'Start the Day' Strategies are playful methods which can be used to start the school day, fostering an environment of responsiveness through listening, sharing, discussing and thinking.
It is vitally important that as teachers, we provide children with the opportunities to talk with their peers and be heard by their peers and to talk with their teacher and be heard by their teachers.
We often 'plan' a lot for talk and discussion, but it's important to ensure that frequent opportunities to purposefully develop the skills of listening are embedded within such plans; and that we are simultaneously affording children the opportunities and experiences of being 'heard'.
In the increasingly busy and demanding learning environment, prioritising opportunities for the children to talk and be heard are essential.
Did you know that a child's right to be heard is actually outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? Article 12 to be precise! To learn more about this and why it is important to ensure that children are heard, visit Every Child's Right to be Heard (UNICEF).
There are lots of ways to facilitate listening opportunities but choosing 'Start the Day' strategies helps make responsive practices become embedded in the daily routines and communication procedures throughout the school day. Many of the strategies listed below can be used with all ages groups, Infants to 6th, and are easily facilitated from their desks, circle time or pair spots around the room. Sometimes children can feel reluctant about offering to speak out, however inviting them to talk and be heard through lively and enjoyable talk-based activities can help alleviate this reluctance; and like anything, consistency is key!
The idea behind 'Start the Day' strategies is that we begin the day with a strategy or activity that involves sharing and listening. This also reinforces the idea that our classrooms are spaces of talk, dialogue and discussion; and that the voice of each individual child is valued and important!
You might choose to gather the children on the mats, work with the whole class from their desks, you might even integrate some of the strategies into a morning meeting type format (see Between The Covers of a Good Book (Treasa Bowe's Instagram) for lots of fantastic tips on morning meetings).
Guiding prompts for 'Morning Greetings' in a 'circle time' set-up:
Hello, good morning and I'd like to say hello to ______________.
Good morning everyone, today I am thankful for _____________.
Good morning everyone, I am good at _____________.
Good morning everyone and good morning ____picks one pupil in particular_____, I like how you _____________.
Today I know I will love (day of the week) because ________________.
Pass the ball (a listen, repeat & add activity) :
The children roll the ball to someone in the circle and the receiver repeats what the sender has shared and add their own statement, for example:
'My name is Clara, I like to drink coffee. I pass to Tom.'
'My name is Tom. Clara likes to drink coffee. I like to drink milkshakes. I pass to Aoife'
...and so on!
It can be an added incentive to replace the ball with a ball of string and watch how the conversation evolves and travels!
Circle of compliments
Getting into good complimentary habits takes time and consistent practice - we're often not great at accepting compliments... is it an Irish thing?. Beginning the day by sharing some compliments with classmates and peers is a solid ice-breaker and sets a pleasant tone and mood within the classroom, and makes sharing compliments a normal and welcome habit!
Set daily goals - invite the class to participate in setting some daily goals for themselves; goals for the group and goals for themselves.
Empathy Scenarios - present and empathy scenario to the children and invite them to discuss as a group what the best solution or approach may be
Morning wonders - share a morning wonder with the class and follow the discussion from there
Picture This - Share a picture of the day and invite the children to talk and discuss an interesting image. While the aim is an invitation to talk and listen, this is another fabulous opportunity to work on skills such as observing, inferring and describing. Why not invite the children to bring in images from magazines, brochures; or even send in photos they may have snapped on a device at home!
Thought of the Day - share a meaningful or thought-provoking quote with the children as a discussion guide. The Kid President quotes are a great starting point and We Are Teachers have a selection of printable posters here.
For 'pair' set ups:
Turn & talk - set a timer, invite the pupils to turn & talk to each other. Perhaps you might set a topic or present a guiding question to get them started but sometimes these aren't always necessary.
Conversation Starters - sometimes a little guiding prompt or question is all we need to get the conversation, thoughts and laughs flowing.
Follow a schedule
Why not set a weekly or monthly 'start the day' schedule? That way it keeps the conversation points interesting and avoids things becoming too repetitive. It's also a nice way of ensuring that there's a strategy for everyone to enjoy.
If you find any of these ideas or resources useful, please do share them with your colleagues.
Let's start 2023 as we mean to continue - talking, sharing and listening!