In 2017 I wrote a blog called "Rethinking Morning Work," and it advocated for teachers to rethink how we started our mornings with students. I proposed shifting from traditional morning work (worksheets, problem of the day, etc.) to "Morning Choice," which allowed students the opportunity to collaborate, create, play, problem solve, and capitalize on interests through games, art, STEM, and more.
The idea became widespread in classrooms across the country and I was proud to have implemented it in my school as a principal, where we showed increases in attendance and decreases in behavior referrals. You can read about the full implementation here in this follow up blog.
As I presented on Morning Choice at conferences, it sparked a tangential conversation with educators, including my dear friend Katie Mense, a kindergarten teacher in southern Illinois. She said that while her school schedule wouldn't be conducive to Morning Choice, a challenge many other educators faced, she believed in the principles of Morning Choice and was able to make something similar work for her students. This is how we started discussing Morning Tubs.
Morning Tubs followed the same ideological lines as Morning Choice, but included standards-based activities. This small shift allowed her to start the mornings off with her kindergarteners with a way for them to still collaborate, create, and problem solve, but while still addressing grade level content and standards. In addition, her five-year-olds were practicing fundamental social skills: taking turns, winning and losing gracefully, and sharing.
Katie shared her Morning Tubs program on her Instagram page, and educators were excited and eager to learn more. The challenge for many, however, was that she was making and finding many of the materials herself, which was time-consuming for teachers to replicate.
A discussion about this took place over dinner one night, and along with our friends Jose and Shawn, lead to an idea to help educators. What if you were able to get a box in the mail with everything you needed to run Morning Tubs in your classroom? What if all of the materials were printed, sorted, and laminated already? What if you were setting up a program to help with the challenges that teachers face each morning as students arrive?
It was at that point that we decided to create our first Morning Tub set. It would include ten kindergarten standards-aligned activities (five ELA and five math) with all of the materials included. It also gave ways to differentiate the activities by providing support and enrichment ideas for each activity. For months, our team researched and designed, and finally in December released our Winter Morning Tubs.
It's been inspirational to see kindergarten teachers make such an impactful change to their classroom by rethinking one of the most traditional routines we have in schools. We challenge you to make that same shift! And if you don't teach kindergarten, we'll be getting to you soon!