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Morning Tubs – All Your Questions Answered

Morning Tubs are my go-to every single morning with my 1st graders.  They come in, put their things away, complete a quick morning work sheet on their desks, and then move onto their tubs.  Every time I post about Morning Tubs on my Instagram or Facebook page, I get tons of questions, so I thought that I would put together an “All Your Questions Answered” post about Morning Tubs for you.

Do you want to do Morning Tubs in your classroom? Here are all of your Morning Tub questions answered for you.

What do you put in the morning tubs?

I have collected many items to use in my morning tubs over the past couple of years.  I started off by using things that I had (math manipulatives, popsicle sticks, Legos, Play-doh, mini-erasers, etc.) and have expanded over time.  I purchase most of my items off of Amazon, but I have also received items through Donors Choose projects as well.  You can see many of my Morning Tub items in my Amazon store front.

Do students choose at random or are they assigned a tub?

I have six different morning tubs.  I have a chart on my board to rotate the students through the tubs.  There are 3-4 students per tub.  I keep students at a tub for 3 days before switching.  This allows me to only have to change out the tubs every 18 school days.  It also gives the students more opportunities to be creative.  I love seeing what they come up with each day.

How long is your school day and how do you make time for them?

Our students can begin coming into our classrooms at 8:00, but our first bell doesn’t ring until 8:15.  Morning announcements and the pledge take place around 8:20, so we do Morning Tubs until about 8:30.  At that point, we clean up and go over our morning work page.  This gives my students about 15-20 minutes max to do Morning Tubs, but most of them have about 5-10 minutes of play by the time they come in, eat breakfast and get settled.  Our school day ends at 2:45.  If these tubs work better for you as a transition after lunch or to end the day, that would also be a great time to do it.

How do you introduce the tubs, and when do they start them in the year?

I actually introduce the tubs on the first day of school.  I explain how they will work and where to find their name and tub number on our chart.  Then, I go over what is in each of the 6 tubs.  I show the students how to get the tub for their group and where they should take it in the classroom.  After I have explained all of the expectations and procedures, I have them practice.  Then, they get to “play” for about 10 minutes before we clean up.  I review this again on the second day of school just as a refresher.

What are the expectations and procedures?

The expectations and procedures definitely need to be set in place right away.  When I first introduce Morning Tubs, I show them every little detail.  How to pick up the tubs and where to place them in the room.  How we sit and play using inside voices.  We do not throw any items.  We share with others and work together.  How to clean up and put them away when it is time.  After I explain and show them, I have the students practice.  If we have to practice 10 times before we get it, that is fine with me.  Every once in awhile throughout the year, you may need to go back and review expectations and procedures.  If someone cannot handle the expectations of morning tubs, I have them return to their seat and sit out of tubs for the day.  This usually solves any issues.

Do your kids have to complete something prior to going to their morning tub or do they go straight to it?

I personally have my students complete a Morning Work page prior to going to their tubs.  The sheets that I use only take about 5 minutes to complete.  I do keep an eye on their work to make sure that they aren’t being sloppy and rushing through just to get to their tubs.

How many students per tub?

I have 3-4 students per tub.

Where do they sit?

I have them assigned to spots around the classroom.  For example, Tub #1 is on the carpet by the calendar.  Tub #2 is over by the sink, etc.

Do you have a guide at each tub?

I don’t.  This is something that you definitely could do, but I am a big proponent of “free play.”  I personally LOVE to see what my students come up with, and I have found that they are MUCH more creative without strict guidelines to follow.  For example, the first time that I ever put popsicle sticks in a tub, I showed them some examples of things that they could do, but what they came up with on their own was so much more creative.  This is really a time for them to explore and use their imaginations.

How and when do you rotate?

Like I said above, I keep my students at a tub for 3 days.  This gives everyone an opportunity to use the items even if they have a day when they are running later than normal.  This also frees me up a bit because I only have to switch out all of the tubs every 18 school days.  To rotate the tubs, I just move the numbers down on my chart and I’m all set.

Do they eat breakfast while doing tubs?

This is a personal preference, but I do not allow them to eat while doing tubs in my classroom.  They can work on their morning work page while they eat, but they have to finish at their desks.  I don’t want food spread out all over my classroom.

How do you respond to potential backlash of “it’s an extra recess or free play time?”

I really think that setting those expectations right away and sticking to them is extremely important.  If students are taking advantage of this time and not following the procedures, have them return to their seats and not participate in Morning Tubs for that day.

How did you accommodate for social distancing?  How can you utilize these when students can’t share supplies due to Covid?

This was a huge challenge last summer when I was trying to figure out how to make this still work in my classroom.  Since we could not share supplies, I created individual Morning Tubs for my students.  These were stored up on my shelf and the students came and grabbed their tub after they finished their morning work.  After 3 days, I sprayed all of the materials.  Then, I rotated their names on our chart and they used the next tub on the following day.  I also had students use hand sanitizer prior to grabbing their tubs and after they were finished.  This really worked well last year.  I am hopeful that we will be able to go back to sharing supplies though.  Even though individual tubs worked, I missed the interaction and the sharing of ideas that comes along with small group play.

Can you include a list of tubs and the links?

You can find many of the items that I have purchased over in my Amazon Storefront.  Remember to keep in mind that you can use things you may already have in your classroom.  Math manipulatives like pattern blocks, Base-10 blocks, dominoes, snap cubes, geoboards etc. are great items to include.  Also, simple things like popsicle sticks, mini-erasers, index or playing cards, magnetic letters, strips of scrap paper, small paper cups, etc. make great tub items.

How do you buy these items?

My biggest recommendation is to start out by using things that you already have and start collecting other things slowly over time.  Look at yard sales or Dollar Tree for some affordable items.  I have also used Donors Chose to get some of my materials.

Want to read more about Morning Tubs?  Check out these blog posts.

Morning Tubs – Round 1

Morning Tubs – Round 2

Morning Tubs – Round 3

Morning Tubs – Round 4

Morning Tubs – Round 5

Morning Tubs – Round 6

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