Good Morning, Sunshine!
Fostering Feelings of Comfort, Security and Happiness in Your Students Through Morning Meeting
by Terry Tunkel
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Scroll to the end for specific objectives for morning meeting and sample lessons and messages.
First, I would like to say how much I am inspired by my mother-in-law. She is retired now but taught first grade for many years. I was fortunate to work with her in the same building and district when I began teaching. Much of my philosophy and style has been influenced by her based on seeing her work with students and my own two boys. She has always been very patient and a good listener to children. She takes the time to talk to them and really know them. It seems to me she always made it a point to give each child some individual attention.
I feel that it is critical to make children feel comfortable, secure and loved in the classroom. It is too easy in the busy day and with the rush to complete all curriculm to give up those meaningful moments when you really connect with a student. It is hard to carve out some time to allow those moments to happen. For my mother-in-law it comes naturally, I will describe below how I try to do it.
To begin with I start the day by letting all the children go to hang up their coats at the same time. As they are done with this they lay their folders on a table, turn their cards over (see the Happy Chart-a management tool) and go to sit on the carpet where I am waiting for them. We practice these activities the first couple of weeks of school before I let them do them on their own. Also, I am fortunate to have an aide who can help if any coat issues arise. The children are eager to get to the carpet for morning meeting because they know we will be sharing there and reading a story.
I find that starting the day with a story is wonderful. It sets a quiet peaceful tone and the children love it. After the story we say good morning to each other. We alternate different ways to do this morning ritual. Next, we sing a good morning song. I know many teachers also do a special monthly good morning poem. I believe that saying good morning to each other is an important way to foster feelings of comfort and instill manners. It makes every child feel good to be recognized this way. Children learn that we can make each other happy with a simple hello. Promoting feelings of comfort and self-worth in this way are repaid many times again throughout the day. It will promote more effective teaching time because children that feel happy and are getting along will listen better, follow directions better and have fewer management and discipline issues.
During these beginning of the day activities children naturally want to share with their friends and teacher things that have happened at home-a movie they saw, a present they got, etc. Other children may want to ask them questions. Giving children a chance to share during morning meeting means they may be less likely to interrupt a lesson to tell about it. If at first the children are shy and hesitant you can start the ball rolling by sharing your favorite food or what you ate for breakfast. One day during our transportation unit I shared a story about the time I got caught at a railroad crossing. With my boys in the car, we eagerly waited for the train. We could hear it blowing its whistle and then we could see the lights. We were hoping for a really long train. Then it came by and it was just the locomotive! We were so disappointed. This story sparked a lot of conversation. If time is short you can cut the sharing down to one or two students.
After the read aloud story, good morning ritual and sharing; we have a number of fast paced activities that we cover including doing the calendar, looking inside our classroom Mailbox, introducing a new center game, Word Wall songs or math game. We might take a moment to look at 6-9 rhyming cards or objects to find the rhyming pairs or play a quick ABC game such as Dr. Jean Feldman's Wiggle Worm game. In this game I have a small decorated can filled with letters on index cards and also some cards with a worm on them. If a child picks a letter they have to try to say the letter but if they get a worm the whole class gets to wiggle on the carpet. These are quick activities done to review or introduce a skill. We also read our Morning Message and use it to reinforce a number of skills. Since it is still first thing in the morning the students are fresh and absorb more. The lively pace keeps them from getting bored. The focus is away from worksheets and paperwork. I make sure that every child gets to succeed at some activity during our morning meeting. The activities are flexible and can easily be adjusted to allow for varying degrees of ability in your students. To the students it all seems fun and games. Our morning meeting is generally the favorite time of day for the whole class-including me.
I write the Morning Message using alternating colors for each sentence. I keep the message very simple rarely more than three sentences. Some activities we use the Morning Message for are counting all the words in a sentence, counting the number of sentences, finding periods or Word Wall words, finding letters, finding words that end in -ing, finding a pair of rhyming words, etc. I include a sentence about an activity we are going to do or a book we are going to read-something to get them anticipating a special lesson. Sometimes I'll add a quick patterning activity or fill-in-the-blank underneath to review letter or number sequence. The students love the Morning Message and are quick each day to ask if they can be the one to take home today's message. Generally, Morning Meeting takes me 30-45 minutes each day.
