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Monday, September 4, 2017

Morning Tubs…a positive way to start the day

This year, in first grade, we begin our days with ‘Morning Tubs’. This structure offers a play based opportunity for students to investigate, create and collaborate at the beginning of each day.

As students arrive, they unpack and choose a tub. There are 20 different tubs and the tubs include a wide variety of activities, including building, word work, design, math skill practice, investigation and small motor muscle building. Students can choose to work individually or with a friend. This part of the day typically lasts about 15 minutes.

What I’ve Noticed…
Upon implementation, I’ve noticed that when students come into the classroom each morning, they are excited to begin the day. They are efficient in completing their morning jobs because they just really want to make their selection and get started. We have little to no tardies! Those kids who might have lollygagged down the hall at the start of each day are now speed-walking to class! Aside from the ‘administrative’ advantages to the implementation of Morning Tubs, I love the idea that students are starting their day collaborating. They are building relationships with their peers and developing communication skills.

What I Know…
I have long believed that, when given the choice, kids will gravitate toward activities that are ‘just right’ for themselves. Chosen activities are neither too difficult nor too easy but provide just the right amount of challenge that will keep them engaged and where a bit of risk will pay off in success…aka learning! This is what I really love about Morning Tubs; the variety of activities, skills and levels of difficulty…there’s something for everyone to learn.

What I’ve Learned…
One of our district/campus goals for students is that they become self-regulated learners. This goal may seem highfaluting for first graders as it involves choice and the confidence that students will choose to learn in areas of interest if given the right materials and structure.
So… THIS happened on the third day of school: Two students came to me at recess with acorns, leaves, pinecones, some sort of tiny white eggs, some tree bark and an insect wing. They asked if I would put these items into a tub with a magnifying glass so they could investigate them in the morning. These students knew what they wanted/needed to learn about and went about making that happen. THIS is an example of what self-regulated learning looks like in first grade! Needless to say, I did create a nature investigation Morning Tub and it is a hit! As a result of this incident, I set a new goal for myself…involve the students in creating the tubs! #selfregulatedlearning #engagement

Something Unexpected….
Another BIG advantage of this new practice is that I now have 10-15 minutes each morning to build relationships with my kids. I’m meeting them eye to eye. I’m not teaching… I’m visiting, I’m coaching, I’m encouraging, I’m questioning and I’m learning about my students…their challenges, their successes and their interests. Sometimes, I just talk with them until they smile… a smile to start the day is a good thing! This is a time of day where I’ve not planned for outcomes but where the outcomes are totally worth the time.

It’s Never ALL Good (when implementing a new practice) …
One problem we encountered early on with the implementation of Morning Tubs was the noise level in the classroom. With six-year-olds, excitement breeds noise. The volume was problematic because it made it difficult for me to communicate with the kids and for them to communicate with each other. Additionally, I really didn’t wish to start the day by overstimulating students…some kids have difficulty recovering…truth be told…I have difficulty recovering! Solution? Too Noisy. Too Noisy is an iPad app that monitors noise in any environment. There is a gauge with a needle that moves up and down depending on the noise level. I set the level – somewhere between partner and group work – and place my iPad where everyone can see it. Students use this tool to monitor their own volume. Every 5 minutes a reinforcement star is given if noise stays within the designated zone. Interestingly, the kids are totally into the stars! If the environment becomes ‘too noisy’ a signal is given and we regroup. The classroom stays at a comfortable sound level and students learn to self-monitor…win…win!

As We Move Forward
I anticipate change to our materials and procedures as we move forward with this new learning structure, as students grow and change and as I observe and learn.  I am encouraged by what I’ve observed so far and am eager to follow their lead as they help me, help them, discover and learn.

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