Morning Message

Morning Message on the SMARTboard

Morning Message on the SMARTboard

I recently sat down with my kindergarten team to look at our standards and do some big picture planning for the upcoming quarter. As we were unpacking the standards, we also talked about where in our day we could best teach the expected curriculum objectives. It became very evident to all of us how critical our morning message is, especially in the area of phonics and word work – but really in all curriculum areas. Morning message is a daily occurrence rich with learning possibilities.  It’s where the heart of my word work and phonics instruction occurs.

Morning message

Morning message

My children come together on our blue fuzzy rug in front of the SMARTboard with their own whiteboard and marker to begin this daily routine. The message is pre-written and carefully planned to address a variety of differentiated teaching objectives and to engage the children in playful learning. I often include pictures of the students and our classroom, book covers, things we are studying or wondering about, as well as predictable text that children can read. There are places for the students to fill in missing words and opportunities for them to interact with the message as we read and respond to questions within the message, circle or highlight words we know or things we notice, and fill in high frequency words to make our message make sense and sounds good.

We read it together first as a shared reading experience. Then we go back and fill in missing words and look for things we notice in the message. I ask the children “what do you notice?” and invite them up to the board to show us and explain what they see. The children follow along, writing on their own individual white boards while one child is writing on the SMARTboard. Children may notice familiar high frequency words, letters that are the same as in their names or a friend’s name, days of the week, numbers, punctuation that they have seen in another book, words they know, etc. I always ask them to share what they notice first, and then I move into my teaching point.

Interacting with the morning message

Interacting with the morning message

For many years I did this on chart paper but one great benefit of having a SMARTboard is that I can now print it out and send it home. I print a two-sided copy – one side is the message as it looks at the beginning of our learning before we have interacted with it, and the other side is printed after we have marked it up with our thinking. This message goes home daily and is a great way to share our learning with our families.

Here are some things to consider when teaching with a morning message:

  • Keep it simple and repetitive. My messages are typically 3-4 lines long. I keep the first two lines the same for most of the year and change the third or fourth line to go with a teaching focus. For example:

January 10, 2013

Dear friends,

Today is fabulous Friday.

It is the 70th day of school.

Do you think it will snow today?


Ms. Katie

  • Make your sentences obvious. I write one sentence on each line and alternate colors. This is similar to beginning texts that children are reading and helps children see the different sentences clearly. It provides another teaching opportunity to differentiate between a word and a sentence, as well as making it easier for children to read.
  • Always read the message together first and then read it again at the end of your lesson, especially if you have filled in missing words. You want to keep meaning at the forefront and give the children multiple opportunities to engage in shared reading of the text. I use a pointer to model one-to-one match and directionality.
  • Keep it short and fast paced. My morning message lessons typically last about 10 minutes. I choose 3 students each day to come up and interact with the message. Having individual whiteboards available allows all children to be engaged throughout the lesson.
Writing on the white boards while we do morning message

Writing on the white boards while we do morning message

Here are just a few teaching objectives that can be taught through morning message:

  • High frequency words – I use the morning message to introduce our new word wall words each week.
  • Word analogies – if “at” is in the message, you can make a list off to the side of words that you can write if you know how to write “at” (cat, sat, hat, fat, mat…)
  • Capital letter and lower case letter usage
  • Punctuation
  • The difference between a letter, word and sentence
  • Rhyming words
  • Blends, digraphs, clusters
  • Connections between children’s names and words in the message (“Can anyone find a word that begins the same way as David’s name?”)
  • Beginning and ending sounds
  • Vowels and consonants
  • Letter formation
  • New vocabulary for content areas
  • Surveys
  • Days of the week, months of the year
  • Friendly letter format
 A completed morning message

A completed morning message

There are so many possibilities for teaching with morning message. It’s a time that children love, it builds community and is rich with authentic literacy learning. Do you use a morning message in your classroom? What ideas do you have? Please share!

