Spending Those First Few Minutes Wisely . . .

As I have been starting to dig in to some of the nitty gritty details of going back to school (job charts, rolling carts, and so on), I started to reflect on our daily schedule at school.

If your school is anything like my school, you will relate to the feeling that there are simply not enough minutes in the day to teach the content we are being asked to teach.  It can become overwhelming, can't it?  I feel I do a pretty good job of keeping that pressure in balance.  I do the best I can and work very hard to NOT let the students feel that pressure!

The one time of the day that DOES cause me a little stress is the first ten minutes of the day.  We have our "specials" block (phy ed, music, art, and so on) right when the students arrive.  We have ten minutes from the bell until we are supposed to be downstairs and in our special class.  All the things I used to do to start the day have pretty much gone out the window!  Now I always feel rushed in the morning . . . to get their assignment books checked, to collect any notes, to deal with any playground crises--and most importantly--to try to connect and greet each and every student.  You know those mornings when someone comes in and you can just tell that something isn't right?  Maybe there was a rough morning at home or they aren't feeling well or a best friend said something hurtful.  I feel so bad sending students off to another class without having the time to touch base with them and "check in". . .  but it's hard to do everything in the first ten minutes!  I try to stand at the door and greet each child so I can get a quick "read" on their mood--but sometimes there are fires to put out!

How do YOU start the day?  Do you feel pressured to get your day started right away?  How do you transition students from their "home" world to their "school" world?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. If at all possible (unless I'm in a meeting or on bus duty) I stand at my door and greet each child by name. I try to use this time to for a quick compliment, tell them I'm happy to see them, or ask how they are doing. If I can't catch them at the door I try to use those minutes before class starts to check in with everyone. That plan doesn't always work and there are some days where I find myself checking in with them at the very end of the day!! There are never enough minutes in the day.
    Polka Dot Lesson Plans

  2. Hi, I'm new to your blog -- just found you a couple of days ago, but your post really hit home for me. I can relate to this post SO very much! I also teach 4th grade and am in the identical situation. Students arrive in the morning, and we have 10 minutes to get to our Special at the start of the day. School hasn’t yet started back where I am, but I have been really thinking about how I will use this time in the coming school year. You described my thoughts on this so exactly. It's challenging to address the things that must be dealt with in this short time and to do something meaningful with these precious 10 minutes. I still have not found perfection, but last year I utilized several things to help with that morning transition that I really found useful and will likely try again this year.
    I have students check themselves in when they arrive by moving their magnet to a board that says either "buying lunch" or "brought lunch." This act takes attendance and lunch count in one quick moment. A student is assigned to tally the lunch count and report it. Second, I have a morning activity on the desks right away. Sometimes that is simply a blank post-it note with a written message on the board that says, "Write your teacher a note." You wouldn't believe the amazing comments I get from this simple act. Students share great thoughts, personal concerns, exciting news, or questions they have for me. Then, while they are at Specials, I read each note and jot a quick answer or comment for them to read when they return. I can't do this daily so I also created Desk Top Pops. These are quick brain teasers on small slips of paper. When students complete one, they put it in a popcorn tub for a drawing at the end of the week. What strategies do you use?

  3. I'm in the same situation this year. I just moved from fourth to second and our specials are ten minutes after the kids are allowed in our building. However, a lot of them eat breakfast in the cafeteria so they won't arrive on "time". I don't have a plan yet of what to do in the morning. I'll figure it out soon, I hope!
    Fabulous and Fun 4th Graders

  4. I greet mine at the door every morning, no matter what. They come in, mark their lunch choice, and make a circle on the rug. I join them and we do a greeting around the circle. We use eye contact & say the name of the person we are greeting. It gives us a chance to start our day in a positive way, and every child is recognized individually. It has worked SOOO much better for me than creating morning work!! And when I'm out, my kids still hold a greeting circle, and they never let the sub skip it. We love it!!

  5. I always have a handful of chronic late kids, so I decided rather than fight it, I'd make the first 30 minutes a routine writing time. We make joke books, and each morning we decipher the joke together, then they go add it to their books with an illustration. It gives me time to go sit with each table for a little morning chat. Late kids come in quietly and catch up. It works for me!

  6. Next year (for the first time in my 13 years) my students will have French first and I have my prep. I've been wondering the same thing myself - I won't even see my students as they will head straight to another classroom as soon as they come in. Which means taking that time as soon as they come back to my classroom - I've got to figure out a way to make that a smooth transition, get the notes and homework out of the way, and get on to the subject at hand quickly. It'll take a couple of days, but we'll figure out what works ... I hope.

    Runde's Room

  7. Most mornings, my kids come right in a do spelling stations. They turn in folders, and get right to work. But last year, one day a week, they went to library 15 min after they came in. They were so used to doing spelling stations, that on that day, they would come in and just get their spelling station out and ready to go. It would be waiting for them when they got back. Since all the kids knew what to do when they came in, it gave me time to take attendance and check in with kids.

  8. Fourth grade it about to have specials first thing in the morning too. I guess I will see how it feels in a few days. As a grade level we have the students do some math and daily language review morning work. It's only a couple of problems each day so most of the kids get it done without any issue (except the late comers) and we check it at the start of each of the subjects. I have the kids come bring me their journals as they arrive so it helps me notice who is missing for attendance purposes. I guess I will see what adjustments need it be made once we get settled.

    room 4 imagination

  9. I just love to hear everyone's schedules and the details of their days. Thanks for sharing!