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Morning Check-In Paves the Way for Great Day

Kathy Gaji


When Kathy Gaji found that her second grade students at Brookside Elementary School in Binghamton, New York, just weren't remembering everything they needed to know to be ready for the day, she created a "morning check-in" routine to correct the problem.

"I don't like to have the children use the electric pencil sharpener during the day, so I wanted to be sure they had sharpened pencils," recalled Gaji. "The kids also weren't getting new books to read from our class library in any organized way. I'm not a big advocate of seatwork, so I needed to have students focus on a productive activity first thing in the morning."

After the children hang up their coats and make their choices for lunch, they take a "bag of books" to the classroom library and select new books for independent reading time. The students check their pencils and find two sharpened ones (or sharpen two of them). Then it is time to meet with Gaji. If students have any notes or papers for the office or nurse, those are turned in, and late homework is collected. Current homework is gathered separately.

"I sit at my desk with an alphabetized checklist of names in front of me," explained Gaji. "As the children bring their bags of books and pencils to me, I greet them and check their names off. That's a good time for a quick word of encouragement, a reminder of needing to turn in late homework, or just a quick hello. It helps me connect with the kids as individuals, rather than just members of my class."

Next, students go to their desks and engage in one of several approved activities for "free time," such as reading, writing, building with pattern blocks, or drawing. The routine gets the kids into the day gently and avoids seatwork that's never finished because of the late arrival of a bus.

"During the day, if I know I'll have to remind a student of something or need to check with him or her the next day about something, I jot it down on a post-it note and stick it on the check-in list," said Gaji. "I keep the list hanging on the magnetized chalk board so I always know where it is. Those post-its help me remember what I need to do the next morning."

Her students are so "programmed" by their routine that even on hurried days, when there isn't time to check in first thing in the morning, they follow Gaji around with their bags and pencils until she asks them to wait for her to reach her desk. They enjoy the personal attention that the brief meeting provides.

"Morning check-in is the time when I hear about things that help me adjust better to the children's needs that day," Gaji observed. "I know who has had a tragic accident with a pet or who seems sleepy or might be getting sick. It tells me who needs a little extra encouragement that day. It lets me know if someone is in a bad mood, if there are ongoing troubles between classmates, and so on."

When Gaji established her check-in process, it was not the beginning of a school year. Her experience suggests that with specific requirements and reminders, the routine can be started at any time. After several years in second grade, Gaji is moving to third grade this year and says she will definitely modify the check-in for her older students. For her, it is an ideal way to encourage the kids to be ready for a busy day.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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