Getting the Day Started: #daystarters

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 4, 2016, 4:41 p.m.

Early Childhood

The goal of these day starters is to tap into student's interest and get them thinking at higher levels; creating, analyzing, explaining, describing. Student choice is key here! Choice will allow you to peek inside the brain of your little learners to see what interests or excites them.

Place the following items on tables around the room. You can organize them in tubs or have them laying in the center of the table for students to begin at their own pace.


Legos are great for building and creating landscapes from one's imagination! Students will be creating and practicing their engineering skills.

Building Blocks

Towers, fences, roads...the list is endless for what students can create using blocks. Have students sketch their creations on paper and label points of interest.

Play Dough

Play dough gets students using their hands to create anything from letters to shapes to characters. Another great option is play foam!

Book Baskets

Give students the opportunity to do picture walks, make predictions, and read! Offer a variety of genres to give students opportunities to experience different genres and forms.


Offer beads and string for students to create jewelry or tools with imaginations. Encourage patterns and allow an opportunity to explain their thinking with their piece.

Wiki Sticks

Wiki Sticks are fun to create just about anything the mind can dream up!


Allow time to draw or write or both, "Drite"!

Butcher Paper

Place paper across the table and provide a variety of writing utensils. Children can draw and write. Encourage students to sketch a story. This is a fun place to "Drite" and collaborate on a large scale!


Elementary & Secondary Classrooms

Book Talks

Have students gather in pairs or trios in the meeting area and begin "book talking." Teach students how to talk about what they are reading. Younger children can use the book to show another students what the book is about and what they were thinking before, during, and after the reading.

Song of the Week

Select a song that you will play while during the first three to five minutes of class . Have students draw their understanding of the song's meaning. Each time the song is played, the students can add additional details. After several sessions, have students gallery walk the illustrations and give each other feedback.

Word Games

Place games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, or Scattergories on tables around the room. Have students play by the rules or make up their own rules for making words.

Quick Writes

Ask a thought provoking question. Students write thoughts knowing that there will be a discussion or debate. Examples:

1. Would you rather... or ...?

2. What is the best...?

3. What is your opinion of ...?

4. How important is ....?

The goal is to create a state of alertness so the brain is ready and willing to keep the thinking and learning going!

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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