Morning Routines That Really Work for Pre-K and Kindergarten- and MORE Hidden Sight Word Worksheets! (Another Freebie Alert!)

Morning Routines that Really WORK in Kindergarten

A few weeks ago, a teacher asked me to describe my morning routine, and this is a question that is asked of me from time to time.  And while I have posted my daily schedule, I have not really described very well how I get my class started each morning.  So this blog post will tell you how I generally PLAN on starting off each day- not that every single day goes as planned, of course!  You never really know what is going to happen each day when you open up the door to all of your little sweeties, do you?  That is the wonder of teaching; each day is filled with new challenges that are similar in nature but still entirely new and keep you thinking on your feet every minute of every day.  It’s an exhausting, but wonderful job!

AND… I am so happy to tell you that Krista in the HeidiSongs office has been working very hard this week and has already completed the second set of Hidden Sight Word Worksheets!  This set includes worksheets for all of the words that are on Sing and Spell Vol. 2, which are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white, gray, pink, an, at, big, do, down, has, in, it, no, not, small, this, too, up, we, what, who, yes.  Click here to download a couple of free samples from this set. Click here to purchase the set from our website.


I am so glad that this year, I was able to START the school year off using the Classroom Management CD/DVD right from the beginning, especially since I was able use it to teach and review the rules of my class using the “Follow the Rules” song!  I taught it as soon as I could possibly squeeze it into the day during the first week of school, and then reviewed it as often as possible, circumstances permitting.

When I first introduced the Backpack Boogie, we did it at the end of the day with our backpacks on, just for fun.  Then they were ready for it the next morning when the song came on as they came in the room.

Start with “The Backpack Boogie” Song As They Put Their Things Away
One of my favorite routines is to let the children into the classroom in the morning, and when a couple of them have put their backpacks away, I turn on the music to “The Backpack Boogie” (from the Classroom Management CD/DVD) and start dancing with the ones that are ready.  The rest of the children tend to move a bit more quickly to join us as they put their things away, since this song has become a class favorite. The lyrics of this song remind the children what to do when they enter the classroom:

I’m gonna boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie right through the day!
I’m going to check for books and notes and things,
And turn in all the stuff I needed to bring,
And if there’s any homework, pop it in: ka-zing!
And boogie right through the day!
I’m gonna boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie right through the day!
I say good-bye with a smile.
I don’t cry anymore!
I’m going to greet my teacher as I walk through the door!
And I know my things don’t belong on the floor!
And I’ll boogie right through the day!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie, boogie,
Boogie with my backpack!
Boogie right through the day!


Go Straight into the “Follow the Rules” Song

I made a new playlist on my iPod so that the “Backpack Boogie” comes first, and the “Follow the Rules” song (also from the Classroom Management CD/DVD) comes next on what I call my “Morning Routine” playlist.  My rule is that the children have to have everything put away and join us by the time that these two songs are finished.  Otherwise, they have to go to time out.  But they know the rules, and this rarely happens.  Plus, my aide is back by the cubbies and reminds them to keep moving when necessary, so there is rarely a problem with dawdling (at least this year!)  Last year, I had a child that deliberately dawdled through this routine every single morning (no matter what,) and I had to deal with him in a different way.  We finally got to the point in which he would make up his wasted time by sitting out those minutes at recess, which was the only thing he really responded to, unfortunately.


Have Everyone Sit Down and Take Attendance
After we have sung both the Backpack Boogie and the Follow the Rules songs, I have everyone sit down by counting “One, two, three!” and showing my fingers as I count.  This is my daily signal for them to sit down, no matter what.  I really like using this, because even if it is pretty noisy in the room, if I call out, “One, two, three!” and also show my fingers as I count, most of them will respond by instantly jumping and sitting down criss cross applesauce in their spots on my colored carpet.  Once the other children who may not have heard me or noticed what I did or see the other others sit, then they join them.  It’s an efficient way of getting control back of an excited group of children.
After that, I take roll by asking each child if they are bringing or buying their lunch.  So instead of saying “Here!” or “Present,” they respond with “Bringing!” or “Buying!” and then I have my cafeteria lunch count taken as well as attendance.


