Are your morning announcements deadly dreary and dull? Education World's "Principal Files" team shares how they have used daily announcements to build school "community." Included: Ideas for spicing things up, getting kids involved, more.
Some schools present morning announcements as part of a daily closed-circuit-TV broadcast. Others use public address (PA) or e-mail technology. Many forego any kind of technology; an announcement sheet stuffed into teachers' mailboxes each morning works just fine. Although the format of their schools' "morning announcements" might vary, members of Education World's Principal Files Team seem to agree that morning announcements are a proven way to set the tone for the day and build morale and a sense of school "community."
Most of us have a morning routine that varies little from the time we rise until the moment we hear the first bell of the school day. (From that point on, we have to be ready for anything!) So, it is not surprising that -- creatures of habit that we are -- there is something very comforting about having a routine format for the morning announcements of each school day.
Goooooooooooood morning, Warriors! That get-ready-for-the-day call is heard each morning by 850 students at Goodwyn Junior High School in Montgomery, Alabama. The familiar intercom announcement, a reference to the school's mascot, is echoed each day by principal Marie Kostick as she psyches up -- and wakes up! -- her charges.
After Kostick's wake-up call, members of the school's student council take over the daily routine, which continues with the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silence, and a thought for the day. "We use student council representatives to relay these messages because we think the student body might listen more closely and buy into messages more readily when they come from their peers," said Kostick, who often jumps in to close the a.m. ritual with an upbeat message, such as congratulations for a team victory or for another special accomplishment.
At Doctors Inlet Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida, morning announcements, which are presented over closed-circuit TV, follow a pretty standard format too. The student-anchors of the school's on-camera news team welcome their peers to a new school day, then lead the Pledge of Allegiance and a good-morning "America" sing-along. Anchors announce school-wide events, famous-people birthdays, the lunch menu, and the weather report.
After the formalities are out of the way, the anchor introduces a special "Guest of the Day." On Monday and Thursday, that special guest is the school's assistant principal, Maureen Yelverton, whose twice-a-week talks revolve around one of the school's biggest thrusts, its reading curriculum. Yelverton also draws names for prizes awarded as part of the school's Reading Counts program. Wednesday's guest is school nurse, Judy LaRue, who offers health tidbits for students. On Tuesdays and Fridays, principal Larry Davis presents Mr. Davis's Math Question. "The first person in each class to correctly solve the math problem races down to the office to receive his or her special 'Mr. Davis pencil,'" Davis told Education World.
"Of course," he added, "I give teachers the answers in advance."
A sampling of "Mr. Davis's Math Questions" appears later in this article.
In many schools, the principal or assistant principal leads morning announcements. Some schools have turned over the announcements -- or even the production of a complete morning news broadcast -- to students. Other schools have found the "perfect person" to lend a special personality to the daily routine. At Central Fairmount School in Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, a.m. announcements take on a cheerleader's tone in the hands of the school's lead security person, Cliff Suttles. "His technique is unique," explained assistant principal Bonita Henderson. "He adds many special twists to the school's daily P.A. announcements. In addition to fade-ins and fade-outs, he uses music that the students appreciate, special sound effects that he makes with his mouth or with studio equipment, and background cheers for the sports report"
"In addition, he always, always makes a special point of thanking the school's cafeteria workers, the custodial staff, the parents volunteers, and secretaries," explained Henderson. "You have to see and hear him to really appreciate him. Most important, he has the students' attention. They listen to and enjoy the daily announcements."
Almost every school has the "perfect person" for the job, added Henderson. Sometimes it takes a little searching to find that individual who will add life to what can become an otherwise dreary routine but, chances are, the person is right there under the school's roof.
At Cedar Heights Junior High School in Port Orchard, Washington, that "perfect person" is always a student. Students lead the daily pledge and offer a thought for the day over the P.A. The remainder of the opening activities take place at the classroom level. The "daily bulletin," created by an office person with contributions from teachers and other staff members, is read aloud by a student in each advisory classroom [homeroom], principal Patricia Green explained.
At Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, all school announcements are disseminated electronically, principal Tim Messick told Education World. "Secretaries produce the daily bulletin. All announcements received by 8:30 a.m. go into the day's bulletin, which is e-mailed to the staff."
