I have started my school day in a variety of ways over the years, but have been happiest (as, I think, have my students) since I’ve begun the say with choice time. Sometimes it’s a choice of reading or writing, often it includes an “easel question” where kiddos start with a warm-up to get them thinking, but always they have about a half-hour or so to ease into their day. Adults don’t start work the second the enter the office, and so neither should kids!
Aside from kids being allowed to ease into the day and spend time with their friends, I am also able to spend time with them in an informal way. We can chat about the night before, what has happened before school, what they had for breakfast, whatever.
But aside from choice time, the best thing we’ve started doing in our class every morning as the first “official” thing of our day is how we run our morning meeting circle (and yes, I know there is an “official” way to do morning meeting, and this is not exactly that. It’s just a meeting we have in the morning. 🙂 )
Before I go any further, I need to make sure I tell you about Zones of Regulation. There are different zones–of different colors to delineate different feelings–and kids learn what each one means and also what to do to move from one zone to another. Everyone (even adults) moves naturally between zones, which is in itself no big deal, but really being in the GREEN ZONE is the goal. At the start of our year, we put together this chart after much work with books and conversation and role play to help us really understand what it was all about. This hangs in our room, and we use it every day!!
So now to how this connects to our morning meeting circle. After choice time clean up, we meet in a circle on our rainbow rug. We pull over our talking piece (our phonics buddy, Rasheed), and get started. Beginning with our “person in charge”, kiddos go around the circle and tell their classmates what zone they are currently in. At this point that’s all we share–no reasons yet. On the second time around the circle, students have the choice of either telling more about their own zone color, or asking someone else in the circle about their color.
The very first time we did this, it took until we got halfway around the circle for someone to ask another friend about their color (rather than tell their own story). As we’ve gone on, it’s been great to watch how many more (and which different kiddos) have started asking their friends about how they’re doing. Often a kiddo will ask me, and always by the end of the circle we know how everyone is feeling as we start our day.
I’ve noticed how much more fully we can support each other when we know exactly what kind of morning they’ve had before they got to school. Things come out in our circle that help us understand how to relate to our friends, things that they probably wouldn’t have shared otherwise. Often we hear about a rushed morning that put someone in the yellow zone, or about how a friend is sad and in the blue zone because their parent is traveling and they miss them. With this information, it’s the job of the rest of us to help those friends find a way back to the green zone.
Another thing I’ve noticed is how kids are becoming more aware of their actual feelings and being honest about how they are truly feeling. We’ve had kiddos on both ends of the spectrum–those who always say they’re green (even if they aren’t) and some who always claim to be yellow–or even red–but really aren’t. It surprised me how uncomfortable some friends were with being ok; being in the green zone seemed like a place they were not used to being and so had to be convinced that it was a good thing. Being able to talk about our feelings and start the day together in this way also just helps us share our lives; often the reason we’re “green” is because of happy things that have happened or things we’re looking forward to. We’re a part of each others’ lives from the very beginning. 🙂
How do you start your morning? What does Morning Meeting look like in your classroom? If you’re a parent, what has your first grader told you about our opening circle? What is their favorite part? Please leave us a comment with your thoughts!