Why Traditional “Morning Work” Doesn’t Work!




Let’s set the scene. You come into your classroom on a Monday morning. You plan to get a lot done in the time before your students come in for the day. It’s quiet in your room. You have your coffee, you take a deep breathe, and smile. You’re going to have a  great day!

And then your phone rings. It’s the office informing you you’re getting a new student that morning. Ok, you can handle that! After all, you got in early today. You start getting things ready for the new kid. Right as your digging through your supplies for a new folder, a teacher stops by your room. You talk for ten minutes about the post-test the kids took last week. Did you grade yours yet? Nope, you think, but I will this morning! When she leaves, you go back to gathering things for the new student,  as over the intercom your principal asks you to turn in the notes you took for the meeting last week. You grab your binder, make a copy, and hurry to the office. While there, you see a parent who urgently needs to talk to you. When you finally make it back to your room, you glance at the clock. It’s now ten minutes until the kids come in.

Ok, you say, I just need to prioritize! I can still get things done in ten minutes! You grab a few papers to make copies of as a teacher comes around with a class list. One of the other teachers is sick and they can’t find a sub. They inform you you’re going to have 8 additional students in your room for the day. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor 

When you run back from the copy machine {after spending 5 minutes unjamming it}, you look at your calendar and realize that on top of all of this, you have mandatory district testing that morning, a team meeting during your plan time, and a math team meeting after school.

As the bell rings and students fill the hallways, you’ve gotten nothing done, your coffee is cold, AND YOU HAVE NOTHING READY FOR MORNING WORK!

Does this sound familiar? 🙂

Not every day is quite so hectic, but as a sixth year teacher, I can tell you that more often than not, you’re quiet morning before school can quickly spiral into a marathon, and all this before you have a single kiddo in your room!

I start with this story because the woes of traditional “morning work” fit right in to the above saga. When I first started teaching, I did traditional morning work. Meaning, each morning the kids had some type of worksheet on their desk to do as they came in to the class. It might have been a review worksheet, something they didn’t finish the day before, or a “fun” worksheet, like coloring.

{As a set-up to the story, here’s some background. At our school, the kids have ten minutes to enter the class, put away their things, and settle into their desks before announcements come on. This ten minutes is my “morning work” time. I don’t let the kids work during the announcements and I don’t like extending morning work past that time. We’ve got so much to cover that I need every minute possible. So, from the time they enter until announcements, they have to work. }

Let’s go back to the original scenario. My crazy, busy Monday morning, but let’s continue it as the kids come into the class.

As my 26 first graders come into the room, about 5 of them quickly and efficiently take off their backpacks, put away their binders, hang up their coats and sit down to work. It takes them about 2 minutes. They get their pencils out and are working fast on that morning worksheet! They run up to me holding it, completely finished before some of the other students have even unzipped their coats. Great, I tell them, color it in. That takes them more time, right?

Meanwhile, two kids are pulling on my sweater because they have notes from their parents. I try to read them and take in the necessary information as the office calls to say a student’s parent is here with birthday treats. I’m juggling all of this as those fast finishers come back up to me. We finished coloring! they exclaim. Great, I say, turn it in and take out a book. 

There are still kids entering the room as this point, coming late from breakfast or from home. Half the class is still unpacking. Maybe ten more kids have just started the morning worksheet. An older student comes down with their brother’s homework, which he forgot at home. A teacher comes in to tell me that there is a conflict with my testing time this morning, so can I please rearrange my afternoon and come then instead. In the midst of this, I take attendance and 3 students are asking me questions about the morning worksheet. They don’t understand what to do. Ask a neighbor, I tell them. They come back about 20 seconds later. We asked a neighbor, they say, and they didn’t know either. 

Just as you go to help them, the announcements come on, which signals the end of morning work time. At this point, half of your students are just finishing the worksheet, a handful have been done for the past five minutes, some of the kids just sat down from unpacking, and 3 more just walk into the classroom. This leaves almost half your class with unfinished worksheets. 

No problem, you’re probably thinking as you read this. I’ve already solved that problem! I have “working folders”. My kids just put their morning worksheets into a folder in their desk when they don’t finish them. Then, when they have free time, they work on things in that folder!


Except…. if I’m being honest, what those folders turn into, is just a place to store a mountain of papers. And one day you notice their “working folder” has about 30 crumpled, folder, ripped, and tore papers. None of which have been looked at since being put in the folder in the first place. You watch as that child throws those papers away, and can you blame them? What significance do they have?


Before I really get into it, I want to say, I’m not here to knock what you might be doing in your classroom. For some people, traditional morning work is great! I firmly believe that whatever works for you is best. So if you love your morning work, keep on keepin’ on! Good for you!

But…. you’re probably reading this because you don’t love the way “morning work” time goes in your room or you’re thinking about ways to make it more efficient.



So, let’s start with what people see as the pro’s of this traditional, one-worksheet-a-day kind of morning work:

1. It gives the kids something to do in the morning when they come in

2. It allows them to practice or review a skill

3. It gives me time to do things I have to do in the morning {collect things, read parent notes, take attendance, etc}


All of those are great reasons and I agree with them! In fact, with my modified morning work {which I’ll get to!}, I love it because of all of those listed reasons.  But if you apply them to a REAL classroom, the traditional model of morning work just doesn’t work out like that. Let’s break it down.