A quote of the day leads each edition of the students' bulletin, Messick added. "At the elementary level, teachers read the bulletin to students; at the middle and high school levels the bulletins are shared during the students' advisory period, which begins at 9:30."
At Our Lady of Lourdes School in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), vice principal Maria Bernardi sometimes delivers the morning announcements. A small book with blank pages is always available next to the P.A. microphone. "Any staff member who would like an announcement made simply pens it in that book," explained Bernardi.
A THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A thought, quote, or word of the day is part of the daily routine at many schools. Some schools subscribe to special curriculum resources that provide those motivators. Other principals draw on a wide variety of resources, including online resources [see sidebar], to add interest to daily announcements.
Each day at Scott Johnson Elementary School in Huntsville, Texas, principal Beth Burt introduces a Quote of the Day and reinforces the Math Word of the Week. "The quote relates to our character education trait of the month," which is part of a prescribed program created by Keystone Curriculum, said Burt. "For example, this month's trait is 'loyalty,' and today's quote of the day was 'Make it a goal to make a good friend last a long time.'" Students carry that thought with them throughout the day, and teachers look for ways to reinforce the trait of the month in everything they do that day and all month long."
"Our Math Word of the Week is a campus-created project," Burt explained. The program introduces math words and concepts with which teachers want all students to be familiar.
"This week's Math Word of the Week is perimeter: the distance around an object or shape," said Burt. "The program offers appropriate ways for teachers to reinforce the concept across the grade levels."
At Goodwyn Junior High, student council representatives pull motivational quotes from such books as Staying Power by Van Crouch and It's Just a Thought by John Maxwell. "Today's thought for the day was 'Failure is the path of least persistence,'" said principal Marie Kostick. "Another thought recently used was 'I wondered why somebody didn't do something; then I realized that I was somebody.'"
Other sources provide viable options for daily affirmations and inspiration. "Our principal uses a book from the Diana Day Training Center," said Chris Vail, assistant principal at Groveport Madison Middle School South in Groveport, Ohio. "Each week, he introduces a new theme. (This week's theme, for example, is Courtesy.) Then, each day of the week, he presents a new related activity. Monday is "Tune Up Your Mind Day," Tuesday is "Word Power" day, then comes Win-Win Wednesday, Awesome Attitude Thursday, and Focus Friday."
At Cedar Heights Junior High, students present a daily quote that principal Pat Green pulls from such sources as a motivational daily calendar and Project Wisdom materials. "On Friday, I read a special "Words of Wisdom" selection from the Project Wisdom folks. They do fantastic character education pieces for schools," added Green.
Project Wisdom also is the source of announcements made at Orchard Hill School in South Windsor, Connecticut. "Students who are members of our Student School Life Committee sign up to present a weekly announcement on Monday mornings," principal Bridget Braney told Education World. "Those messages are related to character traits such as courage, caring, respect, and honesty."
"We take the student message a step further," Braney added, "by publishing the announcement in our weekly staff bulletin. We provide teachers with several ideas for capitalizing on the message in their morning meetings or at other times during the school day."
A character education lesson also is part of the morning-announcement routine broadcast on WTRS-TV at T.R. Simmons Elementary School in Jasper, Alabama. Because the school's closed-circuit-TV station can air video, the station often airs Tick Tock Minutes, the 60-second character lessons from PBS. "The programs feature a little cartoon character called Dr. Ticktock," explained principal Jim Clark. "Our guidance counselor often follows up on the Tick Tock Minute during her weekly counseling time with students."
Morning announcements at Our Lady of Lourdes School often include a positive character-education message. "After I share the message, I always ask the children to 'Pass it on!'" explained vice-principal Maria Bernardi. "I ask them to try to do something good for someone else -- to perform a kind act, say a good word, or do a good deed."
It seems to be working, she added. "This term, I've extended the theme by asking students to let me know if they've noticed their peers 'passing on something good.' I share those 'good news' stories the next morning. It is amazing how many stories have been generated Small steps lead to big journeys!"
Many schools include in their morning exercises a student-led Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. At some other schools, a school-wide pledge to that school's special mission also is included. At Central Fairmount School, assistant principal Bonita Henderson reports that students recite the following school pledge each day: "I will be respectful. I will be responsible. I will be a problem solver. I will be an achiever. I will be peaceful." That pledge ties in nicely with the school's Positive Behavior Support program, she added.