“Right Hand, Left Hand” Song, Flag Salute, and “Red, White, and Blue” Song
At that point, I choose a helper for the day by selecting a new shirt for the Helper Bear and have the helper take my attendance sheet to my aide.

This is a free download on my blog.  Click here to find it!

Then everyone stands up to do the “Right Hand, Left Hand” song while the helper delivers the sheet and gets out the flag.  (All of the songs in this post are from the Classroom Management DVD, except those noted differently!) Since that song ends with “Put your hand on your heart, and face the flag please,” it provides a natural segue right into the flag salute.  I quickly pause my iPod, (which is conveniently placed right at the front of the room, naturally!) and then we all do the flag salute.  For some reason, I always tend to have kids that want to goof off during the flag salute, so I have to keep a sharp eye on them while we do this.  I have no idea why this is the case, but it seems to happen every year.  Does this happen to anyone else?


Perhaps the sheer repetition of it in every single classroom everywhere leads to boredom?  I really don’t know for sure, but the disrespectfulness of the situation just drives me crazy, so I do discipline my students for misbehavior during the flag salute.  Their parents are allowed to have their child opt out of the flag salute, of course, but so far I have never had a parent ask me to allow their child to talk, play, goof off, or act silly during the flag salute.
After the flag salute, I quickly hit the play button on the iPod, and we all sing the “Red, White, and Blue” song.  I like this as a review of patterns as well as a patriotic song, because the words are:

“Red, white, and blue!
Red, white, and blue!
An A, B, C, pattern just for you!
Red, white, and blue!
Red, white, and blue!
An A, B, C, pattern just for you!”


Of course we march while we sing, so it is a good way to get that oxygen flowing to the brain as well!

You can see the iPod circled in the lower right corner.  It’s right up front next to our art project for the day that is set up for me to demonstrate.  When I leave for the day, I have everything set up for the next day before I go home.

Sit Down with the “Criss Cross Applesauce” Chant
As I already mentioned, I have a “Morning Routine” playlist programmed into my iPod, and the song Criss Cross Applesauce comes next, so I just let the iPod play and it comes right on.  I count “One, Two, Three!” and everyone sits and the song starts right up.  Everyone starts chanting, with each verse getting quieter and quieter:

Criss cross applesauce,
Clap, clap, clap!
Eyes on the teacher,
Hands in your lap!
Criss cross applesauce,
Clap, clap, clap!
Eyes on the teacher,
Hands in your lap!
Criss cross applesauce,
Clap, clap, clap!
Eyes on the teacher,
Hands in your lap!


Calendar Routines with Music 

(Days of the Week, Months of the Year, Seasons Songs)
Once the kids are seated nicely, I just keep letting the iPod play, and grab my pointer.  There is just enough time to ask them what the month is and let them all respond.  Then the “Days of the Week” song starts.  They all sing it while seated, so it works out nicely.  After that, my playlist goes to the “Months of the Year” song.  I don’t sing that one every single day, because sometimes I know that we will not have enough time.  On those days, I just pause the iPod and forward the iPad past it.

This is my calendar and my “Focus Board.”

Then we do the regular calendar routine that most teachers probably do.  This includes updating the calendar with the current date, having the children recite it, including the day of the week.  For example, “Today is Friday, November 2, 2012.  The season is fall.”  At that point, we all stand up and sing the Fall Song from Little Songs for Language Arts, which I have also added to my Morning Routines playlist.  (Naturally, if it is not fall, we will sing one of the other season songs, such as the Winter Song or the Spring or Summer Song, etc.)


While we are up, we also sing the Count By Tens Song from Musical Math, but later in the year, we might skip that one and sing the Count by Five’s or by Two’s song instead.  Again, if we are pressed for time, we may skip these.  But once I have everyone standing, and the song is cued up, it’s really only takes less than a minute to just go ahead and do it!


