Morning Work vs. Morning Tubs. I feel like there’s a constant back and forth over which option is “better” for little learners. But, I truly believe there is space and time in the classroom for BOTH of these awesome activities! So, here are my 3 reasons for using both morning work AND morning tubs with kindergarteners.
**Disclaimer: When I say I “use both morning work AND morning tubs”, I DO mean interchangeably. I do not usually use both morning work and morning tubs in the same day. :) That would be a whole lotta time to warm up for the day! Ha! I usually set my morning activities on a 3-1 schedule: 3 weeks of paper/pencil, standards-based morning work and 1 week of morning tubs. Once in awhile, if students are super antsy and I can tell they need a break from using their brains so constantly, I’ll surprise them and bust out some morning tubs on a Friday. But, normally, we do 3 weeks of morning work, one week of morning tubs. I find this give them enough structure without being too monotonous.
REASON 1: SKILL PRACTICE
Morning work and morning tubs both provide students with many opportunities to practice a variety of skills. By incorporating both these activities into your daily routine, you’re giving your new learners a chance to practice academic skills like reading, writing, math concepts, and phonics, as well as motor skills, like manipulating and balancing objects, holding and using a pencil or marker, and steadily piecing something together or making something fit. Each of these skills is essential to molding our students into well-rounded, intelligent, coordinated little humans. :)
MORNING WORK: QUALITY morning work that provides students with standards-based activities for them to practice their skills in gives them the opportunity to practice their academic skills in either math, literacy, or both WHILE they hone their fine motor skills by holding a pencil, coloring inside the lines, or tracing. I personally LOVE the academic part of morning work because I’m a pusher. I always want my kids to be thinking, practicing, finding a new way to look at a problem. So, by providing my students with an opportunity to work on these skills in a risk-free environment, I’m giving them the perfect opportunity to take risks and try out their new-skill muscles. We quickly grade our morning work together on the projector, both to allow students to show off their skills and for them to notice the areas they need to keep practicing. I look over them to see who is strong in what areas and who is challenged in what areas and they are sent home. No grade, no pressure…just practice.
MORNING TUBS: Morning tubs also provide students with opportunities to practice many different skills, though these skills usually require more physical involvement than the morning work does. Morning tubs usually require students to have more dexterity with their hands and be able to manipulate the objects in the tubs. These kinds of activities are equally important for little learners to practice. They need to know how to squish play dough into the shape they want it to be in, how to balance a few blocks on top of each other, how to make that marker create the squiggle or drawing that they want it to…these are the foundations of important life skills that they’ll need to use later in life! And then there is the creativity aspect of morning tubs. Kids will come up with the most inventive, fun, creative ways to use objects if you allow them the time, space, and supplies to do so. Of course, please be sure to come up with and post expectations for behavior while using morning tubs. No one wants a counting bear to the head or rubber bands flying off the geoboards on purpose (except for maybe the little one DOING it, haha!). But, once you’ve established expectations, encourage their creativity as much as possible! What can they create with those pattern blocks? What game will they make up to play with the cards? Do they know how to share politely? These are all equally important skills as letter formation and number identification and require the same amount of direction, encouragement, and practice as the academic skills do. Morning tubs are a safe, effective way to practice these important social and creative skills.
REASON 2: VARIETY
I am a HUGE fan of routine and being sure that my students know what to expect as often as possible. I believe that people tend to feel less anxious and more calm when they have an idea of what to expect next and kindergarteners are no different. However, that being said, I think mixing up the routine in a structured way allows students to have the safety net of routine, but also learn to be adaptable to change in their world. So, by still having a “Morning Warm Up Time” like always, but changing up the activity to something equally (if not more) enjoyable than the normal activity, students can learn to adapt to change in a super gentle, safe way.