In Groveport, Ohio, assistant principal Chris Vail reports that students and teachers recite the school's pledge each day: "We, the staff and students of Middle School South, are committed to learning and exhibiting behavior and social and academic skills necessary to achieve our fullest potential and become responsible life-long learners."
Special contests and competitions aimed at getting kids involved in and excited about learning are part of the morning routine at many schools. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, each Tuesday and Friday principal Larry Davis offers students at Doctors Inlet Elementary an opportunity to solve "Mr. Davis's Math Question." That "question" actually is seven different math problems, one for each grade level at the Middleburg, Florida, school. The following questions were posed on a recent day:
Larry Davis has been kind enough to share a year's worth of questions for use across the elementary grades. You'll find those questions in Education World's Morning Math feature.
"I've kept and added to these questions for 4 years," Davis told Education World.
At Cedar Heights Junior High, science teachers have created a Science Question of the Week that is broadcast as part of the school's morning announcements.
The science questions of the week usually are connected to current curriculum; they are intended to reinforce concepts studied in class at all grade levels. When studying cells, for example, the question might be What part of the cell breaks down food to release energy? (Answer: Mitochondria.) When studying stars, the science teachers might ask What is absolute magnitude? (Answer: A measure of the actual brightness of a star.)
Students have a week to drop their answers into a box outside the main school office, principal Patricia Green explained. The science teachers review the students' answers, then draw the name of a winner from all the correct responses submitted. The winner's name is announced for all to hear.
A Riddle of the Week is part of the morning-announcement routine at Simmons Elementary School. "We find the riddles in a wide variety of places," said principal Jim Clark. Many of the holiday pages at KidsDomain.com are good riddle sources, said Clark, adding that those pages enable him to present "timely" riddles for kids to appreciate. Riddle books and the Google search engine are other good sources of riddles.
Clark searches for riddles most kids might not have heard. Around Thanksgiving time, for example, the resources above led Clark to two timely riddles:
What sound does a space turkey make?
(Hubble, Hubble, Hubble)
Why was the turkey the drummer in the band?
(Because he had the drumstick.)
Simmons' reading teacher collects answers to the riddles in a pocket chart displayed outside her classroom. Students must submit their responses in writing. Fun items are awarded to all students who get the right answer.
In addition, the morning-announcements broadcast on Simmons' TV station, WTRS, includes the announcement of the names of students who are celebrating birthdays that day. Each student gets a special mention and a ribbon.
At Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee, Principal Carol Roebuck starts each day with a P.A. "Good Morning" greeting. That is followed by the playing and singing of the National Anthem. "We usually do the National Anthem the first nine weeks of school," Roebuck told Education World. "Then we change songs for each of the other 9-week sessions. It's a good way for students to learn the words to a variety of patriotic songs."
Briarcrest's daily song is followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, which is led by a different student each day. "I usually start with fifth-grade students and work down through the grades," explained Roebuck. "I announce the name of the student, and his or her grade level and teacher, before the Pledge. Because we are a Christian school, the pledge to the flag always is followed by the pledge to the Christian flag and the Bible."
Each day's morning messages includes many special announcements, Roebuck added. For example, the school librarian announces Birthday Book Club contributors. "Parents can purchase a book in honor of his or her child's birthday," Roebuck explained. "They can select a book that is special to the student, or ask the librarian to choose a book she knows the child will like. The registration packet that we send out at the start of the year includes a form parents can use to participate in the program. A special label is placed inside the book in honor of the child."
Briarcrest also is proud of the school's Brag Board. "Each week, every teacher sends me one piece of student work to display on our big centrally located bulletin board," explained Roebuck. "We bought special ribbons that say 'Briarcrest Brag Board.' A ribbon is stapled to each piece of student work that is displayed. During morning announcements, I read the names of students whose work is posted. At the end of the week, the students get back their work and the ribbon."
"Teachers make sure every child has an opportunity to have work posted on the Brag Board," added Roebuck. "The work can be any kind of work -- art, math, spelling, social studies -- with a good grade on it."
At the end of each day's announcements, Roebuck cheers on students with the same five-word challenge: "Everyone have a great day!" At that familiar call, students charge off to produce their next Brag Board assignments!