How to get started with Morning Tubs - The Ultimate Guide!

Are you considering starting your day with morning tubs but unsure where to start?  I'm here to spill EVERYTHING about morning tubs, from how they are chosen by students each morning to how often to switch them up.  This is what I do with my first graders, so you know that it works! Read on for your ultimate guide to getting started with morning tubs.

What does a typical week look like?

First off, I use these morning tubs 4 days out of 5.  On the first day of the week, I use for my students to choose new books for their book boxes for Read to Self and to share any new morning tubs I'm going to have them use that week.

Monday's are the teaching day for morning tubs.  We gather together on the carpet, and I choose a student and then we use/play with the morning tub.  Sometimes I project the gameboard, task card, or whatever I'm showing on the smartboard and talk it through there.  I find using it in front of them is the most effective way to teach them.  I know at least half of the kids listen well enough to understand! LOL

Tuesday through Friday, kids use the morning tubs.  I have 10 tubs out per week.  6-8 of them will be my morning tubs with math manipulatives, and the others may be loose parts or puzzles.

What do I put out each week?

The tubs I have out each week are organized in one of two ways:

  • Same manipulative - different skills or activities. I might have counting bears out, and kids will use them to make patterns, graphs and practice non-standard measurement.  

Use counting bears to practice so many math skills during your morning tubs time, math center time.  Practice patterning skills, graphing and non-standard measurement.

  • Various manipulatives - same skill.  For instance, we work on patterning at the beginning of the year.  I'd put out pattern blocks, counting bears, linking cubes or popsicle sticks.  All the tubs are practicing the same skills but with different manipulatives. I love having many other options, so the kids don't get bored.  This is also a great alternative if you don't have enough of one kind of manipulative to run multiple tubs.  

Are you students working on patterning.  With these morning tubs there are patterning activities to go with so many different manipulatives.  You can get all of yourn math manipulatives off the shelf during your morning tubs or math centers and students have lots of opportunities to practice patterning.

How do the kids access the tubs?

I believe in the power of choice, but I also thrive in structure.  I think it is the same for most students, too.  Every morning when students arrive, they have several tasks to complete - unpacking their mailbag, changing up their home reading book, putting a sticker in their log, and handing in their agenda and mailbag.  Some kids finish this task in record time, and then there are the dawdlers.  I'm sure you have them in your class, too.  It takes them 15 minutes to do a task that should take 5.  

I have students paired up to do a morning tub.  My rule is that the first person done their morning jobs gets to pick first.  Often times the student who is ready waits for the partner to be done, and they choose together.  I use a randomizer on the web to pair students since the functionality is no longer available with Smart Notebook.

The reasoning behind why I partner kids up and don't have them choose themselves is twofold. 

  • I don't like chaos and kids running to get first dibs on a center because this ALWAYS happens in first grade. 
  • I would like the children to get to know one and other.  Students naturally gravitate to familiar faces, and I want them to get to know everyone.  The best way to do this is through play.  Playing with someone new every day is an excellent way for kids to get to know each other.  I rarely have complaints about partners, and a private discussion usually does the trick when they crop up. 

How often do I switch out tubs?  

Short answer:  That depends!

Long answer:  I switch out a tub when I notice that kids are not choosing it, or I have seen that most kids have had a chance to use it, and it is not very popular anymore.  I may also decide to switch tubs to match what we are currently working on in math or put out tubs that review concepts we have already worked on and need more practice.  The choice is yours.  I will also bring a tub back that is super popular after a break.  

What if students fight over a tub?

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  If it is being fought over because it is very popular, I solve that problem by making a duplicate and adding a second tub with the same task. I have done this several times.  Sometimes, if it is merely a squabble, I put the tub in timeout for the morning, and no one gets to use it.  I have only had to do this a few times, and then kids realize that it is better to sort it out without fighting.  

I hope this helps address some of your questions about how I run my morning tubs.  If you are interested in learning more about them, you have a couple of options.  

Go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store and look at the sets that are part of the bundle.  Click on the link or image below to check it out. 

Morning Tub Tasks Bundle

So many different math manipulatives are used for these math morning tubs.  Make morning work exciting with dominoes, pattern blocks, geoboards and playing cards to name a few options.  Use you math manipulatives all year with morning tubs with math manipulatives.

Another option is to get a peek at what standards and curriculum you can cover with each set.  I have created a PDF guide that outlines exactly which skills are included with each set.  This handy reference is excellent when you own the set because you can see at a glance what set you need if you want multiple manipulatives to review one skill.  Click on the link or image below for an automatic download of the guide.

PDF Guide to the Bundle of Morning Tub Tasks for Math Manipulatives

This guide to morning tubs with math manipulatives outlines what is included with all of the different sets including how many tasks are included and what math skills each set addresses.

Finally, would you like to try a set for FREE?  If so, then drop your name and email below and then check your inbox for a message from me (be sure to check your other folder if you don't see the message in your inbox promptly)

Pin this post to come back and get reminders of those tips all school year long.

A pinnable image for how to get started with morning tubs - the ultimate guide

Until next time, 


  1. Would love to see a sample!

  2. This is amazing! I'd love the freebie to see :)