I make sure that my students have a block of play time that is about 30 minutes long every day. I feel that at this age they really need it and for some children it is the only time they get to play with other kids. There are many articles out there on the importance of play to promote social skills, etc. I will not go on about this here. After I have introduced play centers, teaching the routine and reviewing rules; I begin pulling students aside on the second or third week of school. I use this play time at the beginning of the year to pull children for assessment, read them a story or review their letters. Also, I will sit down at play time and play a game with one or two students. The students love to play a game with the teacher. I get to talk to them and build a relationship with them. In some cases I teach them to play board games or stretch their imaginations for ways to use our blocks. A lot of learning goes on during this play time. Later in the year I introduce learning centers instead of play centers. I do not do Guided Reading during Learning Centers. I believe that as a Kindergarten teacher my role is to teach students the process and routine of centers so that they are really ready to do them in first grade. The aide and I walk around during center time helping students with the activities and marking off on a clipboard what they have accomplished. The students know they can't go on to another activity until they show me what they have done. After we are in the routine I continue to pull students aside for extra help and review.
I have small group math for struggling students as often as I can. I am lucky to have a wonderful aide who can lead the rest of the class in a review worksheet or game of Bingo so that I can pull a small group aside. One year I was fortunate enough to have some high school students come in to our classroom to tutor. Guided Reading takes about 20-30 minutes as I generally see only two groups each day. During Guided Reading my aide again takes the rest of the class. They complete an activity such as a beginning sounds review worksheet or making a small alphabet book. When they finish with the activity they have a quiet reading time with books they pull from book baskets. The Guided Reading manual has wonderful suggestions for putting together book baskets. Before we ever begin Guided Reading the children have learned the routine for book baskets and how to make the little alphabet books which involve pages to color, cut and assemble. As the students in the Guided Reading groups finish with me they go back to the aide and pick up from where they left the process. These activities don't need whole class instruction so it is easy for the aide to direct students who are coming and going. Even without an aide students could complete a coloring review sheet, handwriting practice paper or alphabet book while you pull students for Guided Reading.
My goal is to give students as much personalized attention as I can so I work hard to find time for small groups or 1:1 activities. I tell the students "I am going to really help you learn those letters and numbers." The children who are struggling usually are well aware of it and look forward to that 1:1 time. In many cases struggling students are not going to make progress without that extra attention. Children who know that their teacher is dedicated to spending time with them helping them to learn will usually try harder. It is during 1:1 time that you can figure out what technique will work best with a child and from where the child's learning difficulties are stemming. During those moments when the student feels that he or she really has your undivided attention they will open up to you and share their innermost thoughts about things that are bothering them at school or at home. That is the time when a teacher becomes a counselor. Sometimes you can help a child resolve the issues that are bothering them; at other times you are just someone to listen. Most importantly you make that student feel comfortable, secure and loved in your classroom.
Morning Meeting Objectives: Students will be able to-
∑ Use appropriate social and inter-personal skills to greet each other and resolve differences
∑ Make eye contact, smile and identify each other by name
∑ Use self-management skills to get ready for the day
∑ Use fine motor skills to button and zip
∑ Read and participate in the creation of an attendance graph
∑ Identify types of weather and use tally marks to keep track of monthly weather
∑ Identify concepts of print such as spaces, capitalization, punctuations, left to right and top to bottom progression, words vs. letters and sentences
∑ Identify upper and lowercase letters and their sounds
∑ Begin to identify sounds at the beginning, middle and end of words
∑ Count by rote numbers 0-110, ordinal numbers, count by 2’s/5’s/10’s
∑ Begin to understand place value of ones, tens and hundreds
∑ Name days of the week and months of the year
∑ Identify and continue patterns
∑ Read and write sight words
∑ Identify coins and their properties; calculate value
∑ Use words that signal sequence (first, last) and periods of time (yesterday)
∑ Identify colors and shapes
∑ Identify calendar as a measure of time
∑ Use positional words
∑ Identify a number or range of numbers between two given numbers and a number before or after a number
∑ Estimate a number
∑ Problem solve number stories
∑ Tell time to hour, half hour and count by 5s around the clock
Methods and Materials: Morning meeting is an ongoing and evolving activity. Objectives are introduced slowly and not all are reviewed each day. The objectives are taught through the activities listed below.
∑ Getting ready –cubbies and folders
∑ Morning greeting and song
∑ Graphing attendance
∑ Morning message
∑ Weather tally and recording of temperature
∑ Calendar activities (weather, learning songs, tally of days with straws,etc.)
