August 30, 2016

6 Ways to Get Your Morning Meeting Routine Started

Morning Meeting. It's the backbone of a rich classroom community. When possible, start it on Day 1 - before all the supplies are put away - before that first read aloud - before the icebreaker games - you won't regret it. If Morning Meeting is new to you and the school year has already started, it's NOT too late! Give your kids the chance to get to know each other better and learn some basics about social interaction. Morning Meeting, like greeting students at the door, creates a cultural shift in the classroom. You'll facilitate friendships, respect and ultimately working together as a team. This, in turn, makes teaching academic content a much easier and effective process. "The way to a child's head is through their heart."

Here are six ways to get your Morning Meeting routine started:

1. Begin with just passing the Greeting. Looking for a great collection of Morning Meeting Greetings? Click HERE. When that is perfected, add on one of the other elements - Sharing, Activity or Message. Some years my kiddos are ready to move on the next day. Some years it takes a couple of days but don't rush it. Wait to add on until kids have mastered the procedure. You'll reap the benefits later.

2. Tell people where to sit. At the beginning I write each child's name on a card and place them in a circle on the floor. Students find their card and sit there. This prevents jostling, saving places and hurt feelings those first few days. Once kids know what a Meeting circle should look like, ask them to form it on their own. Not as easy as it sounds...just sayin'..... Typically their first attempt will be a very oddly-shaped, sort-of-brokenish oval. Allow them time to scootch back and forth to make a 'real' circle. Notice how the leaders (and perfectionists) step up for this task! When kids begin taking ownership of the circle, friends will sit next to friends - but the goal is to get to know everyone. Every single day I do a couple of quick switches to keep things fresh. "I want Emma and Jaylen to switch spots."

3. Actively teach how to ask someone their name. Most elementary age kids will freeze if they're expected to greet someone and they don't know their new friend's name. It brings the Meeting to a complete halt. Be proactive and teach it before passing the Greeting. "Let's pretend I don't know my friend's name. This is what I'll do. I'll lean over and quietly say "I forgot your name." Watch me do this now." Do the process with kids sitting on both sides of you. Now open it to the group. "What did you notice I did when I didn't know my friend's name?" Talk through the process then tell the kids to make sure they know the name of the friend on each side of them. Quickly review the expectation for the first several days.

4. Model correct voice volume and eye contact. Morning Meeting requires kids to talk to each other and in front of a group. Everyone needs to be heard and involved. "Laila. I couldn't hear your voice when you greeted Tawnya. A little louder please. Try it again." Lots of smiling from you.

5. Don't let any expectation slide. Stop and correct as needed. Keep it fast and specific. Kids running across the room during the Activity? "Michelle, we walk when playing Find your Family. Go back and I'll watch you walk." Does a student raise their hand during Sharing to tell their own story - instead of asking a question? "Colton, this is Sharing time. Do you have a question for Michael?" Any correction should be followed up with a genuine smile and a quiet, "nicely done!"

6. Highlight the great things you saw happening. Regardless of how disjointed or rocky the first Meeting was, always end with a positive, upbeat evaluation. "This was a really great Morning Meeting my friends. I noticed everyone's eyes following the greeting around the circle. We asked questions before beginning the Activity so we knew what to do. When correcting the Message we explained our thinking using the word 'because'. Nice job today!"

A collection of ready to go Morning Meeting Greetings and 2 Minute Group Activities keep the Morning Meeting interesting and fresh throughout the year.

Each has a simple design and an easy to read font. As needed, there are simple implementation instructions and photographs too. Copy the Greetings and Activities. Laminate for durability. Put a hole in the corner so you can hang them on a ring for easy reference. Looking for more organization and support? Check out this Morning Meeting Bundle.

Looking to get more insight on crafting a daily Morning Message? Check out this post.

Best of luck starting your Morning Meeting Routine. Go slow and don't give up. It will transform your classroom culture.

August 20, 2016

The Power of Greeting Students at the Door

One thing I recommend to all teachers is to greet their students at the door. Every day. Without fail. This simple task takes just a little time, yet reaps huge rewards. Greeting students will have a positive impact on your classroom culture by establishing a one-on-one connection. When your students get a friendly smile, handshake and short interaction they know you've 'seen' them. You've given them the gift of affirmation and it's powerful. Looking to make a change? Try this one!

Now, greeting students at the door does NOT mean calling hello and waving from across the room while pulling papers for the day's lessons. Putting this concept into practice requires you to be organized and ready to go before that bell rings. You need to be 'on' and smiling.

