Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

Creative Ways to Begin and End Your Day That Your Students Will Love

Are you a routine person? Do you do the same things every day when you wake up and right before you go to bed? Most of us probably do. We get into the groove of effective methods and eventually they become a habit. This is neither good nor bad. I’m a routine person for sure and thrive off of them. However, it’s always good to mix things up every now and then to keep it interesting. The same goes for the classroom. So, let’s talk about some creative ways to begin and end your day that your students will love.

Theory of Primacy and Recency

When thinking about the time we have our students, it is important to make the most of the time we have. Most teachers I know have a structured schedule that allows them to get the most out of every minute of the school day. But could we go further?

It wasn’t something I had given a lot of thought to until I learned the theory of primacy and recency.

The theory of primacy and recency can help us as teachers make the best use of our time.

I happen to love this theory, and it changed how I structured my day. I strived to implement this theory daily in my classroom.

The theory suggests that information presented at the beginning and end of a lesson is retained more than the information presented in the middle. Makes sense if you think about it for a minute. When I think about various events or classes I’ve personally taken, I can see this in action. So, why not use this approach in the classroom?

Creative Ways to Begin Your Day

Intentionally planning arrival activities to kick off the day will help set the stage for the entire school day

Your attitude in the morning can set the tone for the rest of your day. I always want my classroom to feel like a safe, welcoming place for my students. I also want it to be a place where their brains are ignited and their imaginations are on fire. Starting our day with creative approaches like these helps to set that tone.

When my students come into the room in the morning they get right down to work. I have some soft mindful music playing as they come in and unpack. Morning work directions are always displayed on the whiteboard. Here are a few creative activities that I rotate in and out of our morning routine.

#1 Writing Prompt

I love to use writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing. I would suggest compiling a list of them before the school year starts so it’s simple for you to find them while you’re planning. You can even put together your weekly slides and be extra prepared.

I like to keep them light and fun and choose topics that my students get excited about. Here’s an example of something you might see on my whiteboard as a writing prompt.

Imagine that your parents told you that you were going on a trip when you woke up this morning. Where are you going, and what will you do there? Describe how you felt, what you were wearing, what you’ll eat, etc.

The kids seem to enjoy these and love to illustrate them if they have extra time. This is a great creative way to begin and end your day.

#2 Morning Math Warm-Ups

These engaging math warm-ups is a great way to get students focused and start the day or math lesson.

I love to use math warm-ups as a way to spiral content throughout the year. It’s the perfect opportunity to mix old and new skills together to keep my kids fresh.

There are several ways this can be done. You can create a folder for math warm-ups and print the materials by the week or the quarter.

Another idea is to provide an answer sheet to your students and have the warm-up displayed daily on the board. I like to mix up the activities with things like task cards, games, and partner work.

I created the perfect math warm-up resource which includes all of these things and more.

#3 Journaling

Journaling is a great activity to start your day and get students focused and ready for learning.

I provide my students with a small notebook used specifically for journaling. At least once a week I use a journal prompt as our morning work. I provide them with a prompt like “tell me something you’re scared of”, or “what is one thing that makes you the happiest”.

The students know that I read each and every entry and will often respond back to them. It doesn’t take long for this journal to become a special communication tool between me and the students.

This activity is great because it is a creative outlet for them, and it allows me to learn a lit bit more about what’s going on in their personal lives. It’s a great way to build those personal connections with students.

#4 Morning Meeting

Morning meeting is a great way to start the school day

We all come together on the carpet to begin our day. Morning meeting just might be my favorite part of the day. It allows us to come together as a class community and build relationships. So many things take place during morning meeting such as read alouds, share time, calendar activities, math review, sight word review, phonics practice, and so much more!

My students look forward to it and often ask me about it if it gets pushed back a little bit.

End Your Day With These Creative Ideas

Of course, the meat of your day happens in the middle as you go through all of your lessons and activities, but the end of the day is the perfect time for a recap. Remember that Theory of Primacy and Recency we talked about earlier? Now is the time to hit it again with some of these ideas.

#1 Journaling

Yep. Journaling is an excellent creative way to either begin or end your day. I like to give a journal prompt at the end of a day when we introduced a difficult skill to see how my students are feeling about it. It also works well after field trips or school assemblies for students to be able to process their feelings and emotions.

Exit Tickets

This free exit ticket can be used again and again as a daily recap.  It's a great way to find out when students feel successful and when they are struggling.

Exit tickets are a quick and easy way to assess students’ knowledge and review a skill quickly. You can mix up your methods for this activity. One idea is to provide them each with a small piece of paper with the question on it. Another is to have the question displayed on the whiteboard. They can record their answers and turn them in, or you can play a game of showdown. Use your imagination, and while you’re at it grab this FREE exit ticket from my resource library!

#3 Review Games

Powerpoint review games are a great way to end the day and recap the learning from day or week.

Who doesn’t love a good game? They are a great way to pique interest and engagement while practicing key standards and skills.

Adding a game at the end of the day is an effective way to review the day or week’s learning. My students are always very excited when it’s time to play.

You can check out my Math Game Show Bundle in my TPT store. It includes 10 different math review games that you can play with your students. I like to use them all year long, but they are also great as a strategic end of the year review. I know your kiddos will love it as much as mine do.

I hope you’re excited to implement these creative ways to begin and end your day. I think you’ll quickly begin to notice a difference in student retention. Happy teaching!

Save these Creative Ideas to Begin and End Your Day

Be sure to pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can save these tips and ideas to begin and end your day with intentionality.

Use the theory of primacy and recency to your advantage as you schedule your classroom activities. These tips and ideas for starting and ending your day will help you make the most of the time you have with your students.

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hey y'all

I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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