Helping Hesitant Learners Start Their Day

Students hanging on mom leg at drop off? Are parents reporting morning tears? Sometimes hesitant learners have a hard time transitioning into their school day or even experience some separation anxiety! Meet Gus and Henry, 2 of the fun ways to get students started in the morning. Read more about these 6 ways to help students get their day started with a smile!

 

Have you ever had a student (or few) who you hear cry in the morning before school? They don’t want to leave home. They take extra long to make their way down the hallway to your classroom, sometimes hesitantly enter with tears, and sometimes stand outside, not wanting to enter at all?

This has happened to me and I’ve felt TERRIBLE! I wonder what I’m doing wrong… have I done something to cause this anxiety?

The answer is usually no. It’s a part of who some kiddos are and the reason for this behavior is multifaceted. Whether it’s a case of separation anxiety, or something else, here they are… our little cherubs to nurture and teach!

The very first thing I always do is start the day right by standing at the door every single day to greet each of my students. This is such a great way to make sure that you’re making contact with each student before they even enter your classroom! They can show you that gap in their smile where their tooth was just yesterday, show you a glimpse of those new shoes, or just say “good morning!”  When they know they are not alone entering a sea of students (especially if they are first, or last to arrive) it can help students to feel welcome and like they belong.

Sometimes students need something a little extra, or a lot extra!

Here are some other fun little ways to get kids excited to enter the room! Please forgive me for the funny little names I use with some of them, I just find that as soon as I create a character for students to symbolize a routine it makes a huge difference! (If you love these little signs, I’m offering it as a freebie here!)

1. a special job! 

I have found that just having classroom jobs at all helps out with this.. after all, no one wants to miss lineleader day, or being teacher’s helper!  Think of a little something (it can be SO little) that this student can help you with each morning, like getting you a marker (their choice of color) to take lunch count with, or making a tally chart of friends as they enter the classroom.

2. good morning gus

Sometimes a little extra something in the morning can also help! We count straws as a part of our morning meeting and then we bundle them and talk lots about place value, but I have also used a “Morning Marble” jar, where a student just goes over to a table (or even my desk) and places a marble each morning in a jar to show how many lovely day’s we’ve had together. I’ve also spruced this up a little to have “Good Morning Gus” Instead of marbles,  he/she can add a pom pom to a cup with a face drawn on (intro Gus) upon entering the room. Something like this can distract the student from their anxious hesitance and can also help him/her to feel important.

3. Give it 5

I have also used this technique. I love that all students can benefit from and use it without it becoming a big distraction.

I hang a little poster with a picture of a handprint on it on the wall. The kiddos can give it a gentle high 5 when they enter the room. I have a number of copies with different sayings on them that the students can read or say as they high five into their day.

4.low pressure morning work 

This one has been such a game changer for me. I used to put out a morning worksheet. What I found was it was too easy for many kids and many it was too hard for… so I spent time clarifying directions or helping students instead of greeting at the door. Can you imagine how it must feel for struggling students to come into the room and start their day with a task that is too hard for them… the school day is hard enough, and often times these morning work activities don’t pay us back in value for what they cost in the way we start our day.

Instead, I have started having students do a high success, low pressure morning work job as we wait for everyone to arrive. 2-3 days a week they read with a buddy (there is no “I pick you” first two to enter read together, next two, so on). When I greet them I even say “_____ looks ready to read with you!” Because we’ve spent time focusing on how to enjoy books, and they all have books they can read (even if it’s picture reading) in their book boxes, this is fun and a high success time for them! Other times they can use playdough or pattern blocks. Sometimes there is a certain challenge or task (“How many different creations can you make using the same 10 blocks”) and other times it’s just exploration time with the materials.

In order to manage students knowing what to do, I print a “Morning Work” page and display it on the board. I like to put it in a dry erase pocket. Then I can write their morning job, or print little cards to stick/magnetize to it so they quickly know what to do when they enter.

5. give them a mascot

Some teachers shy away from this, I don’t always jump right to this one either, but if there is a student who seems to really have difficulty, sometimes I’ll have them carry a little mascot back and forth to school. A little beanie or finger puppet or something can make a huge difference. It can help them to share about their day at school when they get home, and it’s also a way to have them connect home with school.

6.hold it henry (or henrietta)

I use this in combination with the mascot, or instead of a mascot. Sometimes kids have a small special thing from home that helps them transition into their day. I have had students bring a small token from home that helps them to transition into the day. It could be a distraction, but Hold It Henry helps us out with that problem! I take one of those $1 bins and tape a label on it that says “Hold It Henry”. They put the item in the bin when they enter the room, and take it with them at the end of the day! This works for lots of things (including trading cards and trinkets found in their pockets). I just signal them to place the belonging with “Hold It Henry” instead of taking it away from them.

 

I’ve decided to put together these labels and signs for you for FREE here! 

Do you have any other fun ways to help your hesitant students enter the room?

One thought on “Helping Hesitant Learners Start Their Day

  1. Tara says:

    After 12 years in 3rd grade, this year is the first time I have a student who cries every morning because he misses his mom. We tried putting a picture of his family inside his desk so he could look at it when he was feeling sad, but he still cries. I’m going to try some of your ideas to help him get over his separation anxiety. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

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