After that, I count to three again and everyone sits down again. Then I add one more straw to our place value chart so that we are counting every single day that we have been in school so far.  We put those straws in bundles of tens and count them by tens- sloooooowwwwwly this time, (and I point out that we are using what we learned in that song we just sang-) and then add on the “one’s” that are not in the bundles to figure out how many we have altogether.

This is my place value chart.  The coffee stirrers are bundled in groups of ten with rubber bands.

Then we add that number to our hundreds chart.  I like to make our numbers that are multiples of five and ten a different color than the rest, if possible.  This helps kids notice the patterns that are going to emerge on the chart as we go along.  Later in the year, I can show them the patterns that form when you count by two’s, but I usually do it on a different chart.  Otherwise, there is too much happening on the hundreds chart and it gets too confusing for them to really notice the patterns.

My hundreds pocket chart has lots of space for extra words on the sides.  It’s time to take the other numbers off of the bottom though, I think!  We have been drilling on them, and there is nowhere else to put them!

Reviewing Concepts Stapled to the Bulletin Board by the Calendar
At this point, assuming that there is time, I review the words or letters stapled to the bulletin board around the calendar and the hundreds chart.  I like to call this my “Focus Wall.”  My job share partner is very good about remembering each Friday afternoon to add the new sight words, shapes, numbers, etc., that we need to focus on the following week to the wall.  She is actually much better about remembering than I ever was, so that’s great!  I often only remembered it when I arrived on Monday morning, unfortunately!  We have my Kindergarten Pacing Guide tacked to the wall above our desk, and she just gets it out and finds the flash cards for the week and adds them to the wall.  I think that it is probably time to take a few of the cards off the wall though, because we are running out of room.  Plus, there really isn’t time to review them all every day anyway.

This is my Pacing Guide. Click here to download it free.

This is also the time of day when I review the CVC flash cards (from the CVC Books) on my pocket chart.  But if it seems like we are running out of time, then I save that for after lunch.


Explain and Demonstrate the Art Project
Since we do our morning rotation in four different groups, I like to give the directions for our centers to everyone at the same time before they go to their centers.  So I demonstrate the art project to everyone at this point, even if it means they get the instructions an hour before they do it!  There will be a volunteer at that center to remind them what to do later anyway.  And as I trace, we sing the “Tracing Song,” which is the next song on my playlist.  After that comes the “Cutting Song,” which we all sing while I cut.  Then of course, the “Glue Song” is sung while I glue.  All three of these songs are sung while seated, of course!  I often sing them without using the iPod; I just start singing and the children join in.  If the song ends and I am still cutting or gluing, then I just start in singing the Red Song if I am cutting red paper, for example, or the Blue Song if I am cutting blue paper, etc.  (Both of these color songs are from Sing and Spell Vol. 2: Color Words and More Sight Words.)
I REALLY recommend keeping your students engaged by allowing them to sing along with you while you demonstrate how to make arts and crafts projects.  It’s a wonderful way to keep students focused and alert.  I also have them repeat back to me what they are supposed to do to make the project when we are finished, and then also tell a person next to them how to make that project.

We made sight words with our Alphabet Pattern Blocks this week.

When I am ready to get their attention back, I tell them, “Now I need it very quiet in five, four, three, two, one.”  I like this method of getting them to finish a conversation and be quiet, because it gives them a little bit of warning to finish up what they wanted to say before I ask for their full attention and silence again.   I try to be very consistent with disciplining anyone who ignores me and keeps talking with a friend when I get to number one; otherwise, next time I want to use this method to get them to be quiet, it will not work, unfortunately.  Every teacher needs to understand that the person that gets to decide what methods are going to work or not work in the classroom is the teacher.  The children will likely respond to whatever rules you enforce with consistency.  But they will challenge you on the rules that you enforce sporadically.


Explain and Demonstrate Any Other Centers for the Day
If the children are getting restless, you may need to stand them up and sing another active song or two or three at this point!  Mine needed yet another movement break during the first month of school, but are able to go a bit longer now that it’s November.  In any case, if there is more that needs to be explained for our centers for the day, I explain it now.

