Happy Saturday, friends! I'm back with part 3 in my blog series all about morning meetings. (You can see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.) Today I'm focusing on the end of our morning meeting time - a group activity.

As I've said so many times before, I find our morning meeting time to be THE most important part of our day. It sets the tone for what's to come, gives me a chance to connect with my students, and gives my kiddos a chance to have some fun with each other.

We always end our morning meeting with a group activity of some kind. I'm constantly on the look-out for games and activities that fit my requirements for a good morning meeting activity:

1. Easy to learn: Ain't no one got time for long, complicated directions that are even harder to explain than they are to understand! I have 20 second graders - give me quick and fast, with little prep and I'm in!

2. Keep everyone involved: This one is a biggie. Games in which someone gets "out" early on and doesn't get to play for the rest of the time is a recipe for fooling around! I try to find games and activities that either keep everyone involved in some way, or I modify them myself!

3. Add content: While this one is not a deal-breaker, (I think that cooperative games in which students have to work together, learn to take turns, etc. are just as important), if I can add some content while we're doing it then that's a bonus!

I get my activity ideas from everywhere! My go-to resources are resource books from The Responsive Classroom. The math and science ones have really been a lifesaver in allowing me to keep our games fun, but still focus on learning! I check Pinterest for PE games, and often will change up a favorite game to go with a holiday, season or theme.

That being said, my kiddos' top 3 favorite games are NOT content related - go figure! Every Friday, the "helper of the day" gets to roll the dice on the Smartboard and we play that game. We change the games on the dice every month to keep things fresh. These 3 are ALWAYS there!

I learned this game a LOOOONG time ago. I remember doing it in my classroom, then teaching it to a few teachers, who used it with their kiddos. By the end of the year, EVERYONE in our school knew how to play this game! It's very simple and the best part is.... it's quiet! I have everyone spread out and find a place to stand somewhere in the room (create boundaries if you need to). One person starts by tossing a ball to another student. If they catch the ball, they stay in the game. If they drop it, they're out and must sit down. (I'll tell you how I keep everyone involved in a minute.) The key to the game? Everyone has to be SILENT. You talk, you're out. No excuses. When we first play the game we model how to get someone's attention in a silent way so they know the ball is coming. Pointing, eye contact, etc.... We also practice tossing (not throwing) the ball... gently... underhand...The last one standing is the winner.

I did modify this game in a few ways. First, if the person doesn't catch the ball, then BOTH people are out. That eliminates throwing the ball in a way that the other person will never be able to catch it and is automatically out. (Kids are smart - teachers have to be smarter!) If the game is taking to long, I bring on the "five second" rule. You have 5 seconds to toss the ball to someone else or you're out. (I count in my head.) Second graders can take all. day. long. to decide who they're going to toss that ball to. Keep it moving, friends!

So how does everyone stay involved? Once I have a bunch of kiddos who are out and are starting to get antsy, I call out "switch!" and everyone  who is standing has to sit, and those who are sitting get to stand and be back in the game. I do it as often (or not) as necessary. The game usually ends after about 10 minutes when I'll say, "Everyone who is standing is a winner!"

I'm sure many of you already know this game. Give each corner of your room a number. One person closes their eyes and counts to ten while everyone else quietly walks to one of the corners. The person who is "it" chooses a corner and everyone in that corner is out. When there are 4 people left, everyone has to be in a separate corner. Last person left is the winner.

I don't worry too much about keeping everyone involved with this game. It usually goes fast enough that we can play a couple times. Sometimes instead of numbering the corners, I put up pictures to go with the seasons/holidays/theme we're doing. For instance, in March we'll play with leprechaun/rainbow/shamrock/gold instead of corner numbers. This game can easily be adapted to review content - just choose 4 categories (parts of speech, states of matter, place value, etc.) and give students slips of paper with things that go in those categories. Their job is to move to the corner that fits with their idea.

