Friday, September 12, 2014

Morning Meeting .... a life saver

Well, we are officially on our third full week of school. All things considered, we are trucking right along and my kiddos and I are fast becoming family. One way I build classroom community is through Morning Meeting. A couple of years ago I read The Morning Meeting Book and The First Six Weeks of School. If you haven’t read these books or been to their website click here for more information. Basically, The Responsive Classroom advocates for not only a culture of learning and high student achievement, but also an improved school climate.  

My Morning Meeting, from start to finish takes about 20 minutes. I timed it every day this week for you and averaged them out.  This is what it looks like in my classroom.

1    Greeting (5 mins)– I have a student leader each day. I’ll blog about that another time. The student leader gets to pick the type of greeting we do. Often students choose “silly greetings” like a witch voice, or whisper greeting. Always at the beginning of the year we do “formal greetings” which look like this “Good morning _________! My name is ____________.” Students also shake hands. (It’s to die for adorable) Always, we sit in a giant circle on the carpet and we go one at a time watching and listening to our friends greet one another. We practice this chant (and do little hand motions) before we begin each day.
1.     Do a full turn.
2.     Make strong eye contact.
3.     Speak in a strong, clear voice.
4.     Don’t shake their hand off, don’t let your hand flop.

       Share (5 mins) – Again, my share has changed over the years as well. When I taught upper elementary, I had students sign up to share and we had three shares a day and you could never share back-to-back days. Now that I teach first grade and I utilize a student leader, I just have the student leader share. I also find that primary students and their parents are looking for a “show and tell” type deal and they like to be able to plan ahead on days that they can bring in something to share. Students know in advance when they will be the student leader so it works out beautifully having them do the share that day.

I’ve learned that regardless of the grade students need to be taught what it really means to share. At the beginning of the year especially, but always really, I model storytelling. I constantly tell little stories about things that happened to me that weekend, or that morning. I tell some big, exciting stories (my husband and I went to Iceland this summer), but mostly I tell simple stories (my dog snuggled up with me this morning while I was drinking my coffee). I am doing this same kind of important modeling during Writing Workshop because I want my students to understand that their lives are interesting and that they have something worthy of sharing. 

Let’s not forget that children need to be taught how to ask questions and give comments. Can I get an Amen? Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times a child will ask the sharer a question that they literally just answered in their share.  Attentive listening is a key focus in our classroom and I am constantly asking a child to repeat what another child said, or add onto something that was just said.

We practice this chant (and do little hand motions) before we begin share each day. It’s a reminder to the person sharing and the rest of the class, too.
1.    This is a community share and not a private share. A community share is a share meant for everyone to hear.
2.    We’ll take 3 questions and comments so listen up!

3     Group Activity (5 mins) – This is anything that gets them UP and interacting! If you had just been sitting on the carpet for 15 minutes you’d need up too! Often it is a Kagan Structure. So far, on the third week of school, my kiddos only know Stand Up, Hand Up and Quiz, Quiz, Trade. We’ve been perfecting those. With Stand Up, Hand Up I’ll call out a question for them to ask their partner and with Quiz, Quiz, Trade they’ve been using a deck of alphabet or number cards. I am also really getting into music in the classroom this year so lately we’ve been adding on a sight word song or two from Heidi’s Songs. (She’s kind of a big deal and very much amazing!)

4.     Morning Message (5 mins)-- Over the years, my morning message procedure has looks different based on the grade level I was teaching. For instance, when I taught third and fourth graders my students copied down the morning message as morning work (always a letter from me to the class) and corrected the purposeful mistakes I had made. Capitalization mistakes were corrected in green colored pencil. Punctuation mistakes were corrected in red colored pencil. Spelling and word choice mistakes were corrected in blue colored pencil.

On the other hand, in my first grade classroom the Morning Message looks very different. For one, I decided that I didn’t want my students looking at incorrect writing (we have another time in the day when we correct mistakes) so the message has no errors. Students help me label the 5 parts of a friendly letter and fill in some blanks that I’ve purposefully left. It’s also a great time to practice sight words that we’re currently learning.

I hope that helps all of you! Morning Meeting sure has helped me out over the years!
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