Starting the day with kindergarten morning tubs is the perfect way to keep students out of your hair so that you can complete your morning checklist. Let's face it, without structure, mornings in kindergarten can be tough. Not only do you have to take attendance, check folders, and organize returned papers and forms to send to the office, but you also have to keep your students engaged from the moment they walk in the door. Otherwise, students may get off task in some of the worst of ways.
For those reasons, I LOVE using morning tubs. They are fun, they are hands-on, and you can change them out regularly so students never get bored with the same tasks that they have seen over and over again.
These are my best tips for using morning tubs in your kindergarten classroom.
Tip #1: Keep Them Fresh
As students get used to activities, they become less interested in them. That is why it is best to keep your morning tub materials fresh. I try to switch out materials at the beginning of each month and keep them on theme, if possible. For example, in October, I like to give my students activities with a fall or Halloween theme. Students love when the new morning tubs roll out with fun themes like candy corn, pumpkin patches, and spiders. The novelty of the activities, along with the timely themes, helps keep students engaged and keeps them from getting bored of the activities.
Tip #2: Use Familiar Activities
Just because the activities are kept fresh does not mean that they can't be somewhat familiar to students. While the themes and specific activities will be fresh, the content needs to be familiar to students. If you don’t use games and activities that are similar to what they have done before or that they are able to complete skill-wise, you will spend a lot of your time trying to answer questions and help students figure it out. Either that, or students may abandon the activity altogether. Essentially, the tasks need to be difficult enough to keep students busy, but not so difficult that they aren’t sure what to do with the tub.
Typically, the activities I use include a mixture of fine motor, math, and literacy games. In order to keep them relevant each month, I try to give my students activities that focus on review skills or skills that we are currently working on. Towards the beginning of the year in October, and even into November, that looks like first sound activities, building quantities, number recognition, and early sight words. By keeping the activities somewhat familiar, your students are able to engage in the activities without having to rely on you for a lot of direction.
Tip #3: Use Hands-on Materials
As with any activity, the goal is to keep students engaged, while also building their skills in different areas. Using hands-on materials is a great way to accomplish both. Some of my favorite tools to include as part of my morning tubs are play dough, snap cubes, and magnetic letters. You can use play dough to build numbers, letters, or even quantities on a ten frame. Snap cubes are great for building stacks of a quantity after looking at a given number. You can also use magnetic letters in a variety of ways–to build sight words, match letters to sounds, and to do uppercase and lowercase letter matches. There are so many options for hands-on learning opportunities in morning tubs when you have the right materials included.
Tip #4: Have a System
Before using morning tubs in your classroom, I recommend that you figure out a system for them. Are you going to assign tubs for each day, or are students going to choose which tub they get? Will they only get one tub a day, or are they allowed to switch out activities if they finish one tub?
Personally, I think that with whatever system you choose, you should make sure that students aren’t getting the same tub every day. As mentioned before, we want to keep these activities fresh so students don’t get bored with them. Also, we want to make sure students are practicing a mixture of math, literacy, and fine motor skills throughout the month. I recommend you have a rotating system with assigned tubs for each day. You can also set up a system where students cross off the tubs they have already completed so that they know to get a different one. Either system helps ensure that students are only doing each tub once, are staying engaged, and are getting exposed to all the skills.
Hopefully, using these tips will help your mornings in kindergarten to go more smoothly! By keeping activities fresh but familiar, using hands-on materials, and having a system already in place, you can keep your students engaged in morning tubs, and you can get through your morning to-do list with ease!