Why not try Good Morning Baskets instead of Morning Work!


How do you start the day in your classroom?  How you start the day often sets the tone for the rest of your day.  I have changed my thinking in recent years and have started to embrace a more relaxed start to the day.  This method has been called a few different things, a soft start or free flow.  Read on to find out what the beginning of the day looks like with my first graders.

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets.

In my classroom, we are now starting most days with Good Morning Baskets.  I have Good Morning Baskets filled with either Literacy or Math related activities.  Many of these activities are totally open-ended while some have specific tasks to complete.  I found my students were coming in with lots of energy and wanted to talk, talk, talk.  My morning work and journal time weren't working because my students just wanted to be social.  I had read about this way of starting the school day and I admit I was skeptical.  I figured that it would lead to more unsettled kids by I was totally surprised when the opposite happened.  They were excited to find out who their partner was and to get to work on an activity.  There was still a buzz throughout the room but most of my students were focused and chatting and working and playing with their partner.  I was sold.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of writing, I will share pictures of some of the things I have included in these baskets.  At the end, I will share more about how the routine works in my room.  

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

Use pattern blocks for a variety of things.  I have these cards from a set purchased ages ago but your students will love building their own designs too.  Using plastic tweezers to pick up pom poms to cover letters is great fine motor practice and good for letter recognition and counting too.

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

Building letters of the alphabet with snap cubes and pattern blocks.  This helps with manual dexterity and for copying a model.  Using the pattern blocks just as they are modeled is good for developing spatial awareness too.
Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

Playing with lego is fun so adding letters to the blocks adds an educational twist.  I have lots of stamp sets but do not like stamp pads at all (too messy!).  I started having students stamp in play-doh.  We usually use a placemat to work on so it doesn't stick to the table.

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.  Use these free patterning cards and your students can make patterns with any material.

My students love to pattern with everything.  I added these simple pattern cards to a few bins of materials and they do the rest.  Would you like a set for your own Good Morning Baskets or Math bins?  Just drop your name and email below.


Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

We start our year with a patterning unit so adding things to make patterns with to the Good Morning Baskets is always a big hit.

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities. Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

Building pictures with Cuisinaire blocks and patterning with play-doh are super simple activities to add to your Good Morning baskets.

Try out a soft start in your Primary classroom with Good Morning Baskets filled with literacy and math activities.

I wrote the numbers to 100 on a set of plastic tiles that I had.  By happenstance, they fit perfectly on this set of 100 charts I already had. Instant morning center.  They love matching up the numbers.

Grab these free basket labels and word building case labels to use for your own Good Morning Baskets and centers.

These word building kits are a hit with my girls especially.  I hot glued the magnet strip into the case and added a sticker to the bottom (it is barely visible in the picture) so I knew what letters were supposed to be in the case.  Sometimes they grab some paper from the writing center and make a list of the words they built.

You can get both the labels I use and the label for the Word Building cases by dropping your name and email below.


My students are responsible for completing our morning routine before going to a Good Morning Basket.  Students work with partners and I did want to have a bit of control over this.  I also wanted to make sure that students were playing with lots of classmates and getting to know everyone.  I created a random group chooser file within my Smart Notebook software for my Smartboard.  Students check the smartboard and choose a basket and get to work.

Our Good Morning basket time lasts about 20 - 25 minutes.  It gives my stragglers time to get organized for the day.  Often those students end of missing out on this time but it is better this than my literacy lessons.

I use this time to quickly look through agendas and then I usually circulate and chat with kids as they are working and gauge the mood of some of my students who sometimes have a difficult start to the day.  This time is so valuable.

Pin this image so you can return to this post when you need inspiration.


I have included resources I have found on other sites.  Check out my Pinterest board to find those links.

Until next time,

How to Teach Word Families so they Stick


In my opinion, word walls are a must in a primary classroom BUT only if you teach kids how to use it.  Word families are an important part of word wall as well.  Teaching kids to read and spell words by learning patterns helps with retention and improves reading.  How do you get this information to stick?  Read on to see how I teach word families in a way that kids remember them and refer to them in the classroom.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


In previous posts, I have shared about how I get started with a word wall at the start of the school year and how I teach difficult to read and spell rule breaker words. In my last post, I shared some daily routines to do with your word wall to make the words stick and get your students invested in using the word wall.

You can find Part 1 here: Getting Started with a Word Wall.

You can find Part 2 here: Teaching Rule Breaker Words Using a Word Wall

You can find Part 3 here: Simple Ways to Practice Word Wall Words Daily


Monday is always the day I introduce all of the new words for the week (usually 5).   Tuesday is usually the day of the week we work with our new word family for the week.   We use that time to build a pocket chart with our word family together and then create an anchor poster that will stay up in the classroom.