We had to take a writing test at one of our centers last week!

Morning Message
After I have explained all of our activities that we will do during our rotation, we do our Morning Message.  But I am going to be honest with you and tell you that depending on how the morning goes, sometimes the Morning Message becomes an Afternoon Message that we do after lunch!  For example, if somebody has an accident, a child has a “meltdown,” or if my aide comes late, or if it is Picture Day, or if there is a Fire Drill, or if a parent walks in and just HAS to talk to me… well, you get the idea!  In those cases, SOMETHING has to go!  I can skip any one of those songs and shorten up any of the previous activities.  And if the children simply can’t sit any longer, then we can put off our morning message until later.  And SOMETIMES- lo and behold- things go even FASTER than usual and I even get to read a short book in the morning as well!  Then we really have something to write about for our morning message!

This was our morning message the day before Halloween.

When I do our Morning Message, I have the whole class turn to face my white board easel.  That means that everyone is turning around so that the kids at the back are now at the front!  Some of my little ones cannot handle this, and I have to move them closer to me for this activity, unfortunately.  Otherwise, the lack of proximity to me means that they simply pay no attention to me at all while I do this important activity.  And, anyone with vision or hearing issues must also be moved closer as well.

To do the Morning Message, I pull a sentence or two out of my head regarding something that is happening that day.  It could be about a child’s birthday, the art project, something we are studying, or even a fund raiser that we are all working on.  It really doesn’t matter.  I have the whole class settle on a sentence to write, and we all say it together.  Then we decide what the first word is.  If it is on the word wall, then I pick a child to find it with my pointer while we sing that sight word song.  (I lead them in it from memory with no CD.)  Then I pretend to copy it from the wall while the child points to the letters.  Then we figure out what the next word would be, and either sound it out together or find it on the word wall.  I write those “unknown” words as they sound, and that means that I usually wind up writing them incorrectly in front of the children!  I hate that, but it seems that if I spell them correctly, they all think that THEY must also spell them correctly, and they can’t.  So I have been trying to overcome my compulsion to spell everything correctly in front of them so that they will let go of their fear of writing something wrong when using phonetic spelling.  It seems to be helping!

To read more about how I teach writing, read this blog post:
How to Teach Children to Write Words Like They Sound

Start the Morning Rotation!
If you would like to read more about how I do my morning rotation, please click here to read my blog post on that topic.  And if you made it all the way to the end of this very long post, then good for you!  If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.  Just let me know what they are.  Who knows; maybe they will make a good future blog post????

Happy Teaching!


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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. To Unknown:
    The children can bring a snack from home if they wish, and they eat it at recess. Recess comes half way through their morning rotation, at about 9:50. Most of the children do bring something from home. I encourage parents to send just one item, otherwise the children wind up spending most of their playtime at recess eating, and they also need to run around and burn off some energy.

  2. I do have trouble with students being disrespectful during the Pledge. At first they got warnings…now they have to move their clips down on the behavior chart.

  3. We have snack in the afternoon. I send home a Snack Calendar each month assigning a snack day (or two, depending on the month) to each child. Most students bring in snack on their day, but I keep all extras in a storage drawer, because sometimes people forget. The kids love the days they get to chose their snack from the drawer.

  4. Thank you for the great post! I was wondering where you got your big 100's chart with room to put words and numbers? I only can find the one that has the tiny numbers on it. Thank you!
    Andrea 🙂

  5. ariI have snack in the afternoon and that is when I do my math centers, so I try to work the snack into the skills I am covering. I use songs like "We're Eating to Zero" or we make patterns, focus on shapes, position words, etc. I send a letter each Friday asking specific parents to send a snack of my choice like Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, pre-cut pieces of fruit, shape crackers, etc.

  6. To Andrea:
    You are welcome!
    I THINK I got the hundred's chart from But I've never seen that chart on their website since… It could be that it was discontinued. I think it was called "100 and Beyond" Pocket Chart or something like that. It allows you to count all the way up to 120 with the kids.

