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40 Hour Workweek

Classroom Management, Productivity Strategies, Teaching Tips & Tricks, Truth for Teachers Collective   |   Mar 10, 2024

Productive morning routines: How one teacher creates intentional practices for daily success

By Shelly S. Budziszewski

Productive morning routines: How one teacher creates intentional practices for daily success

By Shelly S. Budziszewski

What if you created a “standard algorithm” for your day?

Here’s what I mean.

In my 4th grade classroom, a focus of my Math curriculum each year is the standard algorithm for double-digit multiplication and long division.

I enjoy these instructional days because as a Type-A teacher, I like to solve multiplication and division equations with the standard algorithm.

Standard means the way most people do things, or the common way. Algorithms are the step-by-step problem-solving method for completing the given task. Therefore, a standard algorithm is a stepwise practice for solving a problem. I have a standard algorithm to start each day in my classroom. I have a stepwise practice for setting up my day for success.

Taking ownership of your morning flow

I have a practice of entering my room the same way each day. I have chosen each step in this entrance. I turn on one of the overhead lights and head to my desk. I turn on my desk lamp and place my lunch box under my desk. Next, I switch on the library lamp, and then the smartboard. I pick up the smartboard’s keyboard and mouse after switching the reading group tag that hangs on the keyboard’s shelf. I deposit the keyboard and mouse along with my backpack at the standing desk and log into my computer. While the computer is loading, I move to the nearby schedule to switch the schedule cards for the day of the week and special area class. Finally, I complete the full circle around my classroom by turning on the back counter lamp and hanging my coat in my closet.

You get to set the practice of this in your own room. Take ownership over the space and how you flow into it. Choose menial tasks that are both necessary and helpful. These are the first things I check off my mental checklist to feel success each day.

Tech shortcuts for efficient mornings

To prepare for teaching that day, I return to my smartboard and start opening all the programs I need. To batch this task, I have put all of my daily needed websites into one folder titled Morning: Pandora, GoNoodle, Google Classroom, Google Drive, Planbook. With a click on the folder, then selecting open all, I have all the websites open in two clicks! Not only did I choose the resources to group together, I have purposefully chosen this order. I want Pandora always open on the far left to easily access play/pause all day by both myself and my students.

Since making the decision to get rid of my PC for more space on my desk this year, I had to adjust my Morning bookmark folder. I use my smartboard for both instruction and my non-instructional tasks during my planning period as well as before and afterschool. So students would not see confidential information, I have a bookmarks folder for instructional items and another for my school email, Google Drive, and Class Dojo. I have two Google Chrome windows open and click “Morning Smartboard” to get all the instructional materials set and then click “Morning Teacher” to have my needed resources in another window.

To create a folder, I simply clicked on the bookmarks bar and selected “add folder”. I then decided which websites would be used daily and dragged and dropped them into this folder. (An alternative way to complete the same procedure would be having your needed websites open upon startup, found in the settings for Google.) I have made folders for not only my daily morning needs but also each subject area. When I am using a slideshow or resource for instruction for several days or weeks, I move that into my Morning bookmarks folder as well.

Your practice of opening each site separately can be streamlined. Choose which websites you need and even the order in which they are placed in the folder or startup list. This small change, using technology shortcuts, will save minutes and create another moment of success as you lay out your day.

My slideshow strategy for efficient morning meetings

Another resource I have in my Morning bookmarks folder is my Morning Meeting slideshow. I have three slides for each day in my Morning Meeting slideshow:

  • 1 – Welcome with morning routine and morning work directions
  • 2 – Morning Meeting with greeting, sharing, and activity
  • 3 – Morning message

Having the daily check-in directions displayed helps students to build independence, as I refer them to the slideshow as I spend time greeting students by the door.

I am so thankful for the duplicate option! I was able to duplicate these three slides to create an entire month, then duplicate the entire month to create each month of the school year! Although I have to adjust the dates or rearrange the activities, for the most part, these slides are ready for the entire school year after creating them in one year. The September Morning Meeting presentation always makes me thankful for my past productivity! Having all my extra introductions, procedural lessons, and classroom rules with my morning meeting procedures helps me to streamline planning during the dizzying rush of the beginning of the school year.

I look over my Morning Meeting slides when planning the upcoming week, update the dates, tweak the minor changes needed, and I am ready for the week. I can fill in the morning work ahead of time or each morning. I will rotate this slideshow in my Morning bookmarks folder on a monthly basis.

Your productivity can be increased with simple copy and paste. Take time to make a resource you can benefit from both now and later. Success sometimes means reusing and adjusting.

Achieving a “Tidy Inbox”

With my tabs all lined up and ready, I first go to my school email. From my backpack, I take my agenda, a combination of the list-making system from 40 Hour Teacher Workweek, and monthly calendars. I read emails with my agenda so I can immediately add to my calendar or to-do list then reply, file, or delete each email. I find “zero inbox” to be a lofty goal, so rather I shoot for “tidy inbox.” In order to do this, I do not look at email until I can give it my full attention with my calendar and to-do list present. Otherwise, emails get lost, requests get lost, dates get forgotten.

After getting the Morning Meeting slides on the one needed for the day, I move on to Planbook. I review my plans for the day. I adjust the schedule and write the lesson objectives on the board.

Strategic resource organization: Subject area copy bins

I gather the necessary resources from my subject area copy bins. I have spent planning time in previous days or weeks copying the upcoming items so I can be more prepared. If a copy needs to be made, I can do that right away if time allows or put it on my to-do list for my planning period. With my agenda still out, I can also see what tasks I have delegated to this morning or work ahead on tasks I have slotted in for the following day. The power of the one-stop agenda has allowed me to dump many of my worries into the weeks ahead and pressing to-do items into today, tonight, or tomorrow.

On some mornings, I arrive one hour prior to school and my morning process takes that whole time. On other mornings, I choose to leave home earlier to get more time in the morning for planning and preparation for the days and weeks ahead. Some afternoons, I leave right at contract time after just a quick clean up. Other afternoons, I spend time preparing for the day ahead, checking off some prep for the next day prior to leaving. The choice of the time to arrive or leave the classroom may be an area of reflection for morning success too.

Achieving productivity through thoughtful, intentional morning routines

Wikipedia states that “Practice is the act of rehearsing a behavior repeatedly, to help learn and eventually master a skill.”The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the noun practice as “the condition of being proficient through systematic exercise.”

My morning practices lead to productivity, both in the morning and throughout the day with my students. I have chosen repeated, systematic behaviors that are both necessary and efficient. My productive morning helps me feel in control of my classroom environment.

On a daily basis, teachers make so many decisions: countless adjustments to instruction, assessing and logging behaviors, responding to interruptions to the schedule… and teachers do not have control of many of these decisions. So every morning is your time to choose personal proficiency. Define the practices you need. Choose the practices that will make you successful from the start of your day. Repeat these practices until they are routine. Monitor and adjust your practices until they help you achieve mastery of your morning.


Shelly S. Budziszewski

Shelly has been a teacher since 2010 and is currently an elementary teacher at a rural school in Western New York. She is passionate about cultivating a life-long love of reading in her students using The Book Whisperer as inspiration....
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