When we are building the words in the pocket chart I add a kinesthetic component. Students hold their hands up, facing out and make a fist.  When we say the initial sound or sounds they push the right hand out and then the left hand for the word family. When we blend together the onset and rime we push our fists together.  I find getting them moving while we do this increases engagement.

After we complete the pocket chart we create a poster that stays up as a reminder of our word building for that word family.  Students come up and write a word in the word family on the poster and the posters are displayed close to the word wall and are used as a reference for students.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


I start the year with short vowel word families and then move to long vowel word families.  I do not teach every.single.one.  Instead, I choose word families that are most common and we spend our time on those.

So for instance, when I have finished focusing on all the Short A word families we have a wrap-up activity to highlight the spelling patterns we did not cover.  We do a partner write activity.  I place all the remaining blank word family posters around the room and we do a SCOOT activity to add words to them with students working in pairs to add one new word family word to each poster.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.


You should notice that at every single stage of my word family instruction the students are involved in the process.  Most everything that is placed on the walls in my classroom is created with students or by students.  The only way to get kids invested in using the resources in the classroom is to involve them in creating them or explicitly teaching them how to use them.

If you are interested in the posters you can find two different versions here:

  



My word family instruction continues during my Daily 5 instruction during word work.  While I am focusing on Short A in my word family instruction I am also providing centers to practice spelling, reading, recognizing and building Short A words.  These centers are very popular with my kids.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom. Use centers to further their learning.


Until next time,


How to Get Started with Flexible Seating

How do you start flexible seating without spending a fortune? Are you considering starting flexible seating but don't have the budget to buy pillows, scoop rockers etc?  You can start flexible seating in your classroom right away without a lot of money invested.  I am going to share with you how to do that!


How to start with flexible seating without spending a fortune


First off, before you decide to try something like flexible seating, which seems to be one of the newest trends (fads) in education you need to ask yourself 2 questions:

1.  Is this something I would like to try because I think it is best for my students?

2.  Is this something I think I should try because it is the next big thing and I should do it too?  

I did start flexible seating this past year in my classroom and I'm happy to say that I'm really pleased with the outcome.  I do need to preface this by saying I did not go to Walmart and buy scoop rockers or order yoga balls or wobble seats.  I didn't go out and spend money on new furniture for my classroom.  

I was able to start flexible seating in my classroom with what I had (and what you most likely have, too) and a few small purchases.

The first thing I did was determine where my kids were going to work. When I think of flexible seating I'm thinking about different seating possibilities within the classroom and not necessarily different kinds of seating.

As a class, we talked about different places we could work in the classroom aside from our own desks. My students came up with places like working on the carpet, working under their tables, standing up at their tables, laying on the floor, and using the clipboards to work any place in the classroom.

I have no plans to give up our desks/tables - I consider that our "home base" where everything is stored and has a home.  Many of my kids prefer a desk and chair and I have a large room so I can easily accommodate my desks and other options. 

The next step was to create an anchor chart that we could refer to when starting out using different work spaces. This is the most important step in the whole process. You need to establish very concrete expectations about what it looks like to work in different places in the classroom. If your first graders are anything like mine they will pick spots based on where their friends are sitting.
  

Well, let me tell you the anchor chart works! We call our spots our "Smart Spots".  Students know what the expectations are and know that they will lose their smart spot if they are not making good choices. The first thing I noticed about using smart spots was that my students were staying on task a lot longer than before.  I believe this is due to the power of choice.  Let them pick where to work and they will stay engaged longer.  


inexpensive options for flexible seating

These are the things I started out with.  I also had stools from somewhere - the ones you have most likely seen in pics of other classrooms - but they were super wobbly and broke so I will not be getting any more.  I do plan on buying a few yoga mats and cutting them up to use as well.  

Flexible seating to me is more about the options you give your students rather than the furniture you provide.  My students were happiest when they could lay on the carpet or sit on the bench by the coat hooks with a clipboard.  

What are your thoughts on flexible seating?  Love it?  Haven't tried it? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

Until next time, 

3 Ways to Maximize Learning for Busy Kids

Getting kids moving helps them learn!  If your students are like mine, it is best to keep them active so they can use up all the energy they seem to have in endless supply.  I have so many kids that seem to be in perpetual motion. So rather than working against that. I have found a way to embrace it.

Get students up and moving to maximize learning.  Let them move by having them read and write the room, use flexible seating options and brain breaks.

Click the image above to visit Hojo's Teaching Adventures Blog where I am guest blogging. You will find 3 strategies I use in my classroom to maximize learning while keeping my students active.

Until next time,
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