Calendar Time!

Last week I coved all of the different skills we cover during Morning Message. Today, I want to spend a little time discussing all of the skills we cover during the final section of our morning routine - Calendar! 

NONE of the images you are about to see are "Pinterest Perfect". They are real life pictures of a well loved, well used calendar that gets the job done! That being said, I have since updated all of my calendar materials so that they look as well as they perform! ;) You can find my 20 different sets of patterned number cards for your calendar, click here!

Calendar Numbers

Here is a look at my calendar area:

I warned you it wasn't pinterest perfect! lol Now it may seem like a lot, but once we get into the routine, calendar time seriously only takes about 10 minutes and is completely student lead! 

First we begin with the days of the week.

A student comes up and points to each day of the week as we sing "The Days of the Week Song" to the tune of the Adams Family. 

Then we practice the skill of passing time by identifying yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We sing a song about yesterday, today, and tomorrow to the tune of Frere Jacques that goes like this:

Today is (insert day)
Today is (insert day)
All day long 
All day long 
Yesterday was (insert day)
Yesterday was (insert day)
Tomorrow will be (insert day)
Tomorrow will be (insert day)
Let's have fun!
Let's have fun!

After I have taught alliteration, we usually practice the skill by having 2 or 3 students come up with a word that has the same beginning sound as the day of the week. (Friday, fish, football)

Next, we move on to the months of the year. Another students comes up and points to the months of the year as we all stand up and do the "Months of the Year Macarena"  

We then name the month that we are in and practice counting how many syllables are in the name of the month.

After that, another student volunteer comes up and leads the class by identifying the pattern on the calendar and extending the pattern to find today's date.

I usually try to find or make calendar pieces that go along with our theme. I also start the school year with a simple AB pattern and then make the patterns increasingly more difficult as the year goes.

The students will identify the pattern by shape (UFO, astronaut, astronaut, rocket), Letter (ABBC), and then number (starting at 1 and ending at the date). Using that information, they extend the pattern by predicting what comes next and adding that piece to the calendar.

After we have our date, another student comes up and updates the 10 frames so that they match our date.

As the year progresses, we use the 10 frame to practice different skills such as subitizing, counting by 10's, and figuring out how many more days until 10, 20, or 30.

Next up, days in school!

A new student helper comes up and adds a stick to the one's place. (As you can see, my fabulous matching sticks that came with the calendar have slowly disappeared and are now replaced with popsicle sticks.) We all count the sticks to see how many days we have been in school (starting with 100) and then change the number at the bottom so that it matches our sticks.

While students are still working on number ID, I like to hand the student leading "days in school" several different numbers so they can show them to the class and the class can "help" him/her find the correct number. It sounds a little something like this:

Student: "Is this number 8?"
Class: "No! That is number 4!"
Student: "Is this number 8?"
Class: "No! That is number 9!"
Student: "Is this number 8?"
Class: "Yes! That is number 8!"

After days in school comes tally marks! The tally marks match how many days we have been in school.

I always start the year leading and modeling the calendar for my students and then gradually release one part of the calendar at a time over to the students for them to lead. You can probably look at the tally mark chart and guess when students began to take over that section. It's not perfect but it sure is authentic! ;)

The student who leads this section of the calendar first points to each group of tallies as we count the tally marks we already have by 5's. Then, the student says our "tally mark chant"and adds another tally to the chart.

To remember when to make a vertical line and when to cross the 4 vertical lines with a diagonal line (and yes, even the students use the words vertical and diagonal. Parents can't believe their 4 and 5 year olds actually know what those words mean but we start using the vocab in context on day 1!) we say this cute little poem and do hand motions to go with it.

One, Two, Three, Four, (move hands up and down vertically for each number)
Number Five Shuts the Door! (Move hands across the body diagonally)
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, (move hands up and down vertically for each number)
Number Ten Draws a Line! (Move hands across the body diagonally)

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this rhyme! It really has help my students draw tally marks.

