Teaching Tuesday Teaching Tip

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!  

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