In quite a number of the schools I’ve subbed in these past 5 years, the Morning Meeting occupies an important space in the day. Many Early Childhood classes (Pre-K through 2nd Grade) have a similar format from school to school – reading the morning message, then specific children assigned to fix and announce the schedule, the weather, the calendar, the number of days in school, sometimes counting through that number by ones, twos, fives, or tens – following the hundreds chart or a numberline around the room.
This is fairly standard and goes smoothly, with the children sitting in certain rug spots or in a circle round the edge of the rug.
In schools where a higher value is placed on social dynamics, there are two other possible features – a circle greeting/activity, or a group share.
Frankly, the ‘share’ can be laborious and a little awkward – if the class goes around the circle on a Monday or a Friday saying what each of them did or will do on the weekend, how to avoid play dates or birthday party mentions that not everyone went to? How to get kids to even remember – or especially to speak up more quickly? I’ve estimated only eight kids at most can share with any expectation that others are listening, then it’s just wriggling and mumbling – so why do it? Especially earlier than 2nd grade.
Oh, and how to accommodate the contrast between schools where children went to their country homes, or skiing in Sun Valley, or a couple of days in Aruba, with other nearby schools where perhaps a parent came to visit, or an outing was made to the supermarket? Or a cousin came over with a new video game. We live in a very diverse city, and generally speaking these children do not attend the same schools. Although they should – another topic! But then what? Then you get the private school parallel with children on scholarship dealing with all those trips and country homes!
So as we wrap up another year in the classrooms, here are some activities that I’ve learned which engage the students, give them a fun bonding opportunity, and lighten the day during meeting or as a transition from one subject to another. I would love to see these take the place of the personal shares (stick with nominating a student each day to share something that interests him/her, if you must!) and of the relentless transitions from one subject to another without any ‘body breaks’. Create a repertoire of games that all of the children on your grade level know. One school has a file pocket pinned up in the teachers’ room filled with “Energizers” so teachers can take a copy or add a new one they’ve found and tried out.
Know it or not, many of these ideas for social interaction come from programs such as Responsive Classroom. https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/ This is a comprehensive set of beliefs and tools which take time to absorb, but being aware of the rationale behind activities can make them more successful. They are powerful tools by themselves, but if you know about the thinking behind them, the more transformative they will be. There is no point in popping a game into your day unless you are willing to modify the rest of the day around it – or it will modify you! “I can’t do games with my class, they just get crazy!” Hmm, let’s think about that. . . So you should know that some versions of the upcoming activities can be found in “The Morning Meeting Book”, by Roxann Kriete, with Lynn Bechtel, recommended as part of the Responsive Classroom training sessions and materials. Look at Appendix E for greetings and Appendix F for activities. https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/product/morning-meeting-book
- SPLAT! Children can play with words or with numbers. We used the word ‘today’, then a number between 5 and 12 – 12. The children spell the letters in turn: t – o – d – a – y, the next child around the circle says the word, and the next says “Splat!” and sits down. Continue until everyone has gone Splat! With the number, children chose to count by twos “because it’s an even number!” so successive children say 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – but the child who should say 12 says ‘Splat’ instead. I think they made this up, as the child after 12 should have been ‘Splat’, but that was how we played. A version for older grades includes using the word in a sentence and then ‘Splat’.
- Name touch: Everyone stands in a circle with both hands out. The person named ‘It’ should check where everyone is standing, because once the first name is called, s/he has to run to that student and touch their hands before they can say a name – at which point s/he has to run to that child before they name another! If the child is touched before s/he can call a name, s/he becomes ‘It’. It’s a very energetic game, and ‘It’ can have a hard time catching students out, depending on how closely they all listen, so decide how many tries to have before switching.
- Coseeki: One player leaves the group – out of the room, e.g., so that they can’t see/hear plans. The rest, seated in a circle, choose a leader who does a rhythmic movement, such as tapping a toe or slapping thighs, which the others follow. The leader changes the movement regularly, and the group follows while trying not to visibly watch the secret leader. The hidden player returns, stands in the middle of the circle, and tries to decide who is the leader. Limit the guesses for time’s sake, or send out more than one “finder”.
- Grandmother’s Trunk: Begin this game by saying “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack my Grandmother’s trunk.” The first student in the circle must follow with a new item – “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking my baseball bat.” The next student says “I’m going on a trip and I’m taking my baseball bat and my toothbrush.” Each following student must say all the things that came before, and add an item of their own.
I think all of theses activities are great for groups of up to 25 children, in any situation, always being prepared for the occasional meltdown by children to whom losing or not getting a turn is unendurable. The more chance children get to participate in games like these and have fun, the less will be the pressure of winning and losing, and really none of these examples is set up to be heavily ‘winner take all’!
See Part 2 for examples of Greetings that have worked well in Elementary grades, to add to your tool-box!
Also see the suggested articles for links to more online resources and for descriptions of the variables encountered from school to school – I’ve been highlighting this for a while now! More adults, more resources, more options, more respect for the children – why is this so hard for administrators to implement?