As I’ve alluded to in a few previous posts, professional growth and development is something I have learned to highly value and appreciate. I also love the opportunity to work with other educators who feel the same way. When teachers are consistently looking for opportunities to improve students’ experiences, the outcomes always seem to benefit those teachers and students around them, too.
One of my team teachers took some time during the middle of last summer to travel to a conference in Dallas, Texas. She couldn’t wait to get back, meet as a team, and implement some of the things she had learned. Thanks to the quality use of emojis and gifs, her excitement was obvious. When we got together as a team soon after her return, she had all sorts of ideas for the upcoming school year.
One of those ideas – Morning Choice – was something we all agreed could be used right away. When our students come to school on a typical morning, they check in to their homeroom. This involves taking care of attendance, lunch count, and any other day-to-day items as needed. Once they have taken care of those things, they begin their morning work. As a fifth grade team, we have a set rotation, and depending on the day, one teacher supplies morning work for all of the students. These assignments are usually content related and covered at a later time. Morning Choice, however, would be an entirely different scene.
As students enter their homerooms on Friday mornings, they still take care of their few everyday routines. Since Fridays are now Morning Choice days, they have some options. Instead of staying put in their homeroom, students are allowed to check out what’s going on in the other fifth grade homerooms. Depending on what they feel like doing, they can pick a room to stay in for the remainder of our homeroom time. One room might have games and puzzles. Another might have a few STEM box challenges and coloring options. If students would like to read or take an AR test, there’s also a quiet room for them.
This fresh take on Friday mornings has been a nice reminder on a few fronts. Students love having choices. Even once they pick a room, they’re able to move around that room’s stations at their leisure. This is a simple way to give them some say regarding their morning and develop a bit of autonomy in a school setting. Since these activities are not graded, Morning Choice also provides students with a low stress way to start their morning. I think we all can appreciate the value of that, especially on a Friday.
Morning Choice has been something that, quite frankly, has just been fun! There is something refreshing about seeing kids more excited coming into the school building than they are leaving. Whether it’s building the tallest possible tower with Jenga pieces, listening and laughing along with their conversations while coloring, or checking out their three dimensional shapes made from Play-Doh and toothpicks, I find myself looking forward to Friday mornings even more now than ever.
While it’s just one day a week for now, it definitely has us thinking about what’s next. What are we currently doing just because we’ve always done it? Is there something else we could tweak – just a little bit – that could have our students more engaged, more eager to come into the classroom than leave?
Thankfully, there are more professional development opportunities to come, more great conversations with dedicated educators to be had, and plenty of chances to provide students with some memorable, positive experiences.