Let’s face it: the morning time can be difficult for all of us. This is especially true for kids and young adults with growing brains! If we want students to perform their best throughout the school day, we need to set the stage. A huge part of that stage-setting is the classroom morning routine. This time can help kids turn their brains on and get acclimated to the classroom environment.
Keep in mind the idea below are a toolbox of strategies to pull from instead of expectations for every classroom. It’s important to find the morning routine that works for you and your students best.
1. Be Consistent with Routines
Whatever strategies you choose, build routines. Children and teens thrive on routines and consistency. Have a consistent start to the morning will help them wake up and feel engaged in the classroom. It’s perfectly fine to change up parts of the routine from time to time, or to test out to see what works best. But once you have a strong working routine, stick with it the best you can.
2. Post and Review Daily Schedule
Posting the daily schedule lets students know what is coming for the day. This helps students ease into the day with some predictability and routine.
3. Simple Morning Work
Giving morning work helps students ease into the day. It’s important that the work is simple enough that learners can do it completely independently. Essentially, you want a meaningful academic task, but not too much of a challenge first thing in the morning.
4. Emotions Check-In
Talking about emotions is healthy. Research shows that we can improve our emotions just by expressing those emotions. Start the day with a daily emotions check-in to help students build self-awareness and self-regulation skills from the start.
5. Exercise Routine
Exercise in the morning has been found to be beneficial for children in the classroom. Physical games, activities, and movement can help create a positive impact on students’ behaviors and moods. Try yoga, jumping jacks, stretches, and jogging in place to start the day. There are also plenty of YouTube videos to follow along with!
6. Morning Meeting
Morning meeting is a semi-structured time of day where students talk, connect, learn and grow. There are many reasons to start the day with morning meeting; one of those is that this is a predictable and engaging start to the day. Use this time to strengthen relationships, discuss important social-emotional skills, and problem-solve through challenges together.
7. Organization Time
Getting organized and reducing clutter helps us all feel good. Provide 5-10 minutes of organization time in the morning to allow students time to tidy binders, backpacks, and desks. This can also be a time to write homework down, check schedules, and get ready for the day.
8. Positive Affirmations
Recite positive affirmations with kids and teens to build confidence and self-worth. You can choose one positive self-talk statement of the day, or have students create their own individualized lists with phrases that are most meaningful to them.
9. Morning Jobs
Assigning classroom jobs builds responsibility. It is also a reminder for every learner that they have a valuable and important role in the classroom.
10. Brainteasers and Riddles
Brainteasers and riddles are a great way to get kids thinking outside of the box first thing in the morning. These tasks are puzzles, so they are challenging and engaging. Strengthen perseverance skills by not giving the answer until later in the day.
11. Allow Snacks / Breakfast
During morning routine time, allow students to have breakfast, snacks, drinks if at all possible. Some schools have rules about eating in the classroom, so it is important to follow your school’s protocols, but also important to help kids start their day off with nutrition.
12. Question of the Day
Give students something to think about with a question of the day. Best of all, these questions can be tailored to anything you want your students to learn. It’s also a great way to integrate social-emotional learning skills. Use a SEL question of the day to get kids thinking about skills like empathy, friendships, confidence, and decision-making.
13. Journal Writing
Journaling can be a calming and therapeutic morning activity for kids and teens of all ages. Assign a daily journal prompt of the day to provide some structured, or have students choose between two different prompts to give choice.
14. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. Spending just 5-10 minutes of calm in the morning can go a long way in helping children and teens feel their best for the rest of the day. If you need ideas, check out these free mindfulness activities to give it a try in your classroom.
15. Read Alouds
Reading can be a mindful start to the day on its own. Once students make their way in, begin the day with a quick read aloud. Note that this is also a great time for students to finish their breakfasts before the day begins. Here is a list of my favorite read alouds that align perfect to social-emotional topics.
16. “What Would You Do?” Scenario Cards
With a partner or group, introduce social scenarios and get kids thinking about what they would do and why. These are a great way to talk about social skills and expectations. Use these free social problem-solving cards to give this technique a try.
17. Preview Changes
Help students make sense of the day’s schedule and plans by previewing any changes ahead of time.
18. Emotions Check-In Journal
Use a check-in journal to help students identify their feelings and learn social-emotional skills at the same time. Something I love about this strategy is that students get so much from one journal page each day: emotions check-ins, positive affirmation of the day, SEL skills, and a mindful moment.
19. Calming Music
Consider playing calming music as students are entering the room. This can set the tone for a calm day as they start whatever morning work awaits them.
20. Coping Skills Practice
Begin the day with coping strategies! Simply put, when kids have calm minds, they can think more clearly. Each day, try a new strategy from mindful breathing to positive self-talk. Use this free coping strategies poster to give ideas to choose from.