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I have been teaching kindergarten for 5 years this year and our district is half-day with a morning and afternoon session. I had struggled with using worksheets for morning work the past few years and really needed an alternative as I took a large chunk of time going over the worksheet, trying to differentiate the worksheet, answering questions, keeping kids on track and doing the work. Can you see the dilemma? Plus, I needed something that would be engaging and time sensitive. That is where morning bins started!
I decided to completely scrap all worksheets and implement a new system. A shelf is dedicated the space to the morning bins only. Then I purchased clear plastic bins from our local Dollar Tree. I simply numbered the bins to match my table numbers. Each table gets one morning bin with enough materials for up to four children at the table. In my class, each table of four has a number and color. All four kiddos do the same activity, but I differentiate using a color code system with some materials.
Since I have 6 tables in my classroom, the bin is rotated every morning, so each table does a different activity every day. I have it set up so that each group does the same morning bin 3 times before I switch them all for a new activity. That equals almost 4 weeks! I sometimes shorten or lengthen this depending on interest and classroom needs. Every once in awhile, I changed out a couple of bins instead of replacing all six activities or slowly introduce them six new bins. It is all about what works for your classroom.
Activities vary between math, reading, writing, and science depending on the needs of my kiddos, but every morning bin has a game or hands-on activity. I do partner games and individual activities. Some of the areas I focus on for each quarter of school are:
August-October 1st Quarter
- Fine Motor: hole punches, cutting, Play-doh, and wiki sticks, lacing cards
- Letter-ID activities
- Number identification activities 0-5
- Name Activities
- Pattern blocks
October-December 2nd Quarter
- Letter and sound identification
- Fine Motor Activities
- Number Identification 0-10
- Writing the alphabet
- 2D and 3D Shapes
- Sight Word Activities
- Count to 50 Board Game
January-March 3rd Quarter
- Build CVC Words
- Identifying Beginning and End Sounds
- Vowel sounds
- Word Families
- Sight words
- Counting to 75 board game
- Number Identification 0-15
March -May 4th Quarter
- Morning writing prompt
- Build CVC and CVCe Words
- Sound sorts
- Word Families
- Sight words
- Count to 100 board game
- Number Identification 0-20
- Making 10
As you can see, I chunk activities to make them more independent and build on what we are already learning or reviewing a skill we have already gone over. I am sure full-day would look different, but tailoring your morning bins to meet your classroom needs is easier when you focus on skills and standards you are going to be covering. Once you have activities, I save them in a closet according to quarters so that I can use them again next year! I usually try to find activities that really need more work, like fine motor. Plus, the children love to do different activities each morning that keep them engaged! This gives me time to check folders, take attendance, send down notes, announcements, and kiddos who come in a little later still have time to do the activity!! No more playing catch-up with those kiddos who come in late.
Here are some tips to help you build your morning bins:
- Try using as many materials you already have in your classroom!
- Laminate worksheets. I use recording sheets a lot and they just use a dry erase marker to write!
- Include all the materials they will need to do the activity.
- Try to include games and materials the children are familiar with and have used before.
Again, try to utilize as many materials that you already use. After teaching a fun game or activity, use the same materials for another morning bin. This will not only utilize all of your materials, but reinforce the skill.
Here are a few of my favorite manipulative to use in my morning bins:
Along with using materials and activities I am using in my teaching, I also create materials that I print and laminate. I just make sure to have enough for four students. You can find my first product on my new Teachers Pay Teachers store here. Be sure to check back often for new items!
How to Introduce Morning Bins
I start out slow at the beginning. I put out materials like puzzles, pattern blocks, and lacing cards. I then introduce the morning bins by introducing the rules and how to get the materials. Next, I introduce 1-2 new bins for one week until we have the six bins. After they are established, I change out the bins around 3-4 weeks using the same method of introducing 1-2 new bins at the end of class until all the new bins are ready.
The Growing List of Links
I will begin to link activities that I find for free that I plan on using in my bins. Be sure to check back often!