can feel a little chaotic as children arrive and begin the process of emptying their backpacks, hanging up their coats, and changing their shoes. Some kids complete these tasks very quickly but often there are a few dawdlers as well. As your students trickle into the classroom, having a concrete plan for them will keep them engaged until the whole class is present.
You may wish to keep this time calm and controlled by setting out what some teachers call “table top activities.” Instead of giving students free reign of all the areas in the room, set out a few activities on the tables such as puzzles, mini-whiteboards and markers, books, magnetic letters, or coloring pages. Students can choose an activity to participate in and when it’s time to tidy up, their materials go back into a container on the table. Easy peasey!
Having quiet activities set up not only gives students something to work on as others arrive, it also provides you with an opportunity to support a child who’s having a tough entry, work on a zipper that’s stuck, or talk to a parent who needs to quickly tell you something. Quiet activities first thing in the morning may also help students who feel overwhelmed entering a busy classroom.
Another entry activity you may wish to incorporate into your program is using a morning message. This can take many different forms. It may be a “good morning” message written on chart paper, along with an attendance list. Students can move clothespins or magnets with their names on them to indicate that they are present. Your students may also enjoy having a question or poll to answer each morning. For example, you could have a question such as, “Do you like apples?” displayed with columns labelled “Yes” and “No” below it. Students can write their names under the appropriate column, or perhaps you would like them to practice using tallies. Try tailoring the question to a topic you are going to be learning about that day. Even math questions can be incorporated into your morning question. For example, asking, “Do you think 5 + 4 is 9 or 10?” can elicit great math discussions later when you talk about the question as a class.
When you’re thinking about all the routines you need to teach your students this year, also consider how they will spend those first few minutes of the day. Having some intentional activities planned will help get the day off to a smooth start!
Written by: Erin Agnello
Edited & Designed by: Christina Denham
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My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.