What is a Morning Message?
Morning Message is an interactive teaching method that introduces students to the writing process. Unfortunately, morning message is one of those practices that started in the older grades and was pushed down to preschool without much adaptation.
Morning message in preschool is not a bunch of pre-scripted, printable words you cut and paste on chart paper so it looks pretty or that you write out in your best penmanship before the kids get to school. Filling in the blank and finding mistakes in writing is not the best use of instructional time with young children.
The truth about morning message in preschool is that it should fun, meaningful and interactive. Young children aren’t motivated to write through the use of controlled prompts that match the seasons or holidays, they are motivated by the world around them, use this motivation to your advantage and make learning authentic.
There isn’t even a need to actually call this process “morning message” in preschool, you can just say “Let’s write about it!”
Why use a Morning Message?
When students actually see and hear an adult think-aloud as they go through the writing process they will begin to understand the connections between the written word and oral language more clearly. They are observing concepts about print first hand. When you compose a Morning Message with your students you are helping them to become successful, independent writers by modeling the writing process.
Even students who do not know how to read, write, or speak English will benefit immensely from the Morning Message. Some of the basic concepts you can cover in a Morning Message are:
- Left to right progression of text
- Return sweep
- Print carries a message
- Punctuation, like period and question mark
- One to one correspondence
- Spaces between words
When do you use the Morning Message?
To achieve the greatest success with the Morning Message it should be done on a daily basis.
What does your Morning Message look like in the beginning?
We have an easel in our circle area where our chart pad sits. On a shelf nearby the easel I have all the “tools” I may need; markers, pointers, pom-pom’s, Wikki Stix, microphones, magnifying glasses, and correction tape. The leader of the day comes to the front of the class and sits in my director’s chair with a microphone. The first sentence of our Morning Message is always the same; “_______ is the leader today.” This helps to make the message meaningful to the students because they can all identify their friends name in the message. As I write the first sentence I spell aloud and use my fingers to make spaces between the words. When I come to the end of the sentence I place a period and say it’s name aloud. After a few days of the Morning Message in the beginning of the year everybody can “read” the first line successfully.
The second line of the message is an original sentence from the leader. In the beginning of the year we usually start with “I like” statements. For example;
Leyla is the leader today.
Leyla said, “I like to eat pizza”.
Because pizza is a popular food among the Pre-K crowd, the word will have more meaning to them and they will therefore be excited about being able to identify it. When we are finished with the message we read it together as a class while I use a pointer, then the leader comes to the easel and “reads” the message using a pointer of his or her choice. After the message has been read we then move on to the various Morning Message games (scroll down for games).
Do you share the pen?
For the first few weeks I am just trying to get the routine of the Morning Message going and to move it along as fast as I can since their attention spans are non-existent. Once we have the routine down I start inviting students to share the pen, I also start introducing letter sounds during this time. Here is an example:
“Leyla is the leader today. Hmm, I wonder what letter Leyla starts with? I hear the “lll” sound, what letter makes that sound?”
Even if the students don’t know their letter sounds some may know that Leyla starts with the letter “L”, so they begin making the connection. I invite a child to help me write the first letter of Leyla’s name. As the student holds the pen I will talk them through the letter formation.
“L is a straight line, start at the sky and go down to the ground, then over towards the door.”
We repeat the pen sharing several more times during the creation of the Morning Message. If they become antsy, then you will know it’s time to move on. If a mistake is made when a student is holding the pen the 2 inch correction tape takes care of it. I call it the “Magic Tape” and the kids love using it. If a child isn’t able to write a letter independently and appeals for help, then I will help by placing my hand over his or hers.
How do you keep the student’s attention?
This is the question I am asked most often, and the answer is to keep it fun and interactive for the children. I have actually had students who cried if something kept us from writing the Morning Message. Some of the Morning Message tools I use are:
- Wikki Stix: Colorful waxed strings
- Microphones: Pretend plastic microphones work well!
- Magnifying Glasses: Students use the magnifying glasses to help them find the mystery letter.
- Large Correction Tape: 1 inch wide, see resource section below
- Pointers: see resources section below
- Pom-Pom’s: I bought a dozen sets of colorful Pom-Pom’s from Oriental Trading.
- Glasses: I found a bag of Harry Potter glasses at the local Goodwill store for a dollar. We refer to these as “magic glasses” and the students can wear them when they search for specific letters.
- Magic Wand: The type that make noise are a HUGE hit with the kids We use the magic wand to “read” the morning message when we’re finished writing.
Here are some simple ideas for spicing up your Morning Message time:
- Mystery Letter or Word: I cut the Wikki Stix in half and bend them into circles. After we have finished writing the Morning Message I will select one letter for the students to search for in the Morning Message (aka Mystery Letter). The Leader of the day will use the microphone to select a student to come up and search for the letter using the magnifying glass. When a letter is found, the student places the Wikki Stix circle around the letter. The number of helpers is determined by the number of mystery letters in the message. If it is the middle or end of the year and students are beginning to read or are just tired of the same old thing you can have them start searching for sight words.
- Rainbow Writing: We rainbow write the first letter of the leader’s name daily. If you do not have an ELMO, using a large piece of paper so the whole class can see is best. I write the leader’s first letter on the paper using a black marker, I talk through the writing so they can see and hear the correct letter formation. Then, the leader comes to the front and chooses a marker to trace over the first letter using correct letter formation. Next, the leader picks somebody and they come up and choose a different color and so forth until the letter has several different colors on it and looks sufficiently “rainbow like”. If you are using large chart paper these look great hanging on the wall around the classroom. If you use the ELMO I like to 3 hole punch them and put them in a binder for the children to read in the class library.
- Star Reader: We “read” the Morning Message together as a class after it is complete using one of our cool pointers. The Leader of the day then “reads” the Morning Message using a pointer of his or her choice. We will then say “Hooray, hooray, hooray for Star Reading!” using our Pom-Pom’s, leader’s choice of color. Depending on time, we may choose other star readers.
- Who Has This Letter?: Using the Mystery Letter, let’s say it’s “L” again for example; I will sing this song to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It:
“If you have an L in your name please stand up.
If you have an L in your name please stand up.
If you have an L in your name,
An L in your name,
An L in your name please stand up.”
I just made this up off the top of my head one day and it was a huge hit with the kids. They absolutely adore this song and it is also a great assessment tool to see who really knows the letters in their name. The leader then takes a pointer of his or her choice and counts how many people have that letter in their name.
Morning Message Resources:
More Literacy Resources from Pre-K Pages