After doing some reading and research over the summer, I have changed how our class begins each day. Following morning announcements each morning, we begin our day with a Morning Meeting. This meeting has 5 components, takes between 15 - 20 minutes and sets the tone for our day.
I know that I need to ease into my morning with a cup of coffee and some quiet time. I believe students need a predictable routine to help them ease into their day as well.
The 5 components to Morning Meeting are:
Greeting: A greeting is, well, a greeting. 1-2 minutes is spent saying good morning to each other. Last week, the goal of this time was to help students introduce themselves and learn each other's names. It's an active time. I might give each student a plastic bug. They then have to find a partner with a bug the matches by color or type of bug or color and type or another bug that moves int the same way... then they make eye contact and say, "Good morning, ____". I have lots of ideas for props for this greeting game: attribute blocks, playing cards, Uno cards, buttons, small toys...anything that has differing and definable attributes that can be matched.
Benefits: The kids LOVE this game and it is a great way to get the morning started in a positive way with laughs and giggles.
Sharing: Sharing takes place as the kids sit in a big circle and the activity can look different from day to day. It can be as simple as repeating a sentence stem and filling in the blank. For example, "Last night I ____" or "My favorite thing about the first day of school was _____" or "At recess, I like to _____." or "If I could change one thing about ____ I would ____." The Sharing component can also be used to share a celebration...someone has a new sibling...someone earned a badge in scouts...sort of like show and tell but reserved for really special things. The Sharing component can also be used to share something from the previous day that went unnoticed. For example, I might show a picture I took of a particularly wonderful Makerspace product or I might ask someone to read a book they wrote in Writing Workshop or I could show a Math Notebook entry that illustrates someone meeting a learning goal.
Benefits: The sentence stems give students a way to tell me how they are really feeling about things that are happening both in the classroom and out. I might learn something important. It is a time when I can make a BIG deal about individual successes and give students a special time to shine.
Group Activity: The Group activity is something fast and simple in which everyone participates. It could be a Kid President or BrainPop Jr. video, a quick survey, a review or formative assessment (Ex: everyone write a short/long o word on a Post-It and put it on the board, everyone show your age in tally marks on a Post-It and put it on the board, everyone draw your family using stick people on a Post-It and put it on the board or everyone draw a quick sketch of something you'd find in a garden on a Post-It and put it on the board). The kids love Post-its and really enjoy looking at the variety of responses.
Next week I've planned some quick iPad 101 activities. I noticed that with students coming from different classrooms and schools the level of competency with iPad basics is varied and using the Group Activity time in the morning will allow me to keep instructional time protected and free from iPad specific questions.
Benefits: There are lots of times when there are little things I want/need to check on or expose students to and they don't exactly fit squarely into our day. It is a nice opportunity for curriculum connections and formative assessments. And, these are brief activities where everyone is successful and that is a great way to start the day!
Morning News: This is the time of day when I can share 'news' like an upcoming fire drill or a special event or a special visitor or upcoming field trip. Sometimes this is a time when I can reiterate expectations for a particular procedure that is not going so well. Really, I can use this time for anything I'd like to share with he class.
Benefits: This is a time when I can share stuff I might normally forget if I didn't have a designated time to communicate it. It also allows a scheduled time to regularly revisit classroom/school expectations.
Daily Schedule: Each day, our daily schedule is written on the board along with the 'I can' statements defining daily goals. We review it together. I have found that even though most 1st graders can't yet tell time, they are able to check the schedule to know 'what part of the day they are in'. In fact, I observe students checking the schedule as soon as they walk in the door in the morning, needing to know what their day holds. I've even overheard.... Student 1: "Is it lunchtime yet?" Student 2: "No, we have to do Reading Workshop first...see."
Benefits: No secrets, no surprises and a lot less questions like, When are we going to?.... or Are we having _____ today? Additionally, learning goals are clearly defined for students and anyone visiting our classroom.
Morning Meeting does take a little bit of planning and believe it or not, all of this is accomplished in 15-20 minutes. After implementing Morning Meeting last week I learned that it s a great way for me to take a pulse of the class...to see who might need a little TLC or who might be in a particularly rambunctious mood and need some close monitoring or a brief pep talk to get their day started off in the right direction. One very important observation I have made is that this first 20 minutes of the day is helping everyone get to know each other and maybe, just maybe, we're starting to build empathy in our classroom. Think...big family dinner...only in the morning and without food and with a different kind of family. #buildingaclassroomcommunity.