Getting your students to wake up and be fully present with you in the classroom isn't necessarily an easy feat. It can be challenging to engage your entire class, especially if you kick off each morning the same way.
The fact of the matter is that routine can feel mundane. So, though you have to start every morning with a class meeting, consider getting the ball rolling in fun new ways each time.
Here are seven ways to engage your students and start your day with the right foot forward.
Amp up the energy in your classroom every morning with different morning meeting activities like these ones.
Start the morning with a social icebreaker. This can be as simple as going around the room and asking each student to share something about themselves — whether it be about their sports practice the day before or a fun fact. Maybe one morning they talk about the best meal they ever had, another morning they share their star sign and another morning they tell the class what their dream job would be.
The more each student shares every day, the more the students will get to know each other. And when they find ever more commonalities amongst their peers, they'll feel more connected to (and engaged with!) the people around them.
There's no better way to kick off the day than with a hearty breakfast. Asking students to bring food to school every morning is a lot, but maybe you have a Friday breakfast potluck — or even a once-a-month potluck party. Each student can bring in a different kind of breakfast food, which they'll sign up for on a spreadsheet so that not everyone brings the same dish.
Some may bring in scrambled eggs, others may bring in bacon or sausages and others may bring in toast with butter and jams. You may even ask some students to bring in some vegan and vegetarian options, like salads and tofu. Just make sure that your students don't have any allergies before you bring any food into their space. You may want to have them (and their parents, depending on their age) sign off on an allergy form to avoid any emergencies.
Start the day with a weekend recap (if it's a Monday or a Friday). If it's a Monday, have each student share one thing they did over the weekend and, if it's a Friday, have each student share one thing they plan to do over the coming weekend. This can be a simple and fun activity that gets them excited to open up with the classroom, or it can have more depth. In other words, you can ask the students deeper questions, such as about something they did over the weekend that had helped to prepare them for this week ahead or that had challenged them.
Go around the room and have each student share their goals and intentions for the day with their peers. This can be an inspiring activity that encourages students to set goals, work mindfully and push themselves throughout the day. And one student's goals may inspire another student — and vice versa. Their goals may be as simple as getting a good grade on a quiz or learning how to finally solve a problem that they've been struggling with all week to keeping present instead of worrying about all the homework they have to do later or focusing on schoolwork instead of thinking about sports practice when the bell rings.
The human knot game is a classic that's been used in both schools and workplaces for as long as time. That's because it's an excellent teambuilding exercise. And, when done every day, it only further develops these teamwork and cooperation skills. It'll also literally bring them closer together.
Have all the students stand in a circle and reach into the middle with their right hand. With that hand, ask them all to grab the hand of a classmate (just make sure that no one grabs the hand of anyone standing right next to them). Then have them all do the same with their left hands — reach into the circle with the left arm and grab another hand. From there, the students have to figure out how to untangle this human web without letting go of each other's hands. It's not easy, but it's not impossible.
You can time them so they can try to improve at it every morning, too, by getting quicker at untying the knot (or untying the knot at all!).
Have each student go around the room and say hello in another language. Then have them share where the language comes from and three fun facts about that country or population. Given that there are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, you can continue playing this game for quite some time.
This not only teaches the children facts about the world every morning, but it also encourages them to research the world and other cultures on their own time (at least before they get to school in the morning!).
Pop quizzes might not excite your students, but they sure will get their brains working in the morning. A pop quiz, even if it's not graded harshly, will get your students thinking right off the bat. And, if they didn't do their studying or reading like they should have been doing, it'll encourage them to do it the next time around so they don't find themselves in this position again.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.