Thursday, April 4, 2013

Am I the Only One?

Hey Everybody!
I've had some time {It's spring break!} to think about different practices or routines around my classroom.  Then I started to wonder if I'm a little different?

One routine that I found myself mulling over was what my kids do when they first come into the classroom.  I know many teachers do "bell work" or "morning work" but I don't. I don't for a reason.

My first graders have a lot of "jobs" they have to take care of in the morning before they finally sit down at their desks.  They have to...

*Take of all their winter gear - hang it up neatly or should I say "neatly"?
*Put their reading zippies in their bookshelves {They bring home books each night and bring them back each morning and place them in their plastic magazines holders - i.e. "bookshelves"}
*Place their lunchboxes in the lunchbox bin
*Library books in the library bin
*Check their take home folder and put any items for the teacher in the "home notes bin" and any homework they might have had in the "shining work box"
*If they have a "before announcement job" they need to do that {i.e. jobs on our calendar - add a stick, add a dot, add a square {all different visual models for how many days we've been in school}, change the date, check the weather, etc.}

Then they sit down and chat.  Yeah, they chat. Quietly {pretty much} and I have them do that on purpose. 

It's only for about two minutes by the time the get all of their morning jobs done and before I turn on the t.v. to watch our morning announcements - but the quicker you get your morning stuff done, the more time you have to "chat at the water cooler".

I've really embraced the notion of emulating real life in my classroom whenever I can.  From the way it looks {cozy lamp, anyone?} to the way it smells {lavender or green apple...mmmm}, to the way it feels {pillows, couches, wiggle seats...}. Long before we were asked to state our learning goal, I was stating our learning goal.  I've also tried to relate what we're learning guessed it...real life.  I like for kids to know they will actually use what they are learning in the "real world".

I think, after seeing Kathy Collins at a conference where she shared a story about her friend/mentor Debbie Miller, I REALLY embraced fostering "real life" in my classroom.  Debbie Miller had asked how often do you finish a story, close up the book, and turn to your significant other asking for a shoebox and scissors because you needed to get started on your diorama.  Never?

What does that have to do with chatting with your classmates rather than getting right down to business with a sponge activity?  When I get to work I like to chat.  It all starts in the parking lot, I usually will walk and talk with  a colleague...just catching up...what'd you do last night?  Any plans for the weekend?  Small talk.  Then I stop by the office, chat up a secretary or two.  Then I walk past "the kitchen" - that's my second grade neighbor's classroom.  She's "the kitchen" of our school.  Lots of chatting, venting and problem solving go on in "the kitchen". 

After I get all caught up, {my social needs are satisfied} I'm ready to move some mountains. I'm ready to get 'er done!

I figure my students are the same way.  It might only be two or three minutes ...maybe five if you were efficient with those darn snow pants!!! - but at least they were given the opportunity to be social {let's face it - first graders are mighty social creatures}...

...and now you can hunker down.  And they do!

I wonder if I'm the only one?  Am I missing some crucial minutes to get some review under their belts?  Should I rethink my thinking?  What are your thoughts?

On a different note...

I wanted to send you over to a couple of giveaways {after you comment here, of course!}...

Kathy is having a great giveaway - and you could win any item from my store - among other cool stuff!

Leigh is having an awesome giveaway to celebrate her bloggy makeover! You might win my nonfiction writing unit - or, you guessed it, some other cool stuff!
You really can't leave until you tell me I'm not the only one.  Okay, I guess you don't have to say that - because you really don't have to agree with me if you don't want to.  I just want to know your thoughts!  When do you allow for chatting - pure, social, for no other reason but to chat - chatting in your classroom?  Do you think it's important?
Thanks bunches!


  1. Hi Holly!
    I do morning work in the morning. It ranges from a review in math, a writing task in the journal, or finishing incomplete items from the day before. At my school, we start at 8am, but student have the ability to come at the first bell which is at 7:30. So I have kids trickling in from 7:30 to 8:00, this is way too much time for students to just sit there and do nothing. I must say though that they do chat to each other-from unpacking their backpacks in the same area, to discussing the morning work and adding random chit chat. But I don't think there is anything wrong with the way you do things-hey if it works for you-why change it?
    -Lovely Nina

    1. Yeah, I guess I sometimes forget that no everyone's schedule is like mine - we are able to start our day just as soon as the morning announcements are finished, and that's soon after arrival. With them trickling in like they do for you, you wouldn't be able to give them time to chit chat! I don't think morning work is a BAD thing...I think reviewing skills is GREAT...I just don't do it first thing in the morning! :)

