Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Power of Student-Led Morning Meeting

I always had a calendar time in the morning ever since I started teaching. A student came up in front of the class and completed all the tasks such as inserting a date card on a pocket chart calendar then reading the date, adding a straw to bundles to count days in school, adding a penny to a pocket chart to much today's number, etc. They were not bad activities, but I was seeing some problems.  There were some students who had no clue of what to do when they came up to the front of the class despite of going through the calendar routine everyday. They were clearly not learning just by watching their classmates(duh?!). It was frustrating for me, and it was devastating for those students who needed so much help from me in front of their classmates. Then I decided to have everyone fill out an individual copy of calendar chart. It kept all students occupied but the task got just repetitive with no real engagement, and I was starting to doubt if the calendar time was really worth of our time at all.

Then two summers ago I read a book called "Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3" by Jessica F. Shumway.
This is a great resource to really understand what number sense is and how children develop such sense. There are many examples of activities that we can easily incorporate during our day. After reading this book, I reflected on my calendar routine and redefined my purpose and goals for the routine. So... here are what I came up with:
  • I didn't want the calendar routine to be just a series of tasks that one student had to "perform."
  • I wanted the calendar time to be more authentic.
  • I wanted to create a community where students talk and discuss numbers and math related to real life.
  • I wanted my students to take ownership for their learning.
Then I came up with our new routine for the morning meeting.
  1. Morning message from me to the class on the SMART board --- It's a short message to greet my students every day. I may include a special event of the day or birthday wish for one of the students. Some times I leave a blank space for high frequency word so that one of the students can come up and fill in the blank. Towards the end of last school year I decided to include a joke of the day. (Thanks to my Twitter PLN, but I'm sorry I cannot remember whose idea to have a joke of the day:( ) It was a great way to start the day with a little giggle or well, just silent stare... 
  2. Calendar --- I use large real calendars on the board. At the beginning of each month we fill out important dates such as birthdays, holidays and special events just like we would with our personal calendar. At the beginning of school year we discuss why we use a calendar. Students usually make a connection with the calendar at home and why and how their parents may use the calendar.  Each day a pair of students worked on writing the date, code date and came up with a question about the calendar.
  3. Days in School --- We keep track of how many days we have been in school by making tallies, finding the matching number on a 180 chart, adding the number on number strips, and adding a dot on a ten frame. A pair of students lead the class to skip count and ask a question related to the number of the day.
  4. Weather & Temperature Data Collection --- A pair of students check the weather and discuss temperature then record on the graphs. (We talk about differences between hot and warm, chilly and cold a lot.)  After sharing their findings they ask a question about collected data. Click HERE to download the graphs. 
  5. Sorting --- A pair of students sorted Attrilinks/Pattern Blocks/3D figures into groups and project up on the SMART board using a document camera. Students were to guess their sorting pattern. Late in the year we switch to using a Venn Diagram to sort the shapes.
I have to say that I love how my morning meetings work now. Here are some great things happening during the meetings.
  • A pair of students work together on one task, talk, discuss and decide what question to ask.  
  • Questions are more authentic and related to their life. "How many days until ___'s birthday?" "How many more days until the 100th day of school?" "How many snowy days have we had?"
  • There are many ways to practice number sense. "What color would 56 be?" "What is 20 more than __?" "Can you skip count by 2's starting __?"
  • Students are leading the meeting. They are the ones in front while I sit back with other students. Helpers ask a question, wait and call on others to share the answer. 
  • Students are expected to explain their answers. Helpers always follow up the answers with "How did you figure it out?" "Did anyone figure out in a different way?" 
  • Students are allowed to disagree. Students are given chances to fix their mistakes. It takes a collaborative effort to keep moving forward as a class. I am not the only one who decides if the given information is right or wrong. 
  • Students are highly engaged since they want to be called on by their friends. 
  • Less confident students have support from their partners.
  • Some students take initiatives to take on a task. For example, one student researched a holiday that was on our calendar and shared it with the class. Several students wrote down jokes on a piece of paper at home so that I could use them on a morning message.
  • I never know where the morning meeting conversations lead us to from day to day, but wherever we end up there is always rich learning in the process.
  • The morning meeting serves as a math warm up since we do math right after the meeting. 
I see such pride in every student when they are the helpers and leading the class. At the beginning of school year I take about two weeks to model all tasks so that students will be exposed to various follow-up questions. Once they take over, the rest is a smooth sailing. I am always amazed with my students' leadership and ownership to their jobs. I also get a compliment from substitute teachers how independent my class is. 

One more routine... we actually start the day with Yoga with Cosmic Kids before the morning meeting. I love how we can all get our mind and body ready to learn and focus in such a fun way. Here is a link to my Symbaloo if you are interested.

I am currently reading two books that support my thinking of student-led classroom and the importance of engaging students in deeper thinking. 


I would like to give my students more opportunities to lead in the future. They may be young, but when we give them opportunities they are capable of leading, teaching and inspiring others. Do you have a student-led classroom? I would love to hear your story! 








Friday, July 3, 2015

The Power of Twitter

I started using Twitter (@lekadegroot) to form a professional learning network (PLN) about five years ago. I learned so much from my PLN and have grown as an educator. I met many inspiring, willing teachers to collaborate and connected our classrooms via Skype, Google Hangouts, and student blogs. Three years ago with an encouragement from my PLN, I opened up a new Twitter account for my classroom (@mrsdegrootclass). I have to be honest. At first I really didn't know how things would go and was even a little skeptical about introducing my first graders into the Twitter world. Soon that uneasy feeling disappeared as I saw excitement in my students' eyes and most of all great learning opportunities that came along.

Here are some different ways we use our class Twitter;
  1. Share what is happening in our classroom.

      2. Ask questions about other classes' Tweets.



    3. Communicate with children's book authors... and sometimes they respond back!



  4. Ask an expert.  
  5. We share and end up inspiring others! My students were thrilled to know they had good influence on other first graders.

But the best learning comes when we develop learning communities for our students by creating unique hashtags. Students are able to share their thinking and teach each other via Twitter.

For example, I started a hashtag for math talks = #mtgr1 (math talks grade 1) where I post a weekly open ended question. Students share their answers and ideas at #mtgr1. Later in each week my class and I go over the tweets from other classes and discuss what they learned. You can read more about #mtgr1 HERE.





Another community that I created was #1bc15 (1st grade book club 2015) where participating classes read a book called "My Father's Dragons" and shared their thoughts and learning using #1bc15. You can read about how it was set up HERE.  Tweets from other classes were simply amazing. Children were visualizing, making predictions, making connections, retelling stories, identifying character traits, learning new vocabulary and a lot more. If I was reading this book with just my class, it was impossible to cover all the elements of reading. However when you are learning with 20+ first grade classes, it is possible! We enjoyed checking #1bc15 Twitter feed every day.

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participating classes 

There are many more hashtags that teachers create to share learning opportunities with other classes. We all know that learning is so much more powerful when we have authentic purpose and audience. After three years of integrating Twitter into my classroom, I can simply say class Twitter is one of the best tech tools that we use. Are you new to Twitter or thinking about starting class Twitter? Here are more resources on using Twitter in the classroom form two rockstar educators!