Mornings start early over here. I’m up, dressed (dressed meaning pajamas or lounge clothes, hat, and farm boots) and headed outside, feed and water buckets in hand, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon. I stand in the snow, (figuratively) frozen and wonderstruck gazing at the colors of the sunrise.
It is truly a sight to behold, but now the horse has seen me and lets out his “I’m starving, where have you been?” neigh. I stand there just a minute longer. Another neigh. I pick up the buckets and head to the barn. Thirty minutes later I walk back into the house, all barn animals feed, watered, and outside soaking up the morning sun. Now it’s time to feed the animals inside: the dog, cats, and the children. But first I pour myself a cup of coffee, savoring the first sip knowing that the next sip will be cold. I start to prepare breakfast. On the menu today is pancakes, cut up pineapple, and some bacon. While the cakes are cooking on the griddle, I add another log to woodstove, put the dishes away from the dishwasher, add more pancake batter to the griddle, pick up the 52 crayons from the kitchen table, give the old girl (our dog) her 8 pills and 4 eye drops, take all my supplements and vitamins, and add my favorite essential oils to my diffuser bracelet. It’s been about 18 minutes and I take another sip of coffee. Yep it’s cold. I pour it back into the pot to warm up.
I give the kids the five minute breakfast reminder to feed the cats. Rule around here is you don’t get food until the cats get food. We sit down for breakfast and it’s gobbled up in half the time it took to make it. The kids put their plates in the dishwasher and run off for some play time. I can finally sip some hot coffee while I figure out the school plans for the day. Note: I don’t follow a scripted curriculum. I plan out and write my own so it takes more time to plan and prep which I usually don’t get. My first question is what are we going to first? The voice in my head always answers with, “Morning message, duh?”
Educationally speaking, a morning message is a short message you write on a whiteboard or piece of chart paper. The message read is meant to be shared, shared between the teacher and the student.
The reason I love starting with a morning message is because it literally requires very little prep work (just a well thought out message). It can also naturally lends itself to differentiated and extended learning. If you have a wide range of ages, grades, or learning abilities in your classroom, then it can easily meet all their needs. You won’t have to get three different activities ready and you’ve already met one important piece of literacy.
So for example, let’s use the below message. I write mine on our whiteboard easel (unless I plan to reuse the text). It’s been snowing a lot here so that was inspiration for this message.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Snow is cold,
Snow is white.
Make a ball,
Then take a bite.
My little learners take turns coming up to the board and circle something they know or something they can identify. My 5 year old usually circles letters, numbers, the sight words she is beginning to identify, and some CVC words (c=consonant v=vowel). My 7 year old will circle his sight words and will be looking for words that he is working on such as words with short and long vowel rules. After they each have had a few turns, there are words that are left uncircled. These are the words they don’t know and need my modeled help on how to figure them out, hence shared reading. They learn by watching me talk aloud how I would figure out the words. They learn what strategies I would use when I get stuck on a word. For example, using the above message, we did not know the word snow. So now I will literally talk out loud (you can see my markings on the message in the picture below as I am saying all this) and say, ” Hmmm. I don’t know this word but I know that these two letters s and n next together say /sn/ like in the word snake.” I box it as I talk. “Ok so I know this says /sn/… maybe this word says snake but I hear the long a sound in snake and I don’t see letter a in this word. So snake doesn’t look right. Well I remember reading the farm book and there was the ow in the word cow. Maybe this word says snow (reading it so it rhymes with plow). But snow (read it again so it rhymes with plow) seems like a nonsense word. I also know that the letters o and w can make a long o sound like in bow. I can read it like snow. Yes that sounds right! Snow. Ok so now I can read the words snow is… Hmmm. Another word we don’t know. Well I know that this word is going to be a word that describes snow. I can also use the beginning sound to help me. The beginning sound is /c/. Snow is /c/…snow is cold. Let me look to see if that looks right and the sounds match. Yes they do. Ok so we have snow is cold. Snow is white. Continue in this modeled talk aloud as you show them strategies to use when the come to a word they don’t know.
Now once you all have figured out the message, reread it one or two more times (perhaps letting each child read it out loud. You can now take this message and extend the learning. Some ideas would be to think of more words that rhyme with bite and white. Make a list together, you write them down, and then your students can use this list as a copywork activity. You could think of other ways to describe snow and make a list of those. Your older children could write another poem about snow adding in some rhyming words (your younger ones can do this too but will need you to write it for them). You could focus the lesson on identifying the nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You could work with the -ake word family and think of words that would belong (cake, lake, rake, etc). I also have a collection of word cards that I’ve made so I might pull out some pictures cards and say “Find all the words that rhyme with make and take.” Sometimes the kids will naturally show you a way to extend the learning as well. Maybe they come up with their own idea so always, or usually, go with that.
These will be short activities but can really extend the learning on and make your message more meaningful and memorable. In this short amount of time, your children have practiced identifying what they know, have learned strategies on what to do when they come to a word they don’t know, and have extended onto their learning in a meaningful way. AND this literacy-rich activity doesn’t take much prep time and can educationally jump-start your day when you don’t have your lessons written in the plan book, like me most mornings.
Also if you would like another easy no-prep learning activity (if you haven’t caught on, I’m all about putting an educational spin on normal day to day activities) check out this post on how to practice an important math skill with those pancakes you’ve got cooking on the griddle.