  2. Hi! We do morning work as well. It's usually something I put on the smart board and they must answer in their morning work notebooks. We also have a lot of time when the kids come in and when we actually start learning. The kids also grab breakfast in the room so there is some chatting there too. I think if your strategy works, keep it! :) Sometimes the mornings are nice to just come in and get caught up. ;)


  3. I love the idea of the kids coming in and chatting a few minutes. I don't know if I could handle it though. I've got some control issues. But it gives me some food for thought.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Klass

  4. Hi Holly,
    I think the morning routine of jobs, calendar, and chatting are an absolutely acceptable way to start the morning. I always preferred to do jobs, calendar and routines more than morning work - with morning work you have to take time to correct. I would throw in the "morning work" by asking lots of questions during calendar. Also, I like you, love chit chatting in the morning, why not give your kids the chance to do the same! :)
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  5. Holly- I am SUCH a chatter, too!! In fact, I make sure I get to work uber early ( an hour and a half before the day starts) because I know that once my friends arrive, I will not get anything else accomplished! I have my first graders do morning work, however, they start the day in the gym sitting and chatting with their friends. Our school starts every morning with a "morning assembly" where we do all our pledges and pray together as a school and then we walk to our classrooms. I like what you said though!!

    A Day in First Grade

  6. You're not the only one! My kiddos have lots of routines in the morning that they have to get done right away (hang up backpacks, put away folders, bring me notes, move their attendance clip, turn on the computers, get out book baskets, etc). Our school starts at 7:45, but the students have reading intervention at 8:05. So after they finish their jobs, they just read and chat queitly at their seats. All of my students go to another teacher for reading intervention, and its actually a nice way to start the morning.

    Hope you're having fun on Spring Break! 1 more day til mine starts!!!

    Teachery Tidbits

  7. You're definitely not the only one! Granted, the morning structure could be a little different here in Australia, but my kids have 10 minutes in the morning (they come in at 8:50am and we start our lessons at 9am). They have a lot of jobs to do, things to unpack and prepare - and for the really organised/speedy kids if they finish all that they can sit and chat quietly to a friend, or read a book in the reading corner. Most of them pick the reading corner because they like to start the day by reading their favourite stories.

    Enjoy your Spring Break!

    Miss Galvin Learns

  8. I don't have morning work either. The first bell is at 8:15 and then another at 8:20am. Our TV announcements start about 5 minutes later, then we meet at the carpet by 8:30am to start our day. Like you said, by the time they get themselves unpacked we are starting our intervention block and kids start coming and going (we do a block of small group instruction, where students move between teachers for extra help). We just have too much to do and I'd rather get the minutes into individual reading during workshop.
    New Adventures in First Grade

  9. Oh, morning work...I feel blah about it. We have kids arrive in our classes anywhere from 8:00-8:30. So, the ones who arrive right at 8, do their morning "get ready" routine, and do morning work are done by 8:15...then those that arrive right at the cut-off aren't done until around 8:45. So essentially, by the time we have announcements and check it, it's almost a full hour wasted. I highly dislike this time of the day but can't figure out another way around it because of the 30 minute window. I would LOVE to do what you do! They need time to chit-chat.

    For the Love of First Grade

  10. Hi Holly!
    I just found my way to your site through blogland! Super cute. Our mornings do involve morning work and journaling. But like others our morning lasts for-ever....I do let them chit chat during snack though. And it gives me a few minutes to get ready for the next thing!
    A Burst of First

    1. Welcome, Deirdre!

      I hope I didn't come across as thinking Morning Work is a "bad" thing - I just like for my kiddos to have time to chat and I think starting our day off that way works well for us. I love reviewing skills...and do it at other times of the day. Journaling is another great way to start the day!!!!

  11. You are so not the only one. I don't really believe in morning work. If my principal left me some busywork on my desk each morning that had to be done when I walked in the door, I don't think I'd much enjoy showing up each day. You're so very right. What we do should mirror real life as much as possible. Great post!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  12. We have no choice with what we do in the morning. All students have to come in and immediately do DEAR, teachers too. I asked if we could do it when it best fits our schedule and a quick no was given. I think having students interact and talk with each other is just as significant as doing morning work and reviewing. Especially if you have a lot of ESL students that need to develop their oral language. We usually get our chit chat time in in the afternoon during snack time. Keep doing what you're doing with no worries if it's what works best for you! :)

  13. I don't do morning work either. My kids have to hang up their stuff and put their take home folders up and then they eat breakfast in the classroom until announcements. I'm always getting pressure to do stuff during breakfast but I always say no way. #1, I also agree that they need time to chat and get a good start to the day. I also agree with Tammy - if my principal left me busywork to do, I would not be a happy camper!! And #2, I have enough spilled milk and cereal without having them do anything else. I could only imagine what a hot mess my room would be like if I did morning work too!
    Teaching in the Valley

  14. I just love you Holly. You always help me find a different way to look at things. They are often things that I as a teacher can change to help my students be more successful.

