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Monday, August 17, 2015

Looking to Revamp Your Morning Work?

I've been teaching for 7 years now. I think back to how I started off: excited but unsure, eager yet apprehensive. It's amazing how teaching can be both extremely exciting and daunting at the same time. Especially for the fresh-faced college grads.

Looking back, I'm amazed at how many teaching practices I've kept since I started. I think this is mostly because I researched the heck out of routines, procedures, homework policies, reward systems, and morning meetings before I even had a classroom of my own. This was before Pinterest and teacher blogs, mind you. I was a big visitor the the A to Z teacher forums as well as Education World.

Remember those? They still exist, actually!

Anyways, something I've kept mostly the same for the last few years is Morning Work. Of course, every year it's been tweaked, but the general idea is the same. And it's probably because I absolutely love how we do morning work in our classroom

I guess I should mention now that I've had access to a SMART Board or projector since my second year of teaching, and I do morning work that way, but my routine could be adapted to your classroom if you're lacking that kind of technology.

I should also mention that this is nothing ground-breaking. I just took a pretty popular morning message idea and adapted it to the needs of my own classroom. {You know...what teachers have done since teaching began... :)}

When my students walk in our classroom in the morning, my morning message to them is on the board.

Students unpack, place their homework books and take-home folders on the back table, hang up their coats and bookbags and get to work. {I do not call them by group, they do this on their own time}.

Ok, so like I said, the morning message is on the board. Students read the message {with blanks} to themselves and then take out their Good Morning Notebooks. The message generally lets them know what we will be learning about that day and any important announcements {birthdays, special visitors, special events, etc}.

There are always a few blanks in the morning message. Students write the answers to those first. One answer per line to keep it neat. They DO NOT rewrite the whole message. #aintnobodygottimeforthat

What you do need time for: modeling, modeling, modeling. I'm not going to lie. This monring work routine does take a fair amount of work up front but it totally pays off. Just like anything worthwhile :)

This is one of my lower friends, but he has the most beautiful handwriting so I made a big stink and took pictures of this notebook!

The blanks are usually in place of days of the week, names of specials, and sight words. Sometimes I have a blank with a skill or concept from the day before so I can gage how well they remember the term {examples: compare/contrast, mental math, strategies, etc} For those kind of words, spelling is not important, but for days of the week, teacher and special names, and sight words, students correct their spelling when we go over the message.

Once students fill-in the blanks from the message, they move on to "below the line". I'm sure you could come up with a fancy term for this, I just never did!

"Below the line" is often just an extra question or task they need to complete before they are done with their morning work. It might be a set of math problems. It might be something they need to search for in the message itself {example: find the synonym for kind}, or it might tell them to grab a worksheet off the back table.
The "Below the Line" here asked students to write a sentence and draw a picture about what scientists do.
Here "below the line" was triple-digit addition problems.

What I love about "below the line" is that it allows me to be as flexible as I want to be regarding the amount of time I have to give for morning work. Say it's Monday morning and I need to check for Friday Folder signatures. I know it's going to take me a little longer than usual to go through their folders, so I come up with something a little more involved for morning work.  Say we're headed to an assembly 10 minutes after school starts and I need to squeeze in a morning meeting before we go, "Below the Line" for that day will be a really simple task so we can all move on quickly.

I'm not ever tied down to giving the same thing for morning work each day, yet my students still have a routine that allows me to get what I need done without fear of any disruptions. That's why I love it!

After a majority {or all on a good day} of my students finish their morning work, we head over to the carpet for morning meeting. When we head back from morning meeting, we fill out the morning message together. First, I choose a student who will read the morning message aloud. I do this first because I want them to have time to read it to themselves in their head so that when they read it to the class it's the smoothest read possible. I didn't do it that way when I first started doing morning work this way and reading the morning message could sometimes take FOREVER. I also call on students to fill in the blanks. They are allowed to pick whatever blank they want/is left when they get to the board.

Later in the year, I started adding a third component to morning work. I chose a clipart character to give the students a quick, additional task.

Like I said above, students are responsible for correcting sight words, names, months,and days of the week in their notebook. This gives them a reference to use when they are unsure of the spelling {something we talk a lot about at the beginning of the year}.

Do you differentiate morning work? Easy! Just give separate tasks for "below the line" work!

Think this kind of morning work routine would work well in your classroom? You're in luck! I'm providing you will a free morning work template to be used on your projector. It will be a Powerpoint file so that you can edit it. I won't be offering it in any other format at this time {sorry}. Click the picture below to grab it.

I also have a PDF file for you of the labels I use to put on the front of my students' "Good Morning Notebooks". You will need to print them on Avery shipping labels {6 labels to a sheet} or sticker paper. Click the picture below to grab them.

If you were looking for a way to switch up your morning work, I hope this helped!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

All About: Making Students Feel Special

Good Morning!

To me, teaching is about so much more than reading, writing, and math. It's easy to forget that in today's world of data tracking, state testing, and teacher accountability. But it's so important to remember that we have responsibilities as teachers to model compassion, empathy, confidence, and more.

I always want my students to know they are valued and important. I do this a variety of ways, which I'll be highlighting soon, but one of my favorite ways to do it is by having an All About Student.

Maybe you call it Star Student, MVP, or VIP.

I like All About because I want to learn all about my students and because when they are the All About Student it really is ALL ABOUT them.

We do it up big in my classroom during a student's All About Week! I'd love to share with you just how we do it.

The Friday before a student is our All About student, I send home a parent-letter and survey for my students to fill out {or mom and dad to fill out for them}. This way, when they bring it back on Monday, we can display their answers for the whole week.

Here are some of the categories from the "Stripes Edition"
I try to come up with categories that will really help us get to know each other. 

Here's another display option

Students share their answers during a short presentation on Friday. I love how it builds speaking and listening skills all year long.

We go over good audience guidelines a lot at the beginning. And I always present first to model what good speaking looks and sounds like.

I also give opportunities throughout the week for students to share more about themselves. They can pick a read-aloud book for me to read the class or bring in a special show and tell item.

"All About" letter and reminder notes

My favorite part of All About though, is the parent letter. I love hearing more about my students through the eyes of people that love them the most. Through parent letters, we get to learn about students as babies, and see how they may be different at home. I've had parents, grandparents, step-parents, and older siblings write some really beautiful letters. And the glow from the All About student, as I read them...priceless!

The students need to get in on the action too! I want them to experience the joy of making others feel special. I always have my students write a letter to the All About student. I also made booklet and list options that I might use as a time-saving option this year.

I've created three different themes for All About to match a variety of classrooms.

There's the Primary Edition. It doesn't have any cursive fonts {besides the cover}, and features adorable scrappy kids illustrations and colorful backgrounds:

There's also a Stripes version:

And an ink-saving Black and White version:

Want to add an All About routine to your classroom? Click here to purchase the unit from Teachers Pay Teachers! It will be such a beneficial experience for you and your students!