Morning Work for First Graders: 3 Simple Alternatives to Worksheets - Elementary Education

Morning Work for First Graders: 3 Simple Alternatives to Worksheets

It can be tough to come up with morning work for first graders that is both fun and educational. Worksheets often feel like a chore, and they can be tedious and boring. There are, however, three great alternatives to worksheets that you can use in the morning! In this blog post, we will discuss each of these alternatives in detail and give you some tips on how to implement them in your classroom.

Morning Work for First Graders #1: Morning tubs

The first alternative to worksheets is morning tubs (sometimes also called sensory bins). These are simply bins filled with materials for students to explore. The materials can be anything from rice and beans to shaving cream and pipe cleaners—although, for the sake of a peaceful morning, I’d keep the materials simple and zero-mess.

an aerial view of buttons that are part of a morning bin

Here are some ideas:

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Unifix cubes
  • Play-doh
  • Tangrams
  • Pattern blocks
  • Slime
  • letter tiles
  • Dice
  • Dominos
  • Links
  • Buttons
  • Base ten cubes and rods
  • Cuisenaire rods
  • A deck of cards
  • Foam shapes
  • Plastic coins
  • Stencils
  • Stickers
  • Dry-erase boards and markers

The possibilities are endless! Not only are morning tubs a great way to keep students engaged, but they also allow for some great hands-on learning. If you are using morning tubs in your classroom, be sure to rotate the materials often so that students don’t get bored.

You can also laminate pieces of paper to serve as work mats to make student boundaries explicit.

play doh on a mat to show as morning work for 1st graders

Bonus: Use the general concept of material tubs all year long. I love putting together ‘exploration stations’ at the beginning of the year to introduce my students to the ways we should and should not use certain things. Extra bonus: give them time to explore while you do one-on-one back-to-school assessments.

Tip: play quiet music (I’m a fan of classical or instrumental versions of popular songs) to set the tone and create a relaxed mood.

Morning Work for First Graders #2: Pick a Desk Job

The second alternative to worksheets in the morning is offering students choices of desk jobs.

What is a desk job?

This is honestly just a fancy way of saying “stay in your seat” but you can get creative if you’d like.

This can include things like reading, drawing, writing, or even working on a puzzle. The important thing is that you offer students a choice of activities so that they can find something that interests them. This is a great way to keep students engaged and motivated in the morning.

Photo of child sitting at desk reading a book

To keep things simple I recommend starting by giving students 2 choices. Rotate the choices being given, and as the year goes on you can increase the number of choices.

Here is a list of desk jobs to offer:

  • Puzzle
  • Read
  • Write
  • Draw
  • Clean your desk
  • Put your head down
  • Practice writing your name
  • Catch up on unfinished work
  • Play with a fidget

Morning Work for First Graders #3: Morning Journals

The third alternative to worksheets is morning journals. This is simply a journal that students can use to write about anything they want–or you can give them daily writing prompts. This is a great way to encourage students to be creative and to get them thinking about their day. Morning journals are also a great way to get students writing regularly, which is an important skill for first grade students.

I prefer to create a different theme for each day of the week so students can build a procedure and know their expectations. For example, Monday could be Math Monday where each prompt is math-related. Tuesday could be Tasty Tuesday when they write about food.

Here’s a look at my 5 daily themes:

(And before you groan, this isn’t a trick—you can simply download 1 week of morning work prompt for free here).

morning work for first graders writing prompt to make a picture of a penguin and label it

Then every Friday is Free Write Friday when they can write about whatever they want! You can get 180 days of paperless prompts for first graders here.

So there you have it! Three great alternatives to morning worksheets. Be sure to try out all three of these options in your classroom and see which one works best for your students. morning work doesn’t have to be boring, so get creative and have fun with it!

Do you have any other great ideas for morning work? We’d love to hear them! Share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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