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.
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.
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
Today is fabulous Friday.
It is the 70th day of school.
Do you think it will snow today?
- 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.
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
- 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
- Days of the week, months of the year
- Friendly letter format
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!