∑ Learning game and Minute Math
Assessment: Teacher observation, direct questioning of students, student production of morning message
Sample Lessons For Morning Message
Genreally these messages and lessons take you through December. At that point I begin writing messages as part of an interactive writing lesson so there are no samples for then since this will be student generated. Through discussion I lead the students to notice and find whatever skill we are currently working. I use markers, wikki sticks and post-it notes to help the students focus. So as part of the lesson a child may circle all the uppercase letters. The great thing about morning message is that there is an opportunity for all children to be successful. If a child can't locate a sight word he usually can find at least period.
Lesson: Spaghetti vs. meatball
∑ Good morning. My name is Mrs. Tunkel.
∑ Good morning. I am happy to see you.
∑ Good morning. The name of our school is West End.
Lesson: Letters vs. words. Counting the words in a sentence.
∑ Good morning. We are getting to know each other.
∑ Good morning. Our class will go to _______ today.
∑ Good morning. We will read ________ today.
Lesson: Reading left to right and top to bottom.
∑ Good morning. The school principal’s name is Mrs. Sobel. Do you know what the principal does?
∑ Good morning. Today for lunch you may have ____ or _______. Which did you pick?
∑ Good morning. The name of our school nurse is Mrs. Walker. Do you know what the nurse does?
Lesson: Sentences begin with an uppercase letter.
∑ Good morning. Mrs. Tunkel is wearing a _____ colored shirt today.
∑ Good morning. We will go to ______ today.
∑ Good morning. For lunch today we have a choice of ______ or ______. What did you choose?
Lesson: Sentences end with a punctuation mark- usually a period.
∑ Good morning. We will make __________.
∑ Good morning. Do you remember the name of our principal?
∑ Good morning. I like to read.
Lesson: How many sentences are in the message? Reading L-R & T-B. –ing words
∑ Good morning. My oldest boy’s name is Max. My nine year old is named Ethan. The baby’s name is Sam.
∑ After school yesterday I _______. Then I __________.Before I went to bed I __________.
∑ Mrs. Hughes has three daughters. One of her girls is working and studying in a far away country called Russia. Let’s find Russia on the globe.
Lesson: Locating uppercase & lowercase letters.
∑ Today we will read _______. We will make _______. We will go to _________.
Lesson: Letters vs. #’s and number words.
∑ Our classroom is room 16.
∑ We will go to ___ at ____ o’ clock.
∑ My baby, Sam, is ______months old.
Lesson: The word “I” is always capitalized. Listening for the same sound.
∑ I like to eat bananas, blueberries and bunches of grapes. What kind of fruit do you think Mrs. Hughes likes?
∑ When I go to the carnival I never ride on the roller coaster. Can you guess why?
∑ It is my dream that I will some day go to Hawaii. Have you ever had a dream come true?
Lesson: Locating the beginning and end of sentences
by the capital and ending punctuation. Finding two words that are the same.
∑ Max likes to eat pickles. Ethan likes to eat pizza. Sam likes to eat pasta.
∑ Once I went to Disney World for vacation. Once I went to the beach for vacation. This year we went to Hershey Park.
∑ My favorite time of year used to be fall when the leaves turn beautiful colors. Now my favorite time of year is summer because we got a pool. What is your favorite time of year?
Lesson: Names always start with a capital letter.
∑ In Russia, where Mrs. Hughes’ daughter is living, it is very cold.
∑ Mrs. Hughes youngest daughter is named Erin.
∑ My husband’s name is Bruce. His middle name is William.
Lesson: Writing can entertain or give information. Intro to the
∑ A cheetah can run faster than a car!
∑ The teacher asked the boy to sing his ABC’s. The boy sang the song beautifully but left out the letter “P”. The teacher asked him, “Where’s the P ?” The boy said, “It’s in the toilet!”
∑ What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence? Time to get a new fence!
Lesson: Writing is a way to communicate without talking on the
phone or seeing the other person. Introduction to writing a friendly
Lesson: We often write letters to thank people. Sight words.
Shared writing of beginning sounds.
Lesson: We use writing with math and science too. Sight words.
Shared writing of beginning sounds.
Lesson: Using exclamation points.
∑ Yesterday I bought a lottery ticket. I won $500.00!
∑ Max had a baseball game on Tuesday. He hit a homerun!
∑ Watch out! Don’t get hit by the car!
Lesson: Introduction to interactive writing. Sight words. H Brothers. Word Families.
For more information on an approach that promotes this philosophy and belief please visit the Responsive Classroom site.