    We have breakfast in our classrooms...don't be jealous because it is just fabulous beyond words!!!! They quietly visit as they eat. If they are not hungry, there is a little bit of morning work to do (1 sheet) and then they move into centers and math activities.

    Enjoy the rest of your Spring Break sweet friend.

    Heather's Heart

    1. Oh Heather - I live in such a cocoon. I totally forgot about those classrooms where breakfast is served. Ummm...I'm not jealous of that...but at least they can chat and eat, right?

      Hugs to you - chicky!

  15. Such a great post, Holly! So much of the student's day is where they must be quiet- work time, being in line, in the halls, etc... They need time to talk and socialize. I had an administrator that was very big on teaching the kids to see the correlation between what we were teaching and how they would use it in the real world. No one wants to do something just to take up time.
    Conversations in Literacy

  16. I totally agree!! I let my students talk at level 1, go to the bathroom, get a drink, read a book. But they do have to copy their homework assignments in their agendas. Usually 4 or 5 words. So they have lots of time to get their talking out. :) My students also talk about in centers too. I tell them to cooperate, collaborate and communicate. And talking in Kindergarten is so important!

  17. I'm the same as Heather. We have breakfast in the classroom- and I let my kids chat, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. They have about 15 minutes from the first bell until the end of announcements when they can potentially talk (no morning work for us, either!) I love the way you worded this, though! It is SO true!
    Rowdy in Room 300

  18. My kids have a lot to do in the morning, too. However, if you have ever heard of Michael Grinder, he is all about keeping the metabolism low in the classroom. The more my kids talk, the higher the metabolism of the classroom. We also have to jump right in, because we have first lunch and time is precious in the morning. My kids do their put-aways (take-home book bags and homework folders) and make a lunch choice, put their name on homework club if they didn't get homework done, then grab a paper for writing. Some days they will plan for their writing (web, list, plan, etc.) and some days they start another type of writing. We have been doing opinion writing for a while, so they may need to begin work on whatever is posted for that. I'm at an at-risk school, and it takes some "quiet time" for them to adjust from home to school. It is a crucial step for children in poverty. They will share and talk at many other times during the day - just not first thing in the morning. Thanks for asking and I love your blog. Keep up the good work!

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  20. Hey Holly!

    Thanks for the shout out! I love your idea of "chit-chat" in the morning. I do have "morning work" that we use a review for Sat-10, but I allow them to talk to each other while completing it. I actually allow my students to "chit-chat" through most of the day (as long as they stay productive...) I agree social time is extremely important at the elementary level. It is how we learn to communicate in an acceptable manor! :)

    The Applicious Teacher

  21. Hey there! I am a new follower and new to the blogging thing.. but I saw your post and had to say I allow chit-chat, too! I wish I taught where you all teach (Leigh and I teach together) and we have an earlier bell at 7:51 and 7:56 so I allow my kids to come in before the 1st bell to unpack and unwind before our busy day. Quite frankly, our day is SO Common Core packed that sometimes my poor 1st grade darlings don't have a lot of social time to talk, interact, and be 6/7 year olds together other than lunch/recess. So I say chat it up because they need that time and they need social skills! Plus, my kids also do a light free choice centers where they can hang out, too.

  22. Hear, hear! I love this! I was feeling bad because my kids were talking so much during morning work. Instead of getting frustrated, I need to remind my self that I should be grateful they are such good friends. Thanks for the reminder!
    PolkaDot Kinders

  23. Holly!
    You are not the only one! I gave up morning work a few years back. I got tired of trying to get it ready, check it etc. My kids also have a list of jobs that they have to do in the morning to get themselves "ready for learning" and of course they have to say good morning to the fish! :) Once all the jobs are done, my kids can grab a book and a friend and sit around the room enjoying it. Low levels of chatting are normal and FINE while I get my jobs done. I have found that if there are kids that need to finish up work can do it then and it keeps my pokey workers from having work pile up.
    Keep on doing what you feel is best for your kiddos!
    Lori @
    Bee the Change
    Mrs. Faas’ First Grade

  24. I follow the morning work routine and I must admit I hate it. I am always finding something at the last minute for students to do. I LOVE what you do with your students. I love to go chat in the morning too. Your approach makes so much sense to me. I just don't know I would handle it this year. Something I will definitely have to try in the future! Hope you are having a great break!