MORNING WORK: Morning work is such a great anchor for my students’ days! They know that they come in, unpack their things, turn in their homework folder, and grab their morning work. There is quiet music on, twinkle lights dancing above them, and every day feels like a “normal day” when they first come into our classroom (I mean, USUALLY…and other days, there’s a fire drill and I forget to take attendance and Joey throws up in the hallway…but, that’s another post altogether. HAHA.). So, using morning work that has a nice variety of activities and skills is crucial to keeping students’ attention, brushing up on as many standards as possible, and keeping it fun and engaging. I would definitely recommend choosing morning work that has a lot of “fun” involved…whether that is coloring, matching, tracing, drawing, whatever it might be, pick one that has a lot of engaging qualities so your students feel excited to see what’s next.
MORNING TUBS: Morning tubs are SUPER simple to use when adding in variety to your normal routine. Simply change one, two, or ALL of the activities in your tubs and you have instant engagement! The only thing I would suggest is to not change out the activities TOO often. I’ve found that sometimes, students can become overstimulated by constantly changing options or activities. In turn, they can sometimes find it hard to focus on and be content with an activity for an extended amount of time. So, change out those activities to keep them engaged and learning, but don’t do it so often that they need a new activity every time they sit down. :) Just a little tip I’ve learned by doing it the “wrong way” myself. Ha!
REASON 3: STRUCTURE
Oh em goodness. STRUCTURE. Any other teachers out there who are too type-A to just “let go” and “embrace the chaos” in their classrooms? OH, yeah….me neither. ;) Haha. No, for real, I’m just a tad bit controlling and really struggle to feel peaceful and confident when there is constant chaos that I am somehow supposed to be in charge of. SO, morning work and morning tubs give us the structure (and lots of peace of mind for me) because I know what to expect, they know what to expect, and my littles are engaged and learning in some way or another. On normal days, this combination keeps the chaos at bay.
MORNING WORK: Morning work provides students with such an routined, mostly-predictable structure for their days. My students know how to get their morning work, they know what they need to complete it, and they know to do the best they can and ask questions if they get stuck. We’ve also learned to start cleaning up when we hear the timer, what to bring to the carpet area to check out our work, and what to do with our morning work when it’s all completed and checked. They complete this routine EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. Whether I’m there to teach, a sub is coming in, or we have a fire drill first thing in the morning, we always ALWAYS make time for our morning warm up routine. I feel that it sets up the structure for the rest of the day and allows my kids to come into our room confident about what will be expected of them. So, morning routine creates structure and having a semi-predictable activity ready, like consistent morning work, adds to that structure.
MORNING TUBS: Morning tubs can contribute to the same kind of structure, but with a little more free choice built in. When first starting morning tubs, I do a LOT of explicit teaching about how to use them and how to NOT use them before allowing my kids to work with them. I approach morning tubs a little bit like I do work stations: 1. Set expectations. 2. Model like CRAZY. 3. Watch them practice. 4. Let ‘em loose! :) There is a lot of step 1, step 2, step 3, back to step 1, try step 3 again, remember step 2, try step 4, YIKES, go back to step 2. HAHA! That’s just the nature of teaching. They WILL learn how to work with their morning tubs independently, it just might take a lot of modeling and practicing at the beginning. However, if you take the time at the beginning to clearly set up these expectations for how students use morning tubs and how they behave during this time, morning tubs can provide a GREAT structured learning time through exploration and creativity.
Using both morning work AND morning tubs in my classroom has worked out really well for my students in the past. Do you use one or the other or both?? Drop a comment below! I’d love to hear how y’all get your little ones brains working too! :)
P.S. The morning work I use is here in my TPT store, all bundled up for the entire year! The morning tub cards are HERE and are editable! Some of the activities I put into morning tubs include pattern blocks, geoboards, counting bears, play dough with mats, math and literacy puzzles, unifix cubes, magnetic letters, dry erase boards and markers, blocks, tangrams, and cards, . I usually get out 5 activities for the week and each table gets one tub each day. The next day, the schedule shifts down just one activity and they get to do the next tub on the list. This way, every student gets every tub one time during the week. The next month, I’ll switch out most of the activities for new ones to keep it fresh and fun.