Tag Archives: responsive classroom

Using morning messages…

responsive classroom

“Good Morning.”  Two simple words, a customary greeting among the polite and civilized.  Two little words – that can sometimes help a challenging day ahead feel a little less daunting.  These words can help students feel that they matter – and that it matters to us, their teachers, that they show up in our classroom.

When I was in the classroom, I was a huge fan of the morning meeting, as defined by “The Responsive Classroom Approach.”  And one crucial component of the morning meeting, is the “morning message.”  As the school year careened toward testing (for my kids, first week of March), the morning meeting often, sadly, fell by the wayside.  I used to think there wasn’t time – but I will write about that at some other time (I’m not sure I was right about that).

But I tried to hold onto the morning message. Teachers must always remember that the shift from home to the classroom isn’t always easy for our students. I wanted my students to know – as soon as they walked through the door to the classroom – that my day was about them – about who they are and about what they would learn.  I wanted them to know I was waiting for them – and that I had been thinking about them before they walked in the door.  I wanted them to feel welcome, to know that they were important and that I believed in every one of them.

The morning message can do these things – and much more.

The morning message is an “interactive” message and should always be positive in tone.  It should welcome our kids to the classroom – their classroom, their community of learning.  It can provide a context to acknowledge class accomplishments or challenges; it can help generate group thinking, planning and reflection.

The message should anchor the learning plan for the day (or the hour) ahead and help students know what’s ahead.  It should generate interest and excitement and allow students to feel competent and skilled.  Generally, morning messages provide students with practice in functional reading and always include an interactive task.  They can focus on all academic subjects:  math, writing, science, social studies or literature as well as community building.   

The essential elements of a morning message include:

  1. A greeting ( “Good morning, students!” ” Welcome Mathematicians!” “Dear Awesome Artists,” “Hello Cooperative and Caring Students” )
  2. The date (at the top or as part of a sentence: “Today is …”
  3. Body: This should draw attention to something students might look forward to doing later in the school day and should be written in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them.  It should also invite the students to think about or respond to what you’ve written.  It is best to focus on a single topic and KEEP IT SIMPLE.
  4. Your signature.

The Interactive Task:  I think it is helpful if students can respond below the message you’ve written and then you can use the message as an anchor chart when you move on to the subject of the message.  You can also ask students to respond in their journals or on a post-it note which is affixed to a chart or a bulletin board.  Think of this task as a meaningful part of the day’s instruction, a way to engage the students in what lies ahead.

A couple of examples:

scholars     morning message science

Planning:  Use a weekly rotation for different academic subjects and try drafting a week’s worth over the weekend so you don’t feel stressed about thinking about what to say.

Resources:  There are examples on the web (where I pulled the two above).  Here is a good resource from The Responsive Classroom website:    Ideas for Morning Messages.    I also enthusiastically recommend getting your hands on the following books:

morning meeting book               morning messages

Final Thoughts: It’s never too late to add a “morning message” to your classroom routine.  I found them to be helpful throughout the school year and thought they were essential to community building and a great way to address classroom behavior challenges thoughtfully and effectively.  How do you use morning messages in your classroom?  Please provide your ideas in a comment!  

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n - Version 2-Karen

Bringing the Joy Factor: New Energizers in Your Classroom (Or At Home)

It’s January, the polar vortex has taken over our lives, testing is coming to a head, and in spite of our extra days off of school, we’re exhausted and our students are, too. It’s time for a Tuesday Teaching Tip.

One of my favorite things to do in my classroom is an energizer. Energizers are brief breaks between lessons that have structured play. Once the expectations are set for how to do energizers (or how not to), it’s easy to introduce new energizers on a weekly basis until you have created a base to choose from.

My students have their favorites, but even a devoted energizer enthusiast can run short on ideas. Nothing is worse than standing up to energize your students and having them all groan when you call out what you’re going to do.

Here is a list of brand new energizers sure to excite your students.

1. Zombie Tag


In Zombie Tag, the students start out by walking slowly around the classroom. The teacher calls out one student who has become a zombie. They must start walking with hands out, slowly. Anyone they bump into then also becomes a zombie. If zombies are slow to be made, then the teacher can call out more students who turn into zombies. Anyone who walks too quickly becomes a zombie. The game is over when the whole class is zombified.

2. Psychic Faces


In Psychic Faces, students pair up and stand back to back with one another. Students each put their hands on their partner’s head to “mind read” what action they will choose to act out. On the count of three, both partners turn around and display an action. The goal is to choose the same action.

The actions can vary. This video shows “Bear” (two hands up in claws, make a roar noise), “Samson” (hands in muscle position with a “huh” noise), and “Delilah” (hands to the side like a skirt). However, I might change those to be three different animals, or some other familiar actions.

3. Dinosaur Stomp


This is my students’ favorite energizer. Although you can probably sing this one, it really helps to have a projector and speakers and have the students follow along with the youtube video.

The basic song is:
Pick up your feet and stomp it, stomp it (3xs) Now let’s do it again
Open up your claws and chomp it, chomp it (3xs) Straight to the end

I cannot recommend this more highly. The classes that walk by our door when we do this energizer inevitably stop and stare, most likely wishing they, too, could act like dinosaurs.

4. Popcorn’s In the Popper


This is another favorite. We usually play this during our morning meeting, but it can be modified to an energizer by having students make a circle around the room. Three students crouch down in the middle of the circle.

The teacher leads out with this call and response song:

First you poor in the oil (pour in the oil)
Sprinkle in the popcorn (sprinkle in the popcorn)
Cover up the pan (cover up the pan)
Turn up the heat (turn up the heat)

(Together, while rubbing hands together):
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, POP!

(Students in the middle who were crouching stand up and start jumping around the circle while everyone else sings):
The popcorn’s in the popper, let it pop pop pop
The popcorn’s in the popper, let it pop pop pop (repeat)
Pop, pop, pop, pop,
Now it’s time to STOP (everyone freezes)

You would be surprised how much fun this is, and how much older kids enjoy playing it, too.

One last thing: Clicking on the links will bring you to the youtube page of each of these videos, but you can obviously watch the embedded video instead. However, each video is from a different organization, and they each have a lot more videos with other ideas to check out. If you do find another good energizer, leave us a comment and let us know!