If you would like to download a free printable of the chant for your own calendar, just click the picture below :)

Up until the 100th day of school, we add an apple to fill in our giant 100's chart. I have made enough numbers to take us through the last day of school because I used to use these little apples as one looooong number line, but this year I use them as a 100's chart. I created the apples so that all of the odd numbers are blue apples, the evens are green, the 5's have a purple circle, and the 10's have a pink background. This really helps the kids not only see number patterns but also count by 2's, 5's, and 10's!
 If you would like to snag these numbers for yourself, you can find them here.

For the weather, we use this cute freebie found here. (There are several other options for types of weather in the freebie but where we live, these 4 pretty much have us covered!)

And sing this weather song:

What is the weather, weather, weather?
What could the weather be today?
Is it sunny, sunny, sunny? (raise arms above head to make a big circle)
S-U-N-N-Y today!
Is it cloudy, cloudy, cloudy? (move hands like you're forming a big fluffy cloud)
C-L-O-U-D-Y today!
Is it rainy, rainy, rainy? (wiggle fingers down in front of you like rain falling)
R-A-I-N-Y today!
Is it windy, windy, windy? (move arms like your hula dancing)
W-I-N-D-Y today!
What could the weather, weather, weather,
What could the weather be today?

We also discuss how a thermometer measures temperature. When the temperature is warmer, the red liquid inside the thermometer goes up and when it is cooler the temperature goes down. As the year progresses I also show them a real thermometer and we begin to check it for degrees fahrenheit.

Finally we work on positional words! Since we are the Amazing Ants, naturally we practice this with an ant and a picnic basket ;)

The ant is thumbtacked to the board and we move it all around the picnic basket practicing our positional words. For example, I may move it above the picnic basket, far from the picnic basket, inside the picnic basket, etc. This is also useful when we are talking about antonyms or opposites. For example, "The ant is inside the picnic basket. What would be the opposite of inside?" I also teach them synonyms for positional words like under or below, beside or next to.

By the 2nd semester I have pretty much phased this part of the calendar routine out because the students all have a good understanding of positional words. Every now and then I will throw it back into our routine for review though.

I hope my calendar routine breakdown has been helpful! :)


Morning Message

What if I told you that if you just took a few minutes each morning to do one activity with your students, they would learn:

  • That print has meaning
  • What you say can be written down
  • Letter versus Word
  • Word versus Sentence
  • Words have spaces between them
  • Punctuation
  • Where to start and stop reading
  • Left to right progression
  • Return Sweep
  • One to one correspondence 
  • Letters Recognition
  • Letter Formation
  • Letter Sounds
  • Sight words
  • CVC Words
  • Rhyming
  • The list goes on and on….

Morning message is a shared pen activity that is written in the form of a friendly letter from you, the teacher, to your class. My letter to the class almost always includes the date, the weather, something that is happening that day (a skill we will be practicing, a book we will be reading, a special event or visitor), and a place to practice a skill. Morning message is a prime opportunity for you to model great writing for your students and for your students to get excited about writing and practice many different skills!

At the beginning of the year, I start off with a very simple Morning Message. It is generally only 2 or 3 sentences long with one blank that we fill in together. As the year progresses, my Morning Message become more complex and by the end of the year, I have many students who are capable of leading morning message and doing most of the writing themselves! 

Here is an example of a Morning Message from the middle of the school year:

By this point in the year, students have the pattern of our morning message down and are able to "read" it together as a class. Students feel comforable writing in sight words, letter sounds, and punctuation (I change up the blanks from day to day).   

Although you can pre-write the message ahead of time (and this is what I did for several years), writting the message with the class is more bennificial to students. They can see what you say can be written down, watch how you move from left to right, top to bottom when writing, obseve how you put spaces between your words... really witness all of the mechanics of writing in real time.  

If you are looking for a few ways to “spice up” Morning Message and make it even more engaging for students, here are a few ideas:
  •         Smelly Markers: Because, who doesn't love to write with smelly markers?
  •         WikkiStix: These are great for circling or underlining letters, words, or pictures on your morning message.
  •         Pointers: Students LOVE using pointers! They can come up and point to words as the class reads the message, point our letters, point out words, etc. 
  •         Highlighter Tape: I like this wide tape because it is perfect for the morning message! 
I hope you found this post helpful and that you got a few new ideas! If you have any questions about Morning Message or would like to share how it looks in your classroom, I would love to hear it in the comments below!


