So much of my own personality informs my teaching. I am definitely a morning person who has her highest energy levels early in the day. However, I also like to have a smooth transition into a busy day. I might have a cup of coffee or tea, watch the news, or read. But I wonder how many of our students have the time to transition into their busy days?
Lately I have been watching my own children at home on the weekends and observing how they naturally start their day without Drill Sergeant Mommy on their case. All three of my kids wake up and need a good 30 minutes or so to become alert and energized. That lead me to think about the students in my class and in my school.
I have seen many families hurry through the car lane with kids still getting shoes on while trying to eat breakfast. Parents are rushed to leave and are almost kicking kids out of the car. Some parents are even yelling and barking reminders at them. All of this while some kids are still droopy eyed and yawning. As a mom, I understand days like this. But these are the students who are coming into our classrooms. How can they be at their best when the have only just woken up?
I have always considered how I start my day with students. I have made some big improvements over the years and it makes a big difference in how our day unfolds. I wanted to share with you some of my favorite morning routine ideas so that each day begins with a little bit of joy and lots of smiles!
Greet your students at the door
When you think about all of the places you go, have you noticed that there is someone who says hello to you? From grocery and retail stores to restaurants, it feels nice to be welcomed upon entering. As a a customer, you feel like they genuinely are glad you are there, especially when they call you by name. Why do we not do this in education regularly? Our customers (although little) are still people and people want to belong and feel like they have been noticed. Parents also notice when their child’s teacher takes notice and says good morning to their child. This is a very simple gesture that makes a big difference to the school climate. My current principal models this very practice as he stands at the front of our school everyday and greets students, parents, and staff alike with a hello or maybe even a high-5!
Display your morning procedures and routines
I don’t know about you, but I despise having to repeat myself! Many kids will need reminders of morning routines even after you have reviewed them at the beginning of the year. By displaying the information in a visual way, students will be more likely to remember the steps they need to take for a successful day. Depending on your class dynamics and age level, the way in which you display that information might be different. I have used a Power Point slide to present information for kids aged 6-11 and it works as long as they read it! I like using the slide because I can customize each day to my scheduling needs, while maintaining the overall structure I have already taught my students.
Have a Bell Ringer Activity Ready
Effective teachers have a plan for what they want to have students doing once the morning routines have been completed. With so many different options available, let me share the ones I have used and what I liked about each of them.
- Journal tasks: These would be printed on half sheets of paper that would review a concept I have already taught. This was a great way to assess how students were maintaining skills and concepts throughout the year. Students would grab one or two tasks (depending on difficulty) and glue them into their journal/ composition notebook. Journal tasks were easy to make, prepare, and keep track of in digital form. Once made, they were easy to use or modify for next year’s class.
- Games: Before you think I have lost my mind, my students have really enjoyed being able to have the time to play with the many board games that I have. Since the games I have are educational in nature and develop skills like collaboration, communication, and critical thinking I thought it was a win-win! Even if the students are allowed to play games only on certain days as a morning activity, the kids still look forward to it!
- Spiral Review: These Math and ELA five question reviews were used early on in my teaching. They were not effective, in my opinion, because they covered too many concepts at once and with so many students missing so many problems, it was hard to arrange kids into flexible groups with only one teacher. I prefer to choose ONE standard/ concept and have students demonstrate their understanding.
Hold A Class Meeting
The final morning activity I have everyone do is sit as a group and we hold a class meeting to begin our day. My class meetings are pretty informal, but I like to have everyone say good morning to each other and maybe share something with a classmate. I like to review our daily schedule so the kids know what to expect for the day and to explain any changes that may have occurred. I check agendas, take attendance, and mark which students are in ASP during this time as well. Once complete, I engage the kids in a quick game of Spontaneous or another group activity that helps to get their minds warmed up.
I use Positive Discipline in my school and the class meeting is another way to also allow students to have a voice in the classroom, model mutual respect, and practice problem solving skills. All grade levels can participate in the class meeting and the teacher’s main goal is to teach students how to hold or call their own meetings and be proactive in solving their own problems together.
Class Meeting Resources:
I hope you will try these strategies to help build the community in your classrooms and maybe try a new way to start your day! I promise it will change both you and your students for the better!