Morning Routines

What happens in your classroom during arrival time? Those first minutes are so crucial for setting the tone and the pace for the day! The routines you put in place for arrival time help children reconnect to the classroom and their place in it, as learners and as classmates.

Think of it this way: if your class has a Morning Meeting, you know how effective that practice can be for setting a positive tone for the day. A well-crafted arrival time routine supports and enhances that tone . . . and it sets the pace that kicks off the day. What—and how much—you choose to have students do at arrival time can have a powerful effect on how children feel about school. Try to structure the first minutes of the day so that children feel competent, calm, and excited about the prospect of working and learning together.

It’s much more typical for the school day to begin with a rush. As children arrive in the classroom, they’re often faced with a list of tasks to complete before Morning Meeting starts. When this to-do list is daunting—or simply too long!—students who aren’t able to manage it will come to Morning Meeting feeling anxious and frustrated, rather than ready to listen, think, and learn.

So what measures can you take to start the school day with more ease and less urgency? Here are some ideas:

  • Let students use arrival time to take care of business and connect with classmates. At the top of the day, children’s needs for belonging, significance, and engagement are especially strong. Develop morning routines that provide space and time for children to make connections with others as they complete morning tasks.
  • Interact with students individually in a personal way. Although it can be tempting to use arrival time to take care of procedural issues, the best way you can spend your time in those first minutes is by welcoming your students.
  • Teach and practice morning routines and procedures. Predictable, manageable morning routines provide children with structure and a sense of safety. The first few minutes of the day are not the right time to ask children to do things that are very challenging or even unfamiliar.
  • Write a morning message that builds children’s excitement about the school day ahead. A well-crafted morning message draws children into the classroom and welcomes them as learners. Don’t use the morning message as a to-do list!
  • Use signals and language to create space and time to pause and reflect. When it’s time for Morning Meeting to begin, use a signal such as a soft ring of the chime. Teach children to respond by stopping, closing their eyes and stilling their bodies until they can’t hear the sound of the chime anymore—and then slowly and with awareness make their way to their way to the meeting circle. Before jumping into Morning Meeting, invite children to take a look around the circle and make eye contact with their classmates before commencing the formal greeting.

Babs Freeman-Loftis taught elementary physical education for fourteen years before moving into administration as an assistant principal for nine years. She now provides coaching and consultations to schools and districts using the Responsive Classroom approach. She is co-author of The Responsive Classroom Assessment handbook.

Tags: Arrival time, Transitions