Picture first thing in the morning- For me, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I loved it because every day was a fresh start. I hated it because 6th graders are sooooo noisy when they are getting settled in for another day of learning.
A good friend of mine wrote morning warmups on the board and the kids would do them as soon as they arrived. What a great idea! However, the other part about first thing in the morning is I’m not a morning person, so to write warmups every day was not going to work for me.
My break finally came, when I got my new (now borderline “vintage”, or so I was told recently) laptop. Finally, a format that worked for me! I could make my warmups ahead of time and plug them in first thing in the morning.
To make it special, I bought everyone in my class a composition book for their warmups. They loved it when I gave them things. Everyday, there would be an analogy (good brain exercise), a quote (for meaning), a geography question (thinking beyond the atlas), a vocabulary word (to practice context clues), and a 24 Game® card (gotta have the math!!). My warmups were comprehensive and the goal was to have them completed in 5 minutes-a little overwhelming to spring on them all at once. I introduced each activity separately, adding a new piece to the warmup puzzle every day.
If you’re not familiar, the 24 Game® is a great game with potentially multiple answers and three levels of difficulty. Best part- the answer is always 24! We started with level 1 problems, so they were easy. It was a great reinforcer of skills and excellent PEMDAS practice.
I loved the geography questions. Every Sunday, our newspaper would print 10 questions from the previous year’s National Geography Bee. I collected them. I wanted kids to learn that geography was more than maps and not every question could be answered with an atlas. It was also great practice determining what information was helpful in answering the question, and what information was just fun to know.
My school used the positive attitude, learning, behavior program du jour, and with it came a weekly affirmation. I picked quotes from famous people to connect to those affirmations. (Most of them came from http://www.quotationspage.com. I liked the way their page was organized.) They would copy the quote (note-taking practice made easy) and write a sentence or two about what they thought it meant or how it related to them. I would sometimes include things like “underline the nouns in the quote”. It was a good way to get parts of speech practice built in.
Analogies and Word of the Day came from a variety of sources online. One source I liked was http://www.factmonster.com/analogies/ because I could get both pieces there. If you google analogies or word of the day, there are many, many sites to choose from.
In the beginning, it took about 20 minutes to get through just completing the warmups, but by the end of the year, I set the timer for 5 minutes and they got them finished! I played music while they were working on their warmups. Easy listening or classical seemed to work best, but when I felt rambunctious, I’d play something from Shrek soundtrack or “I Like to Move It” from Madagascar. We had a conga line around the room for that one! So much for calming them down. =)
My document camera made sharing responses easier. Kids enjoyed plopping their comp books under the camera to share. They also got really good at finding multiple solutions to 24. Sharing took about 15-20 minutes, depending on the depth of discussion.
I learned a few things about organizing the warmups for easy access the following year. I made a week’s worth at a time and eventually labeled them by the week instead of dates (March week 3). Then I only had to change the dates on the slides and add birthdays and announcements in the header when necessary. I, of course, didn't figure this out until way into a date filing system- lots to fix.
Looking back, I probably spent more time amassing a year’s worth of warmups (a week at a time) than I did grading papers on Sunday nights. The difference was that I loved doing one and the other... well, you get the idea. The best part was I had warmups I could use year after year, with just a few modifications.
"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." A.A. Milne