Q&A with Carol Davis, Susan Roser, and Lynn Majewski
Responsive Classroom Newsletter: November 2000
I just started using Morning Meeting in my classroom this year. I have a handful of tried-and-true greetings which I tend to use over and over again. Although they've been successful, I think the ritual is beginning to feel stale and I'd like to expand my repertoire. What do you suggest?
Carol Davis answers:
If you are searching for new greetings, I highly recommend that you invite the children in your class to create new ones or to think of variations of the ones you have already taught them. I have found that they often come up with great ideas and they love doing it.
I recall one time when teaching fourth grade that I gave students the assignment of working individually or in partners to create a new greeting or an activity for Morning Meeting. The very next day, a boy came to school ready to teach us his new greeting. He titled it "Say Your Name" and it was an instant success.
I have taught this greeting to children in grades K–6 and have found that they all enjoy it. It is a quick and easy greeting to teach in the beginning of the year as you are working on building community and children are learning each other's names. As the year goes on, and children are feeling more comfortable, try out some of the variations noted below.
Say Your Name
The whole class begins with chanting the refrain:
Say your name and when you do, we will say it back to you!
Then the first child says his or her name aloud:
The whole class in unison repeats the name back:
Then the whole class goes back to chanting the refrain, followed by the next child saying his or her name, and then the whole class repeating the name back. This pattern continues all the way around the circle until everyone has had the chance to be recognized by name. If you are short on time, have the class say the refrain after every third or fourth student.
There are many variations to this greeting. Children can choose what kind of voice they would like to use to say their name—a soft voice, a deep voice, a high-pitched voice, a friendly voice, a spooky voice, etc.—which the whole class then echoes. Or try singing it as a rap or adding hand-clapping and thigh-tapping to the refrain. Children can also clap out the number of syllables in their names. Finally, children enjoy adding a movement or a gesture to go with their name which everyone then mimics when they repeat the name.
I find that other teachers are a terrific source of new greetings. I also find a lot of the greetings I use in The Morning Meeting Book. Here are two that aren't included there to add to your repertoire.
Closed Eye Greeting (grades 2 and up)
The children close their eyes and the teacher chooses someone to begin. This child opens his/her eyes and says, "Good Morning" to anyone in the circle. When the person being greeted hears his/her name, s/he opens his/her eyes, returns the greeting, and then greets someone else whose eyes are still closed. This continues until everyone has been greeted. This is a great greeting to follow with a debriefing: How did it feel to have your eyes closed? For those of you who were left until the end, what was it like? How did we help each other in this greeting? This greeting works best in the middle of the school year once a sense of trust has been established.
2-4-6-8! (all ages)
In contrast to the Closed Eye Greeting, here's a loud and rowdy greeting. Everyone stands in a circle and together the group claps and chants, "2-4-6-8! Who do we appreciate? Mary! Mary! YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH—Mary!" While the group chants YEAAAAAAAAAAAH, Mary walks quickly around the inside of the circle giving everyone a High 5. The students should be ready with their High 5 hand up in the air so Mary can easily move around the circle and get back to her spot before the chant is over. When Mary gets back to her spot, the other children finish the chant by calling out her name and perhaps even raising their arms high above their heads as in a cheer. Continue in this way around the circle until everyone has been "appreciated."
Lynn Majewski answers:
Many of the greetings I use are adapted versions of games and songs I find in various resources for teachers. Some of the resources I find most useful are The Incredible Indoor Games Book by Bob Gregson, Everyone Wins! by S. and J. Luvmour, and Great Games to Play with Groups by Frank W. Harris. Below are two fun greetings to try. "Round the Circle Hello" is an active greeting which can be adapted for use with all grades. The variation on the "Ball Greeting" works best with children in the intermediate and upper elementary grades.
Round the Circle Hello
The children stand in a circle and one student is chosen to be the first greeter. The greeter walks (or uses any movement that has been agreed on) around the outside of the circle clockwise and chooses a student by tapping him/her on the shoulder. The tapped student leaves his/her spot and travels (walks, hops, skips, tip-toes, etc.) around the outside of the circle counterclockwise. When the two students meet, they stop and greet each other (using the greeting that has been agreed on—a handshake, High 5, bow, say "Howdy," greet in a different language, etc.). The child who was tapped now becomes the greeter and the other child returns to his/her seat. This continues until everyone has been greeted.
A Variation on the Ball Greeting
Older students will enjoy the challenge of this greeting. It is played with two soft balls that look distinctly different. The students stand in a circle. The leader greets and then passes one ball to the person on his right. This greeting continues completely around the circle. The leader then greets and passes the other ball to the person on his left. This greeting continues completely around the circle. The leader then tells the students to mix themselves up so that every person is standing next to two new people. The leader then locates the person who had previously been on his right and tosses the ball to this person. This continues with everyone passing the ball to the person who had been on their right. Meanwhile, the leader starts the other ball by tossing it to the person who had been on his left. Be sure to discuss how students will know when the ball is being thrown to them, and who will retrieve a missed ball.
When the mood is boredom, it's time for variation
from The Morning Meeting Book, by Roxann Kriete
Variety is important to keep routines from getting stale and this is certainly true of Greeting. There is a fine balance between the comfort and pleasure that predictable, familiar structures bring and the boredom that can pervade the group when there are no changes in format or tempo.
When the mood is boredom, it's time for variation. Introducing new Greetings can happen at any time in the year. Also, students can often come up with clever adaptations of old favorites. I think of the Elbow Rock Greeting which I saw in Kensington School in Springfield, Massachusetts, where fourth grade students had invented an "armshake" in which they extended right arms, bent at the elbow and shook arms rather than hands while saying "Good Morning." Teachers often keep a chart with the class repertoire of Greetings posted as a reminder of the many possibilities.
It’s also important to search for the source of the boredom. Perhaps it is a simple monotony stemming from the same old greeting activities and it’s time to introduce some additional choices. Or perhaps the class is turning a developmental corner and the activities which were safe and right for your mostly sevens are feeling too narrow for your burgeoning eight-year-olds who crave some sanctioned ways to vent their boisterous side.
The Morning Meeting Book, by Roxann Kriete
The essential guide. This comprehensive guidebook has helped thousands of teachers use Morning Meeting to launch their school days. Clear explanations of each component and its purpose, with sample greetings, activities, and message charts. Includes step-by-step guidelines for implementing Morning Meeting in any K–8 classroom.
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