Allison brought in materials like paint, board games, play-do, technology, etc. so the students had something to be excited about when they entered the building. It was received with great reviews from her 5th graders, but it was isolated to her classroom. Luckily, as educators read the blog, they too made changes, and over the past 6 months, we've seen hundreds of classrooms rethink their mornings.
Flash forward to the present. I am now a principal at Moore Magnet Elementary in Winston-Salem, NC. It just so happens that our magnet is based on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, so Morning Choice seemed like a natural fit into the school's magnet. I explained to my staff that I would like us to rethink morning work this year, which had been more or less traditional at Moore as well, which led to talking about Morning Choice. I was admittedly nervous, seeing how I was new to the school and this was going to be a fairly large change to how many teachers had done things for years.
I sent out a Google Forms survey to gauge teacher comfort level on when to roll out Morning Choice (Phase 1 - right away, Phase 2 - by October 2nd, Phase 3 - by October 30th). Over 85% of the teachers responded "right away" (results below)! That was encouraging!
I'm not going to lie, my first thought was a rather negative one. I thought I was going to have to scrap this entire thing and just leave it up to the teachers as to whether or not they wanted to do Morning Choice on their own. But a pity-party doesn't get you anywhere, so I started calling around to resources. Eventually, I came upon a valuable resource in my district and to my school - the magnet program coordinator. Her name is Kim, and she was able to make my dreams come true!
It turns out that she has a pool of money for magnet schools and since she hadn't funded anything from Moore in a few years, she was willing to offer us $5,000 towards the project. That was extremely generous and we were on our way! I readjusted the materials list to fit within the budget and went from there. Below you will see the games we purchased with this funding and the unit price for each item from Kaplan, the educational warehouse we purchased it from. My secretary ended up taking this on as her little project and organized the materials into bins and distributed them to homerooms. While there are certainly certain games that may be more geared towards older or younger students, many of them are universal, which allows us to trade games throughout the year so students don't get bored of what is in their bin.
Though we got a bit delayed in receiving the order and just got the materials distributed this week, many teachers have been making Morning Choice a part of their mornings since the start of the school year. They pulled together games and materials from home or from friends. We also had a generous business partner down the street (McKay's Books) who donated $25 gift cards to every teacher in my school. They have used games, legos, books, and so much more. It was like Christmas for teachers! Other teachers put messages out on social media and simply asked if anyone had games/resources that they weren't using anymore.
This past week I saw pure excitement and energy in the morning for students to get to class. I am allowing each teacher to decide how they want to set up their Morning Choice. Many of the younger grades are making it more controlled choice, while the upper grades have more freedoms. In upcoming staff meetings we will also be sharing effective stations that teachers have been using. Outside of the games, I have seen teachers use technology, play-do, Legos, independent reading, book club, kindergarten helper, and more. For students who cannot follow expectations, they are either not permitted to partake that morning or are reassigned to a teacher designated choice.
I was in a 4th grade class one afternoon, and we were all talking about Morning Choice. One of the girls said she hates missing it because her bus is usually late. That is a reality of the program, but the teacher has been flexible to allow the kids to do their choice stations at the end of the day or during a small transition time as long as the kids are responsible about cleaning up quickly when it's time to move.
While it certainly helps having an administrator on board with this type of program if it's going to be schoolwide (since they control the money), I've been so inspired to see teachers across the country implement this in their own classroom. You'd be shocked what you can get simply by asking! One of my teachers to start the year received enough Legos for a lifetime just by putting up a message on Facebook.
At Moore, we're still growing and learning what this can look like at the highest level, but I am certainly pleased with these early results and my teachers' response. Here are photos from our Morning Choice:
Update (September 2019): I have presented on Morning Choice across the country to thousands of educators and shared statistics about how morning choice changed many aspects of the school, including attendance and behavior. For those interested, here are the statistics I share in my presentation:
*Note: Morning Choice was implemented in the fall of 2017.
= 24% decrease
= 34% and 33% decrease from 2016
Number of students with 15 or more unexcused tardies:
Office referrals during Morning Choice time (8:15-8:45)