These are the ingredients that get mixed into my “Morning Meeting,” an integral part of my daily classroom routine.
Step into my “kitchen” now while I explain how to best cook up a worthy combination of learning fun and establish a positive classroom culture.
Despite the maddening emphasis on using every single minute in our school schedule for rigorous data-gathering, skill-drill, and test prep, I continue to close my door at 9:20 a.m. and call my students to the carpet for our morning serving of “Group Soup.” I call it my “Little House on the Prairie” time. We use no technology. We sing familiar folk songs. We share news about what the tooth fairy brought last night and adventures with new puppies. We read favorite stories. They talk. I listen. We are like a family from long ago, gathered around a fireplace or the dinner table. If you ask my second graders, they will tell you it is their favorite time of our day. It is mine, too.
These are all flavorful elements that are products of the focused, collaborative, comfortable, and authentic activities included in our daily Group Soup. They are the perfect way to start the day, and set the tone for all of the learning that follows.
In order to host an effective Group Soup, you must make room for and create a large space where your students can sit comfortably on the floor.
Our morning meeting follows our “bell-ringer” work so using chants, cheers, and familiar call-response phrases helps my students transition from their desks to our gathering area. One of their favorite signals is when I use my megaphone and say…..
“Calling all second grade friends! Calling all second grade friends!
Please report to the carpet! Do not pass go! Do not collect $200 dollars!”
Yes, it is silly. But it is effective and gets their attention!
I then wait for them in my Junie B. Jones rocking chair with a favorite picture book to share, with my guitar waiting in the wings to lead our daily sing-a-long. The stories are usually by a featured author or illustrator like Jan Brett, Mo Willems, or Patricia Polacco. The songs are usually movement-based to get our wiggles out and reinforce rhyming skills like Raffi’s Shake Your Sillies Out and Willaby Wallaby. Sometimes we write our own “piggyback” style songs based on our current theme or unit of study.
I also try to incorporate a survey of some kind using our “Thinking Chart” to gather student opinions and ideas for us to discuss and analyze. Nothing like integrating Math graphing skills whenever possible, right? Student responses to our “Question of the Day” served as a springboard to our Social Studies lesson about American heroes like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. We then compared their character traits to those of the fictional superheroes we read about in comic books and see on T.V.
Before we wrap up our Group Soup time and move on to Word Work, I act as a “scribe” while the students dictate our Daily News. We talk about grammar rules, descriptive words, transitional words, parts of speech, and correct format as we write, and then re-read it together for fluency practice and expression. Students then take turns taking it home to share it with their families.
The last ingredient of our Group Soup time is a “book commercial,” where I pull a picture book from our “Teacher Favorites” shelf and preview the pictures and plot. After I am done “selling the story,” I pull a student name stick and they have the honor of putting the book in their Read To Self box to enjoy later! Believe me, the child whose name is drawn acts and feels like they’ve won a million dollars in a lottery drawing!
If you’d like to begin your classroom day the “Group Soup” way, I’ve created a set of planning sheets to help you get started. The sample here maps out my plan for when we began our exploration of all things leprechaun-related!
As always, thank you for allowing me to share my story!
May today’s post remind you of the importance of stepping away from the “fray” of your school day and starting it in a relaxed and joyful way!
Your students need and deserve it, and so do you!
Continue to hold a song in your heart, keep calm, and teach on!
Jennifer Boney-Reynolds lives in Sylvania, Ohio. She is the proud mother of two adult children and a big fan of Bassett hounds. She is a self-professed “hippie chick” who plays guitar and leads a sing-a-long with her second graders every morning. She has been an educator for 25 years and remains forever inspired by her kindergarten teacher, Miss Brand. Rhyming, dancing, reading aloud, laughing, and designing thematic, developmentally appropriate lessons are just a few of her favorite things. Her classroom is a busy, messy, colorful, and creative place where conversations, cooperation, and “out-of-the-box thinking” are encouraged and nurtured. She spends much of her spare time sipping caramel lattes while sharing ideas and developing resources for her Stories and Songs in Second blog and TpT store. Follow her on social media for more creative ideas for your classroom: You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.