1. It gives the kids something to do in the morning when they come in

Yes, it does. It is something for the kids to do so they aren’t just talking and walking around in the morning. It gives them a focus. But as in the story above, some kids are going to finish that worksheet in 1 minute flat. Some kids are not even going to start it. Just a few students will finish it on time. So then you have to find additional things for the fast finishers to do, have to help the kids who don’t understand it, and somehow find a way to balance all of this within the first ten minutes of your day.

2. It allows them to practice or review a skill

Sure, it does. But unless you are making a variety of differentiated worksheets, you’re going to run into the problem of the worksheet being WAY too easy for some students, WAY too hard for others, and only just right for a slim handful of kids. You could make tiered worksheets, but this goes back to the issue of time- not only time finding the worksheets, but perhaps having to make them, copy them, and pass them out to the appropriate kid. 

3. It gives me time to do things I have to do in the morning {collect things, read parent notes, take attendance, etc}

In the moment, it gives you time to do the necessary morning things. BUT IT’S MAKING MORE WORK FOR YOU IN THE LONG RUN! Aren’t you collecting these papers and looking them over? This means that on top of what you’re already grading for reading, writing, grammar, phonics, math, science, and social studies, you’re adding an additional DAILY worksheet to look over? And if you aren’t reviewing them, then why are you even giving them a worksheet to begin with? Shouldn’t we be giving them meaningful sheets that are meant to practice or review skills? If you aren’t going to review them yourself or with the kids, then what’s the point? And if you are reviewing them daily with the kiddos, that is taking even more time away from your instructional day. PLUS- from my experience, I ran into kids asking me questions all the time with these worksheets {because they finished early or didn’t understand them} and then I didn’t have time to do my morning things anyways!


I think I’ve done enough complaining 🙂

Let’s get to what I do and what I have found WORKS BEST!



Morning Work Packet!

Click on the picture or click here to go to my TpT store to see what I do for morning work. I call it a month packet, based on the month it is. So in the month of January, we call it our “January Packet”.

When my kids come in in the morning, they pull their January packet out of their desk. It’s 50 pages of first grade review skills- reading, writing, and math based. It includes writing, sounds, numbers, letters, patterns, adding, subtracting, etc. It has some coloring, connecting the dots, and word searches. It’s everything you’d need for a fun, practice, morning review- BUT IT’S ALL TOGETHER IN A PACKET! NO more running around last minute to make a copy, NO more struggling to find something you’ve done to review, NO more working folders full of crumpled papers!

My love for this type of morning work is whole and lasting! 🙂 Let’s go back to those three reasons and I’ll explain how this version fits better than traditional morning work.

1. It gives the kids something to do in the morning when they come in

Yes! My kids know the routine. They unpack and take out their month packet to work on. But the glory here is this- the kids who unpack quickly, can work for as much time as they have. They aren’t going to finish and tell you they are done. They aren’t going to ask you what they can do next. They have plenty to complete! The kids who have less time for morning work just complete whatever they have time for. It might not even be a full page and that’s ok! It will be in a safe, complete place for them tomorrow. And if a student is absent or late, they didn’t miss anything because it’s all there for them the next day. 

2. It allows them to practice or review a skill

Yes! The packet contains a wide range of practice skills {FIRST GRADE LEVEL} on reading, writing, and math skills. Almost each page connects to one of the first grade CCSS. I say almost because there are some fun pages too- they are only six and seven year old’s after all 🙂 There are some connect the dots, some word searches, and a few color pages. I mentioned earlier that traditional morning work is hard because it isn’t differentiated. Are there leveled versions of each of these worksheets? No, you got me there! BUT- because of the variety of worksheets, kids can start with one they understand instead of being stuck the whole time. If you’re busy, they can do one they know how to complete while waiting for you to clarify. With a traditional worksheet, that’s all they have to do, so if they don’t understand it, they are out of luck. With a packet approach, they always have something they can be practicing while they wait for assistance. 

3. It gives me time to do things I have to do in the morning {collect things, read parent notes, take attendance, etc}

Yes, yes, and yes! The kids love their month packets. It gives them something to do that’s fun, meaningful, and varied. I get that morning work time to take attendance, write back a parent a note, and answer the office’s questions. Plus, because it’s a month packet, I don’t have anything to look over until the end of the month! That means instead of a daily worksheet, I only need to check one packet per student once a month. I always collect them and look over what they’ve done. If I notice a student doesn’t understand a skill, it’s a good way for me to make a note of it. Really, unless you’re checking their traditional morning worksheet each day and providing immediate feedback for each student, this isn’t a big set-back. 

January Packet

January Packet

So there you have it! I know it isn’t a radical idea, in fact, it’s just a tweaked version of traditional morning work. But for me, it’s a miracle. It’s given me back my “morning work” time and allows me to have a less stressful morning. I love it and I hope you do to!

If you love the January packet, check back to  my TpT store, First Grade Adventure, to find all the other months as I upload them.

Comment below on how you do morning work and I hope some of you give this way a try- it’s WORTH IT!