Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making Morning Message More Meaningful

(ok, so I really mean more rigorous, but who can pass up a chance at alliteration).

Morning Message is a staple of elementary classrooms. We are required to it every day at our school as a literacy activity. Unfortunately, I don't think many teachers get everything out of the activity that they could. Many simply write a message and then have the children copy it, or come up and circle certain words. My kids get bored with that very quickly. I had to come up with something that allowed them to get those creative juices flowing. I think it works because even now in February they are still reminding me to do it every day!

1) Remember Mad-Libs? I will write the sentences and leave spaces for verbs, adverbs or adjectives and ask the kids for suggestions. We randomly fill them in. Of course our message ends up talking about our "stinky" math or our "graceful" teacher (definitely completely made-up). But what I love is hearing the kids laugh before they even get to the end of the sentence as we're reading it. They are reading in phrases and looking ahead like they are supposed to do. Of course, I do have to explain when someone from administration reads it, but it's all educational.

2) Analogies. I always add 2 or 3 analogies after the main message. Sometimes I leave out 2 parts of the comparison: Washington: quarter as _____:_______. Sometimes I give them the words and ask them for the relating factor: Cherry:ice cream sundae    roof: house, then they tell me the relationship and then come up with others.

3) A little Venn diagram. I have the students give me 2 nouns and we compare them. The more random the better. We just come up with about 2 facts for both differences and 2 for the similarities (often the hard part). It's amazing how if you think about it you can come up with similarities for almost any objects.

4) A little graph. Now I know graphs are not literacy-related, unless... you are asking about a story. We always have an on-going chapter book, so I'll often ask about that. They simply write their names in their choice as they enter in the morning. Maybe just a simple t-chart-do you think Chester Cricket will ever go home? Or a bar graph-who is your favorite character? The important part after we discuss most/least, etc. is I ask a few to defend their position. Why did you choose that one? Sometimes they just choose because their friend did, that's not good enough for me-you have to have an argument to back up your choices.

We don't do all these every day, but change them intermittently for variety. I truly believe in challenging them from the beginning of class to the end. This includes the Morning Message for us.

(I call them Ninjas and Ballerinas because that's how I used to have to dismiss them in Kinder. I would tell the boys to go to their seats like Ninjas and the girls like Ballerinas, sometimes vice versa just for fun. It stuck as our opening).

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