Last month I attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. I am one of three newly elected members to the Elementary Section Steering Committee (ESSC). The NCTE annual conference is one of my favorite conferences. It provides for three days of excellent professional development and conversation, and the possibility of meeting like-minded educators who continually explore their practice in order to improve it. And, it’s an opportunity to catch up with old friends. I always learn a lot when I go.
This year I attended a session where a first grade teacher shared how she uses morning message to build classroom community. I was so energized and excited by her presentation that I decided to try this out in my classroom. I told my students about this session and that I wanted them to write the morning message from now on. I told them that I thought their messages would be more interesting than mine and that it was a way to tell the class about themselves. I guided the first three students by reviewing how we write a greeting, the date, and a farewell. After that no one has needed any help.
The messages vary in length but they all convey something important to the writer. After each child writes his or her message we read it and discuss what we learned about the student who wrote it. It has been wonderful watching each child look forward to writing his or her message, and the growing interest exhibited by the rest of the class in discussing what they’ve discovered about each other. So far, we have learned about Chinese school, swimming lessons, and holiday preparations, to name a few. In today’s message, the word “I” and the child’s name were written in Chinese!
Every day I look forward to reading what that day’s morning message will be. If you don’t already do this in your class you may want to give it a try. It is a great way to engage children in an authentic reading and writing activity and to build community at the same time.