Re-thinking “morning work”

How many adults wake up and start their day with a worksheet?

None that I know of.

Whether it is called “bell work” “morning work” or a “a daily warm up” lots of students begin their day by completing a worksheet, answering questions or a doing a pre-planned activity – all of which have been decided for them by the teacher.

Just check out Google or Pinterest to see all the different varieties:

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But how do people start their day in their ‘real world’?

I start my day by scrolling through my Twitter.

My husband starts his day by meditating.

My mother starts her day by doing a crossword puzzle.

My father starts his day by playing chess.

My best friend starts her day by working out.

My mother-in-law starts her day by reading.

My father-in-law starts his day checking sports scores.

All different. All valuable. All self-chosen.

Why can’t students start their school days like this? Why can’t students choose how they start their own school days? Perhaps if we allowed students to choose how to begin their school day we would not have to stand in the halls and count down from 10 and compel our students to enter the classroom. Perhaps they would want to enter because they are excited and happy to be at school and start their day. I know teachers have many administrative responsibilities at the beginning of the day like attendance and collecting field trip forms, so a 10 – 15 minute window of time is needed to ensure these responsibilities are met. But why are we dictating how students spend those first 10-15 minutes warming up to their day?

Next year I plan to have a discussion with my students about how humans start their days. I plan to share how my friends and family begin their days, and I hope my students will share how their friends and family begin their day. I hope we can use this to create a list of possibilities about how students might start their day and post it somewhere in our room. Then I plan to respect their freedom and choice over how they start their school day while I am competing my administrative responsibilities.

Imagine the learning that might happen….

Imagine the connections that might happen….

Imagine the skills that might be developed….

Imagine no longer needing to find, photocopy and mark “bell work”…

16 thoughts on “Re-thinking “morning work”

  1. michaelbondclegg July 28, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    To add to this inquiry, how wonderful will it be for the students to discover how those around the world start their day? We aren’t all fortunate enough to ease into our days, but mornings all share that common thread of gathering stock of things, starting anew etc. I would be interested to hear student perspectives on how they think their ancestors started their day, how world leaders start their day, how single mothers start their day etc. Through this inquiry we can build empathy and start to develop an understanding of how a momen that we all experience (waking) can be so different depending on our circumstances, culture, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tbondclegg July 28, 2016 / 1:47 pm

      Absolutely! Our first UOI focuses on the concepts of perspective and culture…. so that couldn’t be more perfect! Thanks 🙂


  2. PREETY July 31, 2016 / 4:46 am

    I absolutely agree to this and would like to implement it in my classroom.


    • tbondclegg August 1, 2016 / 1:57 pm

      Hi Preety,
      That’s great! I’d love to hear how it goes if you decide to go in this direction. Good luck!


  3. Mari L. C. Storsve July 31, 2016 / 9:31 am

    I totally agree with you! And the respect for each method for starting the day is a good thing to build up early. Love the idea of hearing how other people start their day. Inspirational!


    • tbondclegg August 1, 2016 / 2:00 pm

      Hi Mari,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here! Cheers


  4. L July 31, 2016 / 3:53 pm

    Love this, I really do. And I agree with you whole-heartedly that children should get to choose their way to ease into the school day…

    But if you think about it, school isn’t the ‘start’ of their day. They start their day at home. Some might start with a shower, a TV show, breakfast, chores, etc.. Then they walk or drive to school. This can mean they have conversations, play, sing, listen to the radio etc.. They are well into their day (good or bad) when they come to us.


    • tbondclegg August 1, 2016 / 2:07 pm

      Hi Lesley,
      Thanks for your comment, you have definitely provoked my thinking further about this. You are correct that this focuses on freedom for students to begin their ‘school day’ in a way that works for them, much like many of us begin our work day in a way that works for us – make coffee, chat with a friend, check emails etc. You mentioned that they are well into their day when they get to us, which makes me realize that perhaps allowing them to choose how they begin their day is more about a re-start to their day, as opposed to a start to their day. A chance to re-set if their day got off to a bad start, a chance to perhaps do some things they did not have time for yet, a chance to experience some autonomy if they are coming from a morning routine that primarily controlled by their parents or caregivers.

      Thanks so much for your comment and stretching my thinking in this area! 🙂


  5. Natascha July 31, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    Why can’t you do both?


    • tbondclegg August 1, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      Hi Natascha,
      Thanks for your question. I think it all comes down to what your goals are as an educator. I know for me personally, I value and strive for learning in the classroom and for that reason I avoid worksheets altogether. (The reasons for which are outlined on my post What’s Wrong with Worksheets). I also value and strive freedom for students and learner agency which motivates me as much as possible to provide opportunities for student to have control over their own learning. (The reasons for this are explained in my post My Plan For a More Fair and Free Place to Learn…). So for those reasons, I personally choose to not have “morning work” in my classroom, because in my perspective that takes me farther away from my goal of a having a fair and free place where students experience agency and ownership and learning is valued over work.


  6. Pak Liam August 1, 2016 / 1:18 am

    We start our day with a morning circle, certainly not a worksheet. However, nice post, I hope that a few teachers listen to the message!


    • tbondclegg August 1, 2016 / 2:09 pm

      Hi Pak,
      Thanks for your comment. I think that a morning circle starts the day off in such a positive way! Are your students obliged to participate, or do they have the freedom to opt for a different activity if they do not wish to be part of the circle that day?


      • Pak Liam August 3, 2016 / 6:13 am

        Good question, I think all participate. But I will find out.


  7. hsopierce August 5, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    What an awesome way to honor students and show respect to them as learners. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.


  8. Lizanne Foster September 4, 2016 / 6:18 pm

    I teach older teens. Our school day begins at 8:25am but in my classroom we don’t start working until 10am. I don’t “teach” in the first block of the day at all. Students eat breakfast, drink coffee, chat, or just “chill” as they call it. We have a teen version of a “circle” in the form of an “attendance question” around 9am and I also check in with them about what we’ve been working on at the time.

    This blog is about my attitude to time and learning.


    • tbondclegg September 5, 2016 / 2:36 am

      That sounds amazing! Than you for sharing 🙂


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