    Apples and Papers

  25. Oh My GOODNESS!!!!! I thought I was the only one who did away with morning work long ago. I found that I was managing behavior during morning work then it was too easy for some and too hard for others. My school is a Leader in Me school so all my kids have some sort of leadership job to do in the mornings. They unpack, hang their things up, choose their lunch choice, then sit on the floor waiting for the majority of the kids to join them. They get to chit chat "quietly". This is a time when they can earn pom poms for their buckets for good behavior (after "Have You Filled a Bucket Today" book). I find that this is a great morning routine for me to greet the kids one at a time and tell them good morning and ask how their night was. I talk to the few who are unpacked first. The kids love love love being the first ones done to get my undivided attention. I sit in my chair and they huddle around me on the floor. It's my favorite time of the day. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one. This lets us get to work quicker because I can ease a lot of anxiety by just greeting and talking to kids!!!!

    You are my new favorite blog buddy!!!!!!

    Cole's Little Pups

  26. I don't do morning work either! My kiddos come in between 8:20-8:30 and they have to: take off coats, etc., check in their folders with me, make their lunch choice, and then sit down and eat their snacks. I also allow for chit chat time, because like you said, they just want to relax and talk to friends. I have PE most days starting at 8:40 so there usually isn't enough time to do a full-fledged morning work routine. I try to start my Morning Meeting as close to 8:30 as I can, so that when they get back from PE we can get right to work!

    Angela :)
    Hippo Hooray for Second Grade!

  27. You are not the only one! My students chat it up each morning, too. You hit the nail on the head - 'social needs are satisfied' - now let's move on:)
    I, too, try to make my room feel like a home - we are a 'family' who come together each day. We even act like family - we take care of each other, we laugh and have inside jokes, we argue and get on each others' nerves.
    Authenticity is powerful:)

    Teaching in Progress

  28. You are not the only one. Over the years I have had my students do morning work, but was always reminding them to be quiet. I have since change our morning routine to "getting ready to start the day." This includes turning in assignments and papers from their take home folders, getting drinks, filling water bottles, trading their backpack books for new ones to sharpening pencils and whatever else we need to have done for a given day. When the bell rings they go to their seats so I can take attendance and they go back to completing their morning jobs/routine until the morning announcements begin. It has taken some practice, but the kids freeze in their spots and listen. . The children have trained me over the years to let them get their "talks" out, especially after a long break or weekend. I set the timer and they talk to their neighbor about the important things in their lives. This has saved me many grey hairs and much stress over the years. So "no" you are not alone.

  29. Looking
    Back, I think every teacher I am friends with probably got into trouble for being a Chatty Cathy!!
    Socializing is good! It is very seldom when my room is silent- it makes me kind of nervous when I can't hear them:)
    Go Nutty with Me!

    1. I got sent into the HALL for being a Chatty Cathy!!!! I'm with you, Squirrels, there are very few times during the day that I expect silence...gosh, now that I think about it, I can't think of a time during the day {unless I have a headache or am feeling grouchy} that I expect that. We're social long as it's productive, calm{ish} and on target...

      A professor I had in undergrad once said "A quiet classroom is a funeral for learning".

      Gotta find a happy medium though because I've been in classrooms where it was pure chaos. That can't be good either! ;)

  30. I can't even fathom "snow gear!" :)
    We do this at the end of the day, but this is making me really think about changing it to the this post!

  31. Hi Holly!

    I read this post last night on my phone and I've been dying to comment ever since!

    First of all, I LOVE the idea of a little chit-chat in the morning. Like your kiddos, my guys and gals have lots to do in the morning, and by the time they do those things I always have a few that fall so far behind in their morning work.

    My biggest question to you is, when do you look over those notes from home, check to see who didn't turn in their homework,submit attendance, etc? I feel like by the time I did all that, they'd be chit-chatting for quite awhile. Like you, I don't consider a little socialization a bad thing...just the opposite. I'm just worried that by the time I get my act together it would be a little too much chit-chat.

    I'm loving the idea and I might do a trial run towards the end of the year...again, just worried about how long it will take ME to get all that morning stuff done. Our announcements are only about 1 minute!!

    Thanks so much for sharing your morning routine!

