Silent Reading as Morning Work: A Quiet Start to the Day- classroom management series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Like many aspects of my classroom, "Morning Work" has been a process of trial and error. Thinking back, I'm almost ashamed that it took me so long to find such a simple solution.
If I was told to name the time of day when the students are the least settled, the most chatty and the least focused it would be a close tie between "first thing in the morning" and "right after lunch/recess." Post-specialists would be a runner-up. The irony of this is that it is during that "first thing in the morning" timeframe that you have the most things to do in a short amount of time and can't devote your undivided attention to the wee ones before you.
They are excited. It's been about 18 hours since they have seen you and your classmates and a lot happens during that time. They have breaking news to share. Maybe they saw an accident on the way to school. Perhaps a tooth fell out or a cat did some funny trick. Maybe they ate chicken for dinner and can't wait to share that earthshattering fact with others.
Early in my career I thought the best thing to do would be to channel those thoughts into journal writing.
Epic fail.
They worked at different paces. Some moved quick. Others appeared to lack a pulse. Many were stressed. Several had chronic cases of, "I don't have anything to write about." In a nutshell it was too open-ended.
So I moved on to what is traditionally known as "bell work."
You know...unfinished work, morning jumpstarts, mad minutes, insert any other type of busy work known to man here.
Again it was a flop.
Because they lacked the independence to follow the directions or legitimately needed assistance. But, I couldn't provide them with assistance because I was taking attendance and checking folders which is why they were doing said task. Plus it felt meaningless.
So then I tried handwriting. We do cursive in third grade and it seemed like a good task to start the day with.
But some were masters of upswings and downcurves while simultaneously chatting the ear off the peers at their table.
Alas I started using the Daily 5 in my classroom. Well, the Daily 5 with my own twists, but the same concept. And I needed to fit in a block for "independent reading."
And just like that it all clicked and I was left scratching my head and thinking, "Why did it take me so long to do something so easy?"
As I mentioned the other day, I have a morning song that I use to get them settled. When it ends they are expected to be at their seats and reading silently. This is magical because:
  • Everyone can do it. Even wee little non-readers can "read the pictures."
  • The expectation is silence so it's easy to keep everyone on task. Plus you can't read and talk so it's a no-brainer.
  • If someone comes in a few minutes late he can hop right in.
  • It provides a quiet environment that allows me to focus my attention on taking attendance and checking folders for dismissal changes and notes which are both very important for safety reasons.
  • It calms the room and gets them ready to start learning.
Because I count this as my 20 minutes of independent reading, I let it go on for that long. This allows me time to do a couple of running records or 1:1 reading conferences each day as well. Win-win!
To execute your morning routine, I highly suggest posting the expectations and reviewing them often. The poster I use is pictured above.
How do you start your day?

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