Morning Meeting

Last week we talked all about arrival and making it a great day from the moment students walk in the door. If you missed that e-mail, you can see a blog post all about it here. If you thought those steps set you up for a productive day with students, the next part of the morning routine is going to make your day even better! Without further ado I present, Morning Meeting!

Morning Meeting consists of four main parts:

Every student is greeted by name. Sure, you might have shared a killer greeting with each kid as they walked through the door but this gives students an opportunity to practice each other’s names (which is something we do a lot of at the beginning of the year), making direct eye contact, and a good handshake all while building a sense of community and comradery amongst classmates.

There are many ways that students can share. Sharing can be about a specific topic or some days you can let students share about whatever is on their mind. This is a fantastic time for students to practice speaking in complete sentences, public speaking, and listening to others.

These activities can be simple, such as singing a song with hand motions, or more complex where everyone is participating in a "game" where they are up and moving around the classroom. I like to try and choose teambuilding activities instead of competitive ones so that everyone is starting their day on a positive note. They can be based on an academic skill or just used as a way to "get the wiggles out". All that matters is that students are engaged and working to build a classroom community. 

Morning Message
This can be as simple as a message that you write to your students and read back to them or you can use it as an opportunity to pack a huge academic punch and get in a ton of skills in a short amount of time. I like to do my morning message the second way 😉 so that is a whole other blog post that you can find here!

Do you have a morning meeting in your classroom? I would love to hear what some of your favorite greetings and activities are! 

Morning Routine - Arrival

Every teacher knows that your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. I know that when I wake up on time, have my clothes laid out and lunch packed, I feel SO much happier and more prepared for the day than if I snooze my alarm 1 too many times, end up wearing two different shoes, grab a bag of goldfish for my “lunch”, and FREAK OUT because I am already late and am stuck waiting for the world’s longest train to pass! Phew, that stresses me out just thinking about it! 

Just like you probably make certain preparations and have routines to ensure that your day gets off to a smooth start, it is important that our students have a great morning routine planned so they can start their day off on the right foot! 

Here are some tried and true suggestions of great ways to start your day that I have used in my own classroom:

    •  Morning greeting – I have always loved greeting students at the door as they walk into our classroom. It is a great way to connect with the kids right off the bat and help them feel welcome and loved. You can give them a choice of how they would like to be greeted (hung, handshake, high five, etc.), or you can even come up with special “secret handshakes” or greetings as a class!  

    •   Checking in as part of the class – There are many ways that students can “check in” for the day. Here are some ideas I have used but choose whatever works best for your classroom.

    o   “Who is here today” chart where students can move their picture or name from “at home” to “at school”. (Click image above to get the chart)

    o   A daily question – usually a question with two options where students can answer by placing their name or picture under the answer they have chosen. For example, “Which do you like better, ice cream or cake?” or “Do you have the letter ‘a’ in your name? Yes or No?” 

    o   A sign in sheet – I like to use a large sheet of construction paper where everyone signs in for this. It is amazing to show students the sign in sheet from the first week of school at the end of the year so that everyone can see how far they have come! 

    • A place for everything and everything in its place – make sure students have a clear understanding where EVERYTHING goes when they walk in the door. Think about where students should put anything they might bring with them to school: backpacks, lunches, binders, homework, coats, snacks, and notes from home. Labeling loctions around the room with words and images reminds students where things belong and helps them become more idependent in putting their things away.

    •  Get straight to work! Once students have checked in and put all their things away, they should have something to work on while their classmates are trickling in and you are checking notes from home and speaking with other children. In my classroom, students practiced tracing their names on laminated sheets until they could write their first and last name independently. This is a great font to use for that activity. I have also done morning tubs” which consist of old centers or other activities that the students have had plenty of practice with and can do independently. A few of the kids' favorite hands-on morning activities are:

    Build it, Write it hands on center activities

    What does your morning routine look like? Anything you would add to the list? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! Be on the lookout for next weeks post all about Morning Meeting! 

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