    Across the Hall in 2nd Grade

    1. Hey You!
      Just as soon as my kiddos come in the room I start going through things that have been placed in the "Home Notes" bin. So, while some kids are pretty speedy at doing their morning jobs, others are still workin' on them - so it's pretty staggered. I look through the box, take care of some business, walk out into the hallway to make sure things are still on target, come back in, look in the box...and then while most of my kiddos are in the room chatting, I'm finishing up the business end of things. By the time The Pledge begins, I'm usually done with the clerical stuff. Right after announcements {which take about 1 minute and some change}/Pledge my "after announcement" job kids go do their jobs {i.e. take down the library books, take down the lunch box bin, office folder goes down to the office, etc.} and I go over the agenda with the rest of the kids {my kids who go do jobs know that it's their responsibility to look over the agenda before they go}. By that time the rest of the kiddos are back so I take attendance {done on the computer} and then we get started with our day.

      I don't know if that really answered your questions -basically, just somehow it "flows"...

      Holly :)

  32. Our first bell rings at 735. After that bell, students can come in. Last bell rings at 7:55 so my kids have 20 minutes ( the ones that arrive earlier anyway) . Ibwish I could do the chatter thing because morning work just drives me crazy. I have a consistent 10-12 kids who arrive 5 minutes before we start and 3-4 who are usually late so they never finish it! I'm struggling with a morning routine this year!


  33. You are not alone! My students enter and either go to the round table for a quickie extra reading lesson (those struggling) or sit with a buddy to read. I know, expect and enjoy that the buddies talk a bit before they begin reading. I also drag my feet just a bit getting to the table so those readers get a chance to chat. Our fun chat comes just after I take lunch count, I allow everyone to share something if they'd like. This group of children really enjoy each other. We do complete a morning work paper later in the morning at which time I get to the folders, etc.
    First Grade Carousel

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  35. I tend to give morning work because I do have quite a few kiddos that do not go to breakfast, but they are allowed to talk while they are working. Several days a week though I allow them to just sit and chit chat with those at there table. It keeps the week mixed up and they never know if it is going to be a work day or a chit chat day. They are only in kindergarten so their work is never anything too extreme and oftentimes is some sort of coloring page that focuses on the skills we have been learning. Like several others have mentioned, we have a school wide time for announcements, the National Anthem, and pledge after which we take notes, lunch count, etc to the office and then get started with calendar where we take some time to share. Our morning is still very structured and the kids know what to do no matter what kind of morning we have. It works for us and I LOVE that. :)

    My (Not So) Elementary Life

  36. I do not have my kids do morning work for several reasons (even though there are several cute packets).
    1- The social thing:)
    2- They come in staggers ed for 20 minutes and some of the late comers would never catch up and
    3- We are asked to be conservative with copies.

    So they come in and have a few minutes as they get unpacked and then start their first round of Daily 5. It is the only way I can get through 5 rounds a day and if they are there it is a plus for extra reading and writing time:) Some even come earlier now because they don't want to miss it.

    The Resourceful Apple

    1. Tammy, you sound like me - I still use the morning work packets that some of my awesome bloggy friends have made - just at different times during the day. Review is important..I just don't do it first thing in the morning.

  37. This is such a great post and pack full of info...tucking into to my "for the future" compartment of my brain haha :) Love you!

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  38. My class chats while they do their morning work (usually something very simple and review). I never mind the chatting (I am chatty as well!) I love that you always have such a great idea! :)
    Crayons and Curls

  39. Hi Holly,
    I don't do morning work either...mainly because of copies. Although occasionally they will do something on their white boards. I do think some chatting and sharing is important for sure.
    Traditions, Laughter and Happily Ever After

  40. Thanks for the insight! Now I'm thinking about how I can give a few minutes for chatting in the AM!

    PS- we need to plan this MI blogger thing! :) :) :)

    *Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge*

    1. I say yes, plan a MI blogger thing. :) I would love to help if you need some help planning it. :)
      Diving Into 2nd Grade

  41. We actually have a morning recess at my school for the very reasons that you've mentioned. Kids need to socialize before they're ready to hunker down and get to work. So from 8:00-8:25 every day, the kids can trickle down from breakfast, from the bus, or from the drop-off line and have some time to catch up and/or play with their friends before class begins at 8:30.

  42. We actually have a morning recess at my school for the very reasons that you've mentioned. Kids need to socialize before they're ready to hunker down and get to work. So from 8:00-8:25 every day, the kids can trickle down from breakfast, from the bus, or from the drop-off line and have some time to catch up and/or play with their friends before class begins at 8:30.

  43. I love your idea about allowing the kids to socialize. I know this was important for me in school especially as I got older. I'm not a teacher but I love reading teachers blogs because I am planning on homeschooling my kids one day. I feel it is important for people in general to socialize. Most of my teachers did allow some socialization for a few minutes. It really teaches you how to communicate effectively with your peers and kids want to talk and if you allow them time to do this one would believe that talking would be less disruptive during teaching time.


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