Morning work may not always be the most exciting part of the day for students (or special educators). However, it is an important part of the daily routine, especially in the special education classroom setting. Morning work can help students review previously learned skills, get focused and settled for the day ahead, and provide a consistent routine.

Sounds great, right? But there are important considerations when setting up a morning routine for your students.

One factor is student arrival time. We struggled with students arriving early, late, and anywhere inbetween. That means students may have almost half a hour to engage in a morning activity, or maybe less than five minutes. It was very difficult for many of my young students to see a creative activity taking place and then realizing they weren't going to have the opportunity to participate. That's not a great way to set a positive tone for the day ahead!

Another important factor is sustainability. We want to choose activities that will (hopefully) be able to continue throughout the school year. That doesn't mean our students will be doing the same morning activity for 180 school days, but that the routine remains as intact as possible.

Classroom morning routine activities are still well worth setting up in the general education or special education resource room. These same morning work activities can also be used throughout the school day for early finishers, independent work systems, extra time at the end of the day, or even for indoor recess!

Keeping in mind various levels of students' needs, independence level, and arrival times, here's TEN creative morning work ideas to get you started!

Incorporate Technology

Incorporating technology into morning work is a great way to engage students while still reinforcing important skills. There are tons of great apps and websites out there that can be used for morning work. Elevate, Flocabulary, and Zearn are just a few options. Or, you could have them complete a digital scavenger hunt using Google Images. The possibilities are endless!

Create a Morning Work Station

If you have the space in your classroom, creating a morning work station is a great way to make morning work more fun and engaging. This can be as simple as setting up a table with different materials and activities for students to choose from. For example, you could include items like mazes, dot-to-dot sheets, puzzles, and other fine motor skill activities. Giving students choices will help them feel more in control and invested in their learning. This Fine Motor Binder Activities features 1500 pages – simply print and add to the station!

Incorporate Brain Breaks

Everyone needs a little break now and then, even during morning work! Incorporating brain breaks into your routine is a great way to reenergize your students and prevent burnout. Brain breaks can be anything from a brief yoga sequence or stretching exercises to dancing along to a favorite song or playing a game of Simon Says. The key is to make them active so that students can release any excess energy and refocus when they return to their assignments.

Make It Hands-On

Most people learn best by doing, so making morning work hands-on is a great way to engage learners of all types. If possible, try using manipulatives or real-world objects whenever possible rather than relying solely on worksheets or paper/pencil tasks. For example, if you're working on basic math facts with addition and subtraction, have students use blocks or LEGOs to build towers or other structures according to the equation they're solving. Not only is this more fun than filling out a worksheet, but it also allows students to see math concepts in action which can aid in their understanding. These Busy Bins are a perfect addition for a “soft start” to the morning routine!

Morning Work Pages

The last suggestion was to SKIP the paper, but sometimes that's exactly what students need – more time to grow in independence and build stamina with writing tasks. That doesn't mean it has to be dull though, these 300 No Prep Independent Work Pages are perfect for primary students to follow directions with fine motor writing.

Independent Reading

Spending quiet time with a book is one of the most important things, yet often is overlooked when the school day gets busy. Morning arrival time could look like a chance for students to visit the classroom library, exchange books, and get cozy with a great story. Don't forget using audio books! We found these reading activities to be especially helpful when we were noticing huge differences in student arrival times.

Calendar Skills and Visual Schedule

One school year, I worked with a small group of students who benefited from using a picture schedule. This quickly became the first thing we did as part of our morning meeting routine. With the use of visuals, we reviewed basic skills (days of the week and date) and our “to-do list” for the day ahead. This could easily turn into a whole group activity with students participating in a more traditional calendar time with classroom jobs, weather reports, and basic number sense review. Check out this blog post about creating free Picture Schedules.

Morning Message

There are so many options for including a daily morning message, depending on if you're working with younger students, middle school, or multiple grade levels. The message could be based in social emotional learning, critical thinking, or a question of the day. Consider making it low prep by incorporating a smart board display with students responding using different options (independent writing journals or a digital version).

Daily Writing Prompts

Over many years of teaching, independent writing was probably my favorite morning activity! This involved a simple prompt displayed for students to see when they entered the classroom. They responded in their own journals and at first, I wasn't quite sure if this was a good use of our time. Luckily we stuck with it! When you compared the student output from the beginning of the year to the end, it was truly AMAZING to see the emergence of student writing. If you're looking for a differentiated option to meet different levels of writers, check out these Picture-Supported Writing Prompts.

Independent Work Systems

Do you already use task boxes, adapted binders, or a file folder system? One huge benefit is that students are already familiar with the routine of using these engaging activities. These tasks could cover a variety of skills, from basic life skills to early academic skills practice. We used these independent centers on a daily basis! Check out these low prep activities here: Task Boxes for All Year.

There are lots of different ways that you can spice up morning work in the special education classroom setting! Which idea will you incorporate first?

What other creative ideas do you have for morning work? Share them in the comments below!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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