Insufficient sleep, lack of breakfast, trouble with parents–there are a lot of reasons students may enter class with less-than-chipper attitudes in the morning. And while we should encourage them to take charge of their own mindsets, we should also consider empathy as we design the first 5 minutes of each day.
So in those first few pivotal minutes, let’s consider how we are setting the climate for the day. Do we orient the students into an atmosphere of meaningful connections? Do we remind them that their contributions matter here? Do we set the tone of shared ownership and responsibility for learning?
If a 30+ minute weekly class meeting isn’t in the cards with your schedule, consider holding condensed mini-meetings each morning, pulling out just the essentials like High-Lows, essential announcements & changes to the schedule, or a quick Talking Circle.
We are going to defy the many discussion threads on, “When is my child too old for picture books?” by declaring NEVER! No matter what grade you teach, you will not go amiss by starting class with a quality picture book. Not only are they full of essential life-lessons and values, but they’d also be a great incentive for kids to come to class on time!
Especially useful if your schedule prevents a solid wrap-up the day before. Activate the discoveries, concepts, and difficulties from yesterday by using strategies like visual thinking routines (we find “Compass Points” or “Used to Think” especially intriguing for this purpose).
Keep the morning routine student-centered:
• Instead of taking roll, create a check-in board where students move clothespins, magnets, or pocket chart cards labeled with their names or numbers
• Instead of calling out for hands for who is ordering hot lunch, make the check-in dual-purpose by adding lunch choices, like in the example below:
Keep it well-oiled:
• Model clear and high expectations for the start of class–if you spend the first few minutes double-checking your email or making last-minute preparations, the students will follow suit. Instead, model readiness and enthusiasm to start right away!
• Take the time to teach and then occasionally practice the morning routine expectations. For instance, you might teach them the following routine:
• Hang backpacks, make lunch choices, unstack chairs, turn in papers, and gather at the rug (if you’re doing a read aloud, start reading as soon as you have greeted each student at the door to help encourage them to join you quickly).
Prioritize and Strategize:
• Sometimes, we come across pet activities that can distract us from what will matter most for students’ present and longterm self-driven learning. We must honestly evaluate them for their authentic learning value for students, especially when placed next to other possibly more worthy ventures. Some culprits may include:
» Having students write down your entire week’s worth of plans in their planners
» Logic puzzles–especially when it’s almost always of the same variety (Pretty sure my fifth grade teacher made us to Hink-Pinks every morning of the school year)
» Arbitrary worksheets
• For those self-starters that may be completely non-negotiable, such as math fluency practice, strategize the timing. Is first thing in the morning really the optimal time for that practice, or could there be a better time when students are more alert and ready?
As we work to start each day with more purpose, we, along with our students, will more clearly glimpse the big picture of what matters most for our learning throughout each day.
What about you? What morning routines and strategies help you and your students start each day out right?
Featured image: DeathtotheStockPhoto.com