This morning we played a game of Charades. Jasmyne acted out a “puma,” not a mountain lion! However, she looked more like a dying turtle in agony than a “puma.” It was hilarious, and the kids ate it up. We followed this activity with a game of Telephone. One student starts the conversation and whispers the massage to the next person and so on until it gets back to the originator. Usually the message is about Mr. Moore’s hairy knuckles which the kids always seem to crack jokes about and today was no different. But again, the students laughed with one another. Our last activity this morning was a game of You Can’t Make Me Laugh. One student stands in the middle of our circle and with much effort tries very hard not to laugh as another student does everything in their power to make that student crack-up while the rest of us are doing our best not to giggle ourselves. Not always possible. Today, Jakelin was doing her best to make Lesly laugh and was just about out of time and in a panic when she grabbed her cheeks and proceeded to pull and push them back and forth while cross-eyed and made everybody bust up. I think the most amusing part of it was the panic in her expression.
We start every morning this very way. There are things we do that precede and follow these activities, and we have many different, fun and stimulating ones, too. But the goal during this time is not only to stimulate the kids’ minds, but more importantly, to build community. Many educators call this time “Morning Meeting,” and there are several publications on Morning Meetings which is how I learned of this activity. I urge all teachers to look into this activity and consider incorporating it into your classroom. Our Morning Meetings consist of what most Morning Meetings do: a greeting, a couple quick activities, and announcements. We do all of this at the start of every morning in about 15 minutes.
Our greeting hasn’t changed that much since the beginning of the year. The first greeting I taught my students as they first introduced themselves to each other was a firm handshake and a good look in the eye. So every morning since then, my students circle up around our classroom, and I go around to each student and greet each of them aloud coupled with a firm handshake and a good look in the eye. After I greet each student, the rest of my students chorally greet that student, and then I advance to the next student until everybody has been greeted. Here’s was so great about it. Now, after months of us doing this every morning, every time we have a guest in our classroom, my students don’t hesitate to greet our guest, shake their hand, and introduce themselves. Also, my students are now eager to shake my hand at the end of the day on their way out the door. It has become part of our classroom culture.
Next to come are the activities such as the ones I have mentioned. Students love and look forward to this time. Our class uses these activities as a time to stimulate minds and get the blood pumping, but as mentioned earlier, these activities are really to build community and friendships in our classroom. It’s a time to laugh, and learn from one another and gain an understanding of one another. During this time everybody enjoys the company of each student and they are happy at the start of the day.
The last thing we do to complete our Morning Meeting is announcements. This time is used to communicate with the students and inform them of any school activities, events, or guests. I then give students the opportunity to announce things to the class that they are excited about. However, announcements aren’t all we do. I take the opportunity at the end of announcements to let my students know what they did well the day before, compliment them and encourage the same behaviors for the days and weeks to come. I set the behavior and learning expectations at this time for the day, have the students reiterate them to each other and to me. We say the pledge (only once everybody is standing tall, quiet and respectful and addressing the flag) and we are ready to begin our day.
I firmly believe that the community we have built and the respect that my students have developed for one another through these activities not only help them grow socially but assist them in their academic growth as well. It’s great to see and hear the students respect one another and help each other out. Of course we have our spats and disruptions, but over the months they have declined greatly and the students have learned to handle these situations and almost continue seamlessly which allows us to focus on learning.