7+ Things You Can Accomplish While Students Complete Hands-On Morning Work

Having a soft start is one of the best things I ever decided to do in my classroom. When students are engaged with learning from the moment they enter your classroom, you have time to Do. All. The. Things. If you've considered a soft start but aren't yet happy with how it is going, consider the many things you can accomplish while students complete hands-on morning work!

Photo of dice task card in purple box with text, "7+ Things You Can Accomplish While Students Complete Hands-On Morning Work."

Choosing The Right Morning Work Activities

While a soft start can take many forms, I prefer to use hands-on activities with the materials I already have in my classroom in the form of task cards that can be used repeatedly. I will not spend my time photocopying morning work pages that some students will finish quickly and others will never get to. That's a waste of resources and my time.

Photo of math morning work task cards with a variety of math manipulatives and bins.


Sometimes students trickle into the classroom over some time. There's nothing more disruptive than having your students make their way to the carpet area for your first lesson and sitting there with nothing to do as their classmates arrive and unpack. Then you walk away to enter the attendance into the school system. When students are engaged with a hands-on task during this time, no one is idle, and disruptions are limited.

Photo of beads and task cards on top of a large container of task card bins.


Occasionally a parent or sibling will pop into the classroom with a special message or request at the beginning of the day. When your students have a morning work routine, there will be no problem with you spending a moment or two to chat. You can rest assured that they will unpack and get started without your immediate guidance.

Photo of money task card and coins inside purple task card holder.

Yard Issues

I'm sure you've started your school day with someone entering the classroom in tears at least once in your career. Am I right? Occasionally, problems on the schoolyard upset a student, or a yard supervisor arrives to give you a heads-up warning about a problem just as the day is beginning. Chaos can ensue if you're dealing with these issues and your students have no direction. A morning routine takes care of this.

Photo of task card and dominoes on top of large container of task card bins.

Money Collection

Throughout the school year, there are times when we are overrun with things to collect from students. There's nothing worse than ending up with a pile of permission slips or money and finding that someone didn't put their name on it first. I prefer to check off these items as the students hand them in over dealing with them during prep time. When my students are busy with engaging hands-on activities, I can take the extra moment to collect the following in an organized manner:

  • lunch money
  • field trip forms and money
  • permission slips
  • book orders

Photo of task card and tangrams on top of large bin of task card containers.

Lesson Preparation

Whether you're a new or experienced teacher, there are often times when you need a couple of extra minutes to prepare something for a lesson. You can take the spare moments you need to prepare for your teaching by not filling your time with redirecting student behavior.

Dice task card in purple task card container and loose dice on table.


Having students engaged independently on a task of their choice means you can squeeze in a quick reading or math assessment! When your students are trained to get started quickly and work quietly, you can easily complete a running record or teach a new strategy in a one-on-one setting.

Photo of task cards and linking cubes on top of large bin of task card containers.

Manage Agendas

Whether you use agendas or not, there are parent notes to deal with first thing in the morning. Perhaps a child is being picked up early or taking a different bus. Maybe they're going to be away tomorrow, and here is the reason. This is a great time to check these messages so that you're prepared for what the day will bring.

Photo of task cards in purple container with dominoes next to it.

Observe Interactions

Sometimes I like to simply sit back and observe my students in action. I don't always have outdoor supervision on the same yard as my students, and I enjoy having the opportunity to watch how they interact with one another. 

  • Where are the hotspots?
  • Who isn't getting along?
  • Is anyone left out?
  • Who works quietly, and who likes to chat?
  • Is anyone off task?
  • Are students demonstrating responsibility for the materials and using them appropriately?

Photo of task cards with tangrams.

Check In With Students

I also love to spend the first few minutes of every day checking in with my students' well-being. Have they eaten this morning? Did they get a good night's sleep? Are they feeling well? Did they have a rough morning? 

Knowing what students are showing up carrying on their shoulders really helps me choose how to approach the day. Do I need to be gentle today, or can I push a little bit? Do I need to bring some extra energy to lessons, or will students be ready to engage?

Morning work time is a great time to assess some of the learning skills that appear on our report cards! 

Preparing for a soft start is a piece of cake with these editable hands-on Math Morning Work task cards. Grab a free set right here, or click the image below to purchase over 280 ready-to-go activities today!

Photo of math morning work task cards with text, "Free Math Morning Work. Click Here."

Cover of Math Morning Work resource

If you already have a morning work routine set up, but it isn't quite working as you'd hoped, you'll want to check out this blog post:

Photo of desks and chairs in grassy field with text, "Morning Routine Mistakes You Make and How to Fix Them."

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Photo of dominoes and task cards with text, "7+ Things You Can Accomplish While Students Complete Hands-On Morning Work."

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