Last year a teacher friend (former K now grade 1) started posting on her Instagram about Morning Tubs. I was immediately intrigued by these morning activities and began doing a little research. I went to the obvious place to look up teaching ideas first…Pinterest! In all honesty, I wanted something that my kids could do independently, things that were engaging and educational… a dream trifecta of an activity. Many of the things I initially found on Pinterest were packages I could buy on TpT (which were awesome ), but were a bit too much for my kiddos. I was looking for something that was simple and accessible to all of my students (my classroom is the first school/educational experience for many of my students (95% of which are EAL), so having them do word sorts or math games in the first week was not going to happen!). Luckily my friend Gail, whose post started me on the journey of researching Morning Tubs, came to my rescue! Gail is one of those teachers I wish had been my teacher! She has amazing and engaging ideas and, luckily for me, she is always willing to share! So I emailed her last spring to ask about her morning tubs. Immediately, she sent me the information she had gathered on morning tubs and even a list of the tubs she had done with her grade one kids (and how she did her rotations!). High five for amazing teacher friends!
So, armed with Gail’s ideas – I started looking at how I would do morning tubs in my classroom. I’ve done centre rotations in Kindergarten many times (lit centres, math centres, daily 5, etc) so it didn’t seem like it should be hard to plan a few simple activities for the kids to do in the mornings for the first couple of weeks. I spent many an hour that summer perusing Pinterest, pinning amazing ideas and planning in my head how I would run my morning tubs. With all of that time spent looking up ideas, it was going to be perfect, right?
Hah! With all the hustle and bustle of going back to school and reorganizing my classroom (which I seem to do every year…you’d think after 12 years I’d be organized – ha!), I didn’t have a clear plan of what to do for my morning tubs or how I would start the first day I had all of my students! I had a Pinterest board full of amazing ideas, but nothing actually planned!
Both my teaching partner and I looked at each other the first day of school and panicked a wee bit! We both wanted to try Morning Tubs, but weren’t sure where to start. We decided to do what we thought was best and keep it simple! We quickly picked some fun and engaging things (pattern blocks, plus plus blcoks, magnatiles, foam 3D shapes, and a few other things), put them on the tables, waited for the kids to arrive, and prayed to the teacher gods that it would work. And guess what??
It was a game changer.
Morning tubs were amazing!! The first few mornings were a little rough, as they typically are the first few days of K, but the tubs made a huge difference in how the mornings started. The kids came in, put their stuff away (with reminders) and went to the tubs. Everyone was happily engaged for the first 15 minutes of the day while I did attendance and dealt with any issues that arose at the start of the day (like parents wanting to talk or making sure everyone had handed in their Kinder Keepers (our folders that travel to and from school)).
In the beginning, I switched out the tubs out each week. I put out 6 activities for Monday to Friday and the kids were free to choose which tub they wanted to visit that day. For the most part that worked (especially when they were all new and didn’t really know each other). However, as they year went on my kids developed little cliques and would all bunch together at certain tubs (usually the ones that were building or STEM related). I started having kids arguing over who got to the tub first and kids not sharing materials. I was verging on 26 kids at that point and knew I needed to put more structure into my tubs.
I went back to Gail’s initial instructions on how she runs her Morning Tubs. She has 5 tubs that the kids go to on an assigned day. Then, on the 6th day the kids are allowed to go a tub of their choice. Brilliant!! Our schedules run on a 6 day cycle, but because of admin/PD days, Gail runs her tub rotations on a separate cycle so that no one misses their rotation.
I loved the idea and based my rotation on it! I decided to have 6 groups (because I had so many kids at that point) and to go on a 7 day rotation. In our curriculum, we investigate colour in science, so naturally I decided to use colours for my groups! I have 6 colour groups (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) and for the first 6 days they go to their assigned centres. On the 7th day we have rainbow tubs, which means it’s free choice for tubs! Rainbow tubs is every students favourite day for tubs. In the beginning, I posted the groups on large pieces of paper as well as on their tables. But that proved to be a lot of unnecessary work for me! Instead each group has a little stand with their colour and group members that rotate each day to help the kids know where to go too! Hooray for inexpensive IKEA frames!
I also laminated the paper that goes into the frames, so I can write the kids names on it in sharpie and then erase it (using a whiteboard marker) when I want to change up the groups. On the 7th day of the rotation, I slip the solid coloured papers with group names out of the frames and pop in papers that are rainbows!! Easy peasy!
I will admit, in the beginning going on a totally separate rotation than days of the week/days of the cycle threw me off. I kept forgetting who was where and how many days we had been doing each set of tubs (we had several mornings of kids telling me “I’ve already been at this tub”) . I am not the most organized person… so this was a real challenge for me! I had to figure out an easy way to stay organized that was simple and low maintenance!
So, I started by making myself a schedule (Morning Tubs Rotation schedule). I wrote out what each centre was and then “scheduled” it on the 6 day rotation. Because I was using colours for my groups, I was able to just write down the first letter for speed sake. In my plan book – I kept track of what day of the rotation we are on by just writing what day of our tub cycle we were on in the space I had allotted for morning tubs.
This made things run SO much smoother!! Now that it’s almost 5 months later, I don’t need to use my schedule anymore, I know that on the 3rd day the red group is always on tub 3 (for example) but in the beginning it was a life saver.
Another thing I did, was label where the tubs went after the kids were done with them. Each tub is labelled with a number (1-6) and the spot on the counter where those tubs “live” when we’re not using them is also numbered 1-6!
But I wanted to summarize – if you’ve skimmed this looking for the “quick and dirty” tips of setting up morning tubs, this is it!
My top 5 tips for starting morning tubs:
- Keep it simple!! Especially if you work with K or grade 1. My first few weeks of morning tubs were just bins of math and literacy manipulatives!! I often find the simplest tubs are the ones the kids like the most.
- Find a rotation that works for you! I loved Gail’s idea, but with so many kids I needed something bigger. If going by day of the week works for you kids – do it! For me, only having to change tubs every 7 school days makes more sense. The tubs usually last close to 2 weeks, and I’ve not scrambling on a Monday morning to set up new centres.
- Set up your centres in a way that allows your students some independence. By having the kids in colour groups, and having their names posted at their centres all of my kids can easily find their morning tub each day. Do I still have one guy ask me where to go almost every day? Yes, but it’s a quick redirection and off he goes!
- Have a dedicated home for your tubs! By labeling the bins and the spots where they belong, I saved myself so much time and it allows the kids to be responsible for clean up (win-win!).
- Keep a running list of your tubs!! I started this, on Gail’s suggestion, and I know next year when I do my tubs it is going to be SO MUCH EASIER to set up!! Will I do the exact same tubs every year? Probably not, but I will definitely re-use a lot of them! (PS I will post my list of tubs at some point in the near future!)
If you are reading this (sorry I’m so long winded…I get easily distracted) and you were hoping to find tub ideas – fear not! I’ve got those with pictures, just not in this post…
But, if I added them here this would be a stupidly long post! SO! I’m going to figure out how to link to separate pages and attach my Kindergarten Morning Tub ideas…soon.
Thanks for reading!