  7. Hi Heidi!
    I've been using your "Right hand, Left hand" song before the pledge all year and it's been great! I really see a difference in my kids' right/left hand knowledge. I saw right away that my kids were also getting squirmy during the pledge- so I started doing each line in a different silly voice, which I have them repeat after me. It does feel a bit disrespectful, but it works! They are totally at attention to see what will come out of my mouth next, and they are so excited to try it themselves.

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  9. How long is your Pre-K day. I really like the ideas for your routine, but I have a 3 hr class time with students who often don't show up until 30 min. into our day (the parents think it is day care I think) Any suggestions on how to get the day started on time? I currently have centers for 30 minutes at the start of then day then start with circle.

  10. How would you deal with parents who treat your class more like a day care (showing up whenever they want usually at least 30 min late)? It makes it difficult for me to start my day on time since late arrivals cause a big disruption. I have a 3 hr pre-k class.

  11. To Amanda,
    Well, since I work in a public school, the routines are different since attendance is required! Late students must check in through the office, which at our school is a considerable distance away. So the first thing I do is immediately tell the parents that they must walk the child to the office and check him or her in there. This is the school rule, but also is very inconvenient for the parent and usually makes them even later for work. Unfortunately, sometimes, the key is to make it worse for the parent to be late than early! It acts as a deterrent for the parent. Also, excessive tardies result in a letter home from the principal and can also make the parent go to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB.) Being SARBed is a VERY uncomfortable experience, I have been told! There is a judge that can fine parents for not sending their children to school habitually, and this includes tardies of more than thirty minutes. Parents can also serve jail time! This is the law in CA. There are many steps that are taken first that are not as punitive, but still they can be taken by the administration. Unfortunately, children are not required to be in school at all until they turn six, so until their sixth birthday, we can only talk to the parent and send them through the office to check in, and tell them what is "coming." It is generally effective enough for most.

    How does this all affect my routine? Well, I usually have most kids arriving on time. There may be one child per year that habitually arrives late a couple of times per week, I'm sad to say. And that one child does not interrupt my routine. He or she just joins us wherever we are at. They have missed quite a bit of instruction, unfortunately. And their achievement shows it, for sure.

  12. To Amanda,
    My school district doesn't offer universal Pre-K, just PK for special needs kids and Transitional Kindergarten for those kids whose birthdays missed the cut off date for starting K in the fall. (November birthdays were included this year.)
    Those children go to school from 8:15 – 11:35, I think. So it's not even as long a day as yours, I think!

    You may want to consider starting your day with playtime, and telling the children that if they want to have playtime then they need to get their mommies and daddies to drop them off earlier. Then you don't have to worry about children being dropped off right on time. If the children are the ones pressuring their parents to get there early so that they can play with their friends, maybe they will get there on time?
    Just a thought…

  13. Hi! I love your blog and find myself reading it every chance I get. My first question is, do you have themes as you teach (apples, farm, etc…) each week or month etc? I didn’t notice anything on your pacing guide so I was just wondering. Second, do you think your pacing guide could be used for transitional kindergarten as well? Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • Hi, Deborah!
      I do have themes for the year, but I did not put them on the Pacing Guide! You can kind of tell what they are, though, by looking at when we start the Singable Books. When we start doing the Farm book, for example, we study the farm animals and our theme is farm. When we do the Look Out Book, our theme is Ocean Life. So basically, you can tell what we are studying and what the themes are by looking under the column “Theme/Singable Book.”
      Now as far as the question about using the Pacing Guide for Transitional K: I think that it certainly could be used for TK, but isn’t the point of TK to give kids the gift of time? They are supposed to get the whole next year to make it through this same curriculum, right? So I would spread out the alphabet and slow it down over a more weeks. Then I would reduce the number of sight words and spread them out over the course of the year, rather than try to squeeze them all into the first two trimesters. Unless your district is pushing you to cover the entire K curriculum during the TK year and then test them on it to prove your worth (!), I would slow down and give them some developmentally appropriate activities and some TIME to enjoy them!
      It is still a bit of an unknown as far as what is expected to happen during the TK year. If we had some definitely expectations and a solid curriculum, then we could pace it out on a guide such as mine. It’s just a matter of spreading it out on a chart, and then following the chart. Does your district have any expectations for TK that are different from K? Please let me know, because I would like to come up with a pacing guide for TK and put it on my site! The difficulty is not knowing what is expected…