Start simple. Stand in the doorway so you can keep an eye on the hall and your classroom at the same time. As each child approaches shake their hand, make eye contact, smile and say "Good Morning _______". Some kids need specific coaching on how to do all of those things in response. This is a great time to explain what a comfortable, firm handshake feels like... voice volume... what does eye contact mean? Those few moments give you the chance get a read on the general class mood - and connect with those needing some extra attention. Once you have established this classroom routine students crave it and you will too!

Ready to take it to the next level? Revisit concepts or prep for the day with a Good Morning! Message. Print and cut the Good Morning! Messages. Hang a plastic sleeve and slip a message inside for students to read. They're automatic conversation starters. These are short and open-ended messages so all can be successful. Good Morning! Messages are meant to get kids in the school mode, promote positive and joyful interaction and are fast. Some messages require simple materials like coins, a clock, or something written on a whiteboard yet all are flexible. It is easy to differentiate based on ability or grade. I've used these messages with second, third and fifth graders! You may have some emerging readers unable to be independent with these messages. This is not an issue. Point at the words as you read it out loud to them. They then think and respond. As students get more confident in reading they grow more independent.
This collection has over 210 messages organized by literacy, math, holiday, special events and just plain fun tasks. The cards are not meant to be used in order, but rather mix and match depending on what is going on that day. Students look forward to variety! You can also create your own Good Morning! Messages focused on curriculum content by adding onto the blank page at the end of the General Messages.

Ready to take it even further? Save precious classroom time by expecting students to make their lunch choice and have their homework in hand while waiting for you! Post the lunch choices and sign up sheet in the form of a class roster next to the door. While waiting in line (teaching kids how to wait in line may be necessary too) students read the menu and put an x next to their lunch choice - both those who are buying and bringing from home. Everyone must sign up so when the tardy bell rings you'll have lunch AND attendance count ready to send to the office. Write the homework that is due that day on a whiteboard. Train kids to get those papers out of their backpack and collect their homework on the spot. Keep a homework completion roster on hand to easily identify kids needing encouragement, support or a note home. This is a huge time saver!

Using Good Morning! Messages has also helped my students put part of the question in their answer! It allows daily oral practice and I can quickly model/reteach in seconds. Students know once they enter it is time for Morning Work and getting settled in. Reinforcing behavior expectations is key – and doable.

Greeting students at the door is almost guaranteed to change your classroom culture. Let me know what you think!

August 7, 2016

Setting Up a Classroom for Cultural Appreciation

Throughout the year I expose my students to a variety of world cultures. I try to give my little guys hands on experiences as much as possible so they'll grasp that there is a whole world waiting for them beyond our little town! What a joy when members of our school and community come to our room to take us on a little tour of their country. Most visitors share elements of their native foods, ideas and traditions. Could this passion project of mine make a global impact in the long run?

Here is how I set up my students to be open to new cultural ideas. First, I prime my kids to be curious. I tell them straight out that they could learn about some habits and beliefs that may seem unusual. My enthusiasm and sense of wonder is authentic and contagious. "Are you ready to learn some really cool things about _____?" Their heads bob up and down. Yes. Yes.
Second, my students are banned from saying "That's weird." Apparently in elementary school anything different is weird.... and I want to meet it head on. Certainly they are not allowed to say it when our guest is present, but it holds true for the follow up discussions as well. A mind is less open, curious and appreciative if something is labeled as weird.
Third, I give them an alternative phrase - "Wow! That's interesting. That's different."
"Today we are going to learn about _______. You'll find there are many things that are different from what you are used to. You may want to think, "That's weird!" but instead, in our classroom we think, "Wow! That's interesting. That's different." Please keep that in mind as we begin our lesson today. I hang this mini chart and point to it during the year. It's free in my store!
Finally, we reflect on the experience. Thinking about new ideas and making connections make concepts stick. We write a thank you letter to the presenter. I use this set. At the beginning of the school year the thank you is modeled and completed as a group. Toward the end there is usual a group that likes to take on the thank you responsibility then shares with the class.
Perhaps this will help you instill cultural appreciation as well.

On a side note: I had to chuckle toward the end of last school year. I wear glasses and one time I took them off. My students had never seen me without them on. "Wow. You look weird." one of my cuties said. Suddenly, another student jumped in. "No she doesn't! She looks different and interesting!" Gotta love that!