How to Start the Mornings – Getting Students On Task

June 25, 2007 at 4:51 pm | Posted in behavior, best practices, elementary, inner city, strategies, teachers | 3 Comments

A teacher visited my classroom this morning at 8:10 and was very surprised that most of my students were quietly working at their seats, with two students hanging up their backpacks.  She wondered how I achieved this because she was used to her classroom.  Her students wandered around in the morning, chatting, sharpening pencils, putting away homework, while waiting for the lesson to start.  Then, it takes her just forever to get the students’ attention.

Very simply, the lesson started the minute the students walk into the classroom.  That’s how I get my students to start working immediately, with no time to wander around and chat.

Before Coming into the Classroom

I remind students how to line up quietly and walk quietly.  I may even make some small announcements to prepare the students for the day’s activities.

Coming into the Classroom

We walk in and stand ready to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  A monitor leads us.

Morning Activities

A list of morning routine activities is posted on the wall.  After the Pledge, the students immediately get started on their routines, usually without my verbal reminders.  Their first lesson is posted on the morning routines chart and is waiting for them at their desk.  This activity is usually an independent activity that everyone can do.  A homework monitor collects the homework from students’ desk.  I have a box of pencils already sharpened and waiting for the students.  I walk around and give a few students the “look” while I silently take roll.  By 8:10 we’re all working quietly and can begin our writing lesson for the day.

Students On Task

Beginning the day in an orderly fashion, focused on work, sets the pattern for the rest of the day.  My students are reminded by this pattern every morning that they are at school to work, and that time is precious.  I have very little trouble keeping my students on task and I believe it is because I don’t waste a minute of their day, starting with 8:00.

What Some Other Teachers Do

I find that teachers who are most aggravated by their chatty students not being on task are usually not prepared in the mornings.  Students wander around because the teacher is wandering around looking for materials.  Students don’t do work in the morning because teachers don’t have work for them in the morning, therefore they talk, which is a natural reaction.  This too sets the tone for the rest of the day.  Students will not be in the mental state to work.  It’s also about respect.  Students know you don’t respect their time if they’re sitting around waiting for the teacher for ten minutes.  Why should they then respect the teacher’s demand to be on-task and respect learning time?

The Remedy

Be prepared to teach and your students will be prepared to learn.

Inner-City Schools

Yes, I teach in an extremely low performing inner-city school.  If this is true about my classroom, then it’s certainly easier to implement in other classrooms.



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  1. Very well said. I will add a link to this.

  2. this works well for high school as well. Always have the agenda posted and bellwork/journal entry ready. I am learning to use music during this time and it also helps–but it has to be cued and ready.

  3. After a very rough year, your advice worked wonders. I had a very successful summer school. Being away from the classroom for four years really got my classroom management / engagement skills rusty. As I start a new school year. I will keep you ideas as my focus for establishing routines. Thanks for a great teacher blog; fellow lausd teacher.

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