Kick off the new school year with meaningful lessons for every grade.
A Classroom Community
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.1; SL.2.4; SL.2.6
What You Need: Sticky notes, chart paper, markers
What to Do: Prepare a morning message prior to the meeting. Brittany Briggs, a fifth-grade teacher from Port Byron, Illinois, who blogs at Miss 5th, prepares messages that aim to create a classroom environment “where students love to be and love the people that they’re with.” An example is her Compliment Train. It displays a steam engine with a trail of sticky notes running behind it and directions to write a compliment for another student on a sticky note. She suggests students choose a class member who is not their “BFF.”
Begin the meeting with a Name Line-Up, a greeting and activity that relies on collaboration. Students order themselves alphabetically by their first names, but without saying a word. They then greet one another in line. (You might have them imagine they’re waiting in line for a train!) This activity can increase in difficulty by handing out number cards with fractions or decimals on them and having students line up in numerical sequence.
Have students return to the rug and partner with a neighbor in the circle. Ask them to share one kind thing they will do that day for another student. When modeling this activity, give examples such as playing with a student they do not usually play with at recess, complimenting someone, or sharing art supplies. Keep the Compliment Train up for students to view and add to all day. Follow up at the end of the day to see how successful students were.
Excellent ELA Openings
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.1; RL.2.2
What You Need: Picture book (try Blue Sky, White Stars, by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson), sticky notes, chart paper, markers
What to Do: Briggs often makes her morning messages about goal-setting. For an ELA-focused meeting, try her message “#welovetoread Wednesday: What is one book you’ve read that you just could not put down?” Leave space for students to post sticky notes with their answers before starting the morning meeting.
Then, begin the meeting with a foreign language greeting. Choose one from another language (“Namaste” in Hindi, “Buongiorno” in Italian, etc.), and have children go around the circle and greet each other.
Next, partner students and have them share the book they posted about on the morning message. Book shares should include the title, the author, and a “why I love it” sentence.
Continue with a skill-building activity. Tammy Roose, a former fourth- and fifth-grade teacher from Hillsborough, North Carolina, focused on literature-based themes for her meetings, finding that she could use her meetings “in a way that would complement literacy instruction.” Read aloud a short picture book, such as Blue Sky, White Stars, that may be used as a mentor text in ELA lessons. Roose, who blogs at Tarheelstate Teacher, displays a key theme from the text, like kindness or perseverance. Facilitate a brief discussion of how the theme and characters are developed, giving students a chance to make connections.
Close the meeting by having a student read aloud the morning message. Ask one or two students to share their thoughts about their partners’ “couldn’t-put-down” books as a way to assess listening skills, and provide future book choices for the class.
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.1
What You Need: Scrap paper, pencils, playing cards, chart paper, markers
What to Do: A dose of physical activity during morning meeting can stimulate learning all day. Plus it’s a great way to help kids get the wiggles out!
Before students arrive, organize a deck of playing cards to hand out one to each student. Make sure that each card has a partner in a different suit. Students will be using this for a matching activity in the meeting. If you have an odd number of students, add in one card from a third suit. In the morning message (which you could design to look like a giant playing card!), ask students to take a slip of scrap paper and write their name on it. They will then crumple their papers and bring them to morning meeting.
Begin the meeting with a “snowball greeting.” Instruct students to toss their crumpled papers into the center of the circle. Then, ask them to pull a name from the “snow.” Each student will greet the child whose name is on the snowball he or she has chosen.
Move on to a share and activity match-up. Pass out one playing card to each student and ask everyone to find his or her partner. Then, ask students to share answers to a prompt you provide. This may be subject-based (e.g., “Share a synonym for said”) or just for fun (“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”). If time allows, have students swap cards and match up again.
Math Morning Meeting
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.1; CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.2
What You Need: Sticky notes, chart paper, markers
What to Do: Add math to your morning message by putting a target number in large lettering in the center of a sheet of chart paper. Ask students to leave a sticky note with a math problem that has the target number as a solution. For example, if the number is 47, students may write 21 + 26, 6 x 8 – 1, or 100 ÷ 2 – 3. Students should post an answer before the meeting begins.
Start the meeting with a skip greeting. Students stand in the circle, but rather than greeting the student next to them, they skip a certain number of students before greeting one. For example, if the day’s greeting is a “skip 4 greeting,” the first student would skip four students, greet the fifth, and take that kid’s spot, and then he or she would go on to greet the next fifth student, and so on.
Follow with a game of Ten. Again, standing in a circle, ask one student to start by saying up to three numbers in sequence (“2” or “2, 4,” or “2, 4, 6”). The next student continues the sequence, and so forth. The child who says 10 (the magic number) is out and sits down. Continue the game until there is only one student standing—the winner. This game can easily increase in difficulty by using a number larger than 10 or by multiplying or using fractions. For example, the magic number could be 100 and students could count by multiples of five. An even more difficult version would have a magic number of 10 with students counting by fractional parts. Ask a few students to share their most creative problem to reach the target number.
Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Briggs
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