  14. Thanks so much for your response. Basically, TK in our district is just what you said…. The gift of time. They want us to focus on the sounds so that they have a solid foundation for K the following year. The difficulty is not having a road map. I have been teaching kinder for a few years and now that I am in TK it will be difficult without a curriculum for guidance. It would be great to have a pacing guide, especially from you. For now, I’m going to follow yours, just stretch it out as you suggested. Any other suggestions…. I’m all ears. Thanks so much for taking the time.

    • Hi, Deborah!
      If they want you to focus on the sounds, then you should probably double up on them. Maybe spend a week on each letter, and then go back and do the vowels AGAIN, and then review the consonant sounds that are the hardest to master one more time? Actually, I think that applying the letter sounds is really the hard part, and learning to blend them together. So I think I would schedule in time to practice looking at words and saying the letter sounds QUICKLY, rather than just saying the letter sounds when we see isolated letters on flash cards. I had kids last year who were very good at saying the sounds when they saw them on flash cards, but were thrown off when asked to apply the skill and say the sounds as they tried to read a word in front of them. So teach them to say the sounds, and then try to blend the sounds together- or at least take them through the motions of blending the sounds together, with no pressure to blend the sounds all by themselves. Just model it for them a whole lot. And sing it for them! Try the Sound Blending DVD to help you with it. 🙂
      Good luck!

  15. We can use dittos or worksheets in my pre-K classroom they are not developmentally appropriate and do not meet ECERS standards. As far as writing the words incorrectly i feel the children need to see the correct word written the way it should be written. Yes they cant always write them correctly but they can look back to see the correct way for the next time.

  16. Hi! I absolutely love your morning routine and it seems to flow which is what any teacher wants, right?
    How do you order your CDs and do you give discounts for teachers?
    Thanks so much!
    Heather Downs
    First Grade Teacher

    • Hi, Heather!
      Thank you so much! You can order the CD’s (or DVD’s!) on our website, You can also download them on iTunes. We are having a 15% off Back to School sale right now, but it ends on Wednesday, August 5, 2015! Use the code SCHOOL2015 at checkout.

  17. Thank you so much for your thorough breakdown of a morning routine! It is very clear, and useful! I appreciate it 🙂


  18. Hi Heidi! I hope your new grade level (s) assignment is going well!
    Question for the blog or Facebook. Our district would like for us to have to Power Hours. One for Language Arts on Days 1, 3, and 5 and one for math on days 2 and 4. We are supposed to group our students according to needs. Tier one group may go one classroom, tier two to another, and tier three to yet another class. Have you done this?
    There are four kindergarten teachers and we are a little worried about starting this with our classes especially this time of year. We have only been in school for 10 school days!
    Any ideas or thoughts?
    Thanks so much!

    • Hi! My new school does this, but only for language arts. So my first grade students leave for reading intervention time first thing in the morning for an hour while I do math with my second graders. (As a combo class teacher, I am not required to have a group!). Then after my firsties come back, my seconds leave for language arts intervention groups and I do math with my firsts.
      I have never done this with Kinder, and I personally think they would find it confusing! I had a hard enough time trying to teach them which group and table to go to in my own room. Several were always lost.
      I think that if you have to do it, then you might want to ask if you can ease into it by doing just lab forays for a while and then adding in math once they’ve got it down. Otherwise you may spend most of your instructional time teaching them where to go rather than the standards!
      I’ll post your question on my Facebook page on Sunday, September 20, 2015.

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