King and Queen of the Day

K 13th week 022Our latest shared writing experience is with the King or Queen of the Day. Each day a different child is chosen to be King or Queen. They get to wear a crown and get their picture taken. Then the class interviews them – asking them a few questions about things they like. I did a lot of modeling at the start, talking about what a question is and what kind of questions could help us learn more about each other. For example, we talked about how the question “what is your favorite animal?” has an answer, while the question “what is your favorite zebra?” doesn’t really have an answer  – and how “I like zebras.” isn’t a question. (huge concept for kinders!) The conversations about what is a question and what is a question that can be answered are great learning experiences and help me see who needs more support with this stage of their oral language development. And of course, we continue these conversations daily! After experiencing 18 interviews, I am hopeful that my kindergarteners will have a much deeper understanding of what a question is and how to ask someone a question to find out more about them.

I do the writing on a large chart as the children conduct the interview and negotiate the text together. We count the number of words first and rehearse what I should write on the chart. I have the kids help me write the words orally, especially the names. I show them how there needs to be a space between each word, and that each line is a sentence. I use language like:

-what letter comes first?

-what letter is next?

-what is the last letter?

-how do I write “like” – can you look on the word wall?

-what letter do you think “zebra” begins with?

-how many words are in this sentence?

-I need to make sure and start “Hulk” with a capital letter because it’s a name, just like Joshua

The interviews are daily opportunities to teach many of our phonics skills within a meaningful context. And the kids LOVE being the King or Queen of the Day!

Name bottles

Name bottles



After the interview, the King or Queen makes a name bottle. These are baby soda bottles from Steve Spangler Science. We put letter beads that spell the child’s first name in the bottle along with some glitter and sparkles. I fill it with water and close the lid tightly. As we make name bottles for everyone in the class, this becomes a game where kids can try to figure out the name in the bottle and match it to a name strip.

The last step in our King and Queen of the Day routine is to find pictures to match the words in the sentences and laminate the chart. We re-read the previous day’s charts before we do a new interview. This is a great shared reading experience, and the kids love to revisit the charts. After all the kids have had a chance to be interviewed, the charts are put together into a large class book. This is a favorite book to read throughout the year.

Shared writing chart after an interview.

Shared writing chart after an interview.



Name Books

Name puzzles

In my kindergarten class I have a wide range of learners – from the few who aren’t quite sure what a letter is to the few who are fluently reading Hattie and the Fox. I’m sure many of you can relate to this! I was reflecting on my work with the kids who had no known letters, or only a few, and wondering what our next steps were. I always start with the known, so names were my launching point. We did many name activities and these students were beginning to consistently know a few letters from their names. I wanted to create a book with them to keep in their book box and to help reinforce the teaching I was doing. These particular students were not quite ready to start an ABC book like the ones Pat and I refer to in Chapter 6 of Catching Readers. Since they had very limited letter knowledge, (2-5 known letters), I wanted to start with something more in their ZPD. So I decided to make them a “name book”.

“For almost every young learner, knowledge of one’s name unlocks a multitude of understandings. A name forms a link in helping a child learn about print.”

(Fullerton, 1997)

The cover of a name book.

I made the books with enough pages for each letter in the child’s name and one additional title page. I wrote the full name (first name only – for now) on the cover, making the capital letters red and the lowercase letters blue. Then I put a picture of the child on the cover as well. On the inside pages I wrote the letters of the child’s name – one per page – again with the capital in red and the lowercase in blue. I sat down with each child as I created this and the child chose links (pictures or words) to go with each letter. They either put a sticker on that page or drew a picture. These books can now be read with the children, read independently and kept in book boxes or read with a buddy. Currently, I only made name books for my children who are working on learning their names and the letters in their names. But I think all the children would enjoy having one of these books. It would make a great book basket for our reading area and would allow children to learn each other’s names.The first page of Sophia's name book.

Some other concepts that can be taught by using names and the name books:

*The connections between letters and sounds

*That letters can be written in two ways (upper and lower case, like David)

*The same sound can be represented by different letters (Jasmin, Gerald)

*Concept of word vs. letter (“Jose’s name is a word. How many letters are in this word? Let’s count them.”)

*Long and short words (“Jackeline’s name is a long word, Bo’s name is a short word.”)

*Words have parts (“Let’s clap Alexander’s name. Let’s clap Ann. How many parts?”)

Names are such a powerful tool for teaching in the early grades. How else are you using children’s names to teach?