I remember this one from my childhood! Everyone sits at their seat with their head down and their thumb up. The people who are "it" (I choose 4, not 7) go around and secretly put down one person's thumb. Everyone who's thumb is down has a chance (or two) to guess who put their thumb down. If you're right, you stand up and the other person sits down. There's so many ups and downs with this game everyone is involved at some point.

Happy Monday, folks! It's so hard to believe that we're already beginning the month of February! I always say that February is the craziest and shortest month in teaching! (November ranks a close second!) With Groundhog Day, 100th Day, Presidents' Day, Chinese New Year, Black History Month, Valentine's Day... well, you get the picture.

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite books for the month of February. Some will be titles you already know. Teachers always have their favorite books that they love to share with their student each year. But I also tried to choose a few titles that might be new to you. I always love to find new books to add to my collections.

So, without further ado... here's my Top Ten Booklist for February! (in no particular order :-)

1. Starting off the month with Groundhog Day, I chose two titles that I like. This first one is a fun story abut a groundhog who just can't fall asleep. He wakes up during each month from October through December, until finally he falls asleep for the winter. I like this book because each time Groundhog gets up, the structure of the text is the same, but the details for each month are different. For example, in October he sees scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns, meets a witch and drinks a glass of apple cider. In December he sees lights and wreaths, meets Santa and enjoys a glass of milk and some cookies. Students enjoy predicting what each month will be like, and it's fun to have students choose another month not in the story and write about what Groundhog did, following the same structure.

2. Another great Groundhog Day book,, this one is a fun look at how Groundhog decides he needs more help predicting the weather. He enlists the help of his friends, who must first go to "Groundhog School" to learn everything there is to know about being a groundhog. This book is filled with interesting facts about groundhogs and the speech bubbles, fact boxes and dialogue that carries the story makes it a favorite for kids. I could see a "Top 10 Facts I Learned in Groundhog School" writing activity coming from this one, long with great practice with fluency and expression.

(If you need some groundhog ideas to get you through the week, you can hop over to this post of mine - there's a freebie!)

3. Our 100th day of school is early this year, so I'll be pulling this fun favorite out soon. Mr. Wolf is determined to fatten up the chicken he wants to eat, so he brings all sorts of fun food to her house - 100 pancakes, 100 donuts... The ending is adorable and it's fun to make a list of 100 things the wolf could bring to the chicken's house.

4. Another 100th day of school story, this one follows Jessica as she tries to come up with what to bring to school for her 100th day collection. She can't decide and her family is so busy, that by the 100th day she still has nothing to bring. Her family comes to the rescue and her teacher lovingly turns what could be an embarrassing moment into the best collection in the class. I like to read this one before the 100th day sometimes, to remind students that it's not how beautiful the project looks, but the work and love that went into it that counts. A great way to discuss theme!

5. Presidents' Day means lots of focus on George and Lincoln. This trio of books (I'm counting it as one book :-) shares the story of how Abe Lincoln, with a little encouragement from Grace,  decided to grow his beard. These are great stories to let students know that they CAN make a difference! I do these in book groups and have students talk with each other about the facts they have learned, character traits and so much more.

6. The middle of February brings Valentine's Day! I swear this is my favorite holiday with second graders! Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is such a great story about making everyone feel important. Mr. Hatch is always lonely and by himself until he gets a mysterious valentine delivered. This makes him more outgoing and sociable and he becomes friends with his neighbors and people on the way to work. Unfortunately, he finds out that the valentine was not meant for him and he goes back to his old ways. Students love predicting what's going to happen at the end and if Mr. Hatch will once again be with his friends. This is the perfect book for talking about character traits, how characters change throughout the story and getting details from the illustrations. Letter writing is the perfect tie-in to extend the story.

(I've got a great way to put some learning into those Valentine cards, and an easy way to pass them out! It's all HERE!)

7. What kid doesn't love slugs? And slugs in LOVE - ewwwww! This is the adorable story of Herbie and Marylou's romance in the garden. Herbie tries desperately to get Marylou to know he likes her, but his every attempt is thwarted. Meanwhile, Marylou writes sweet notes to Herbie - if he could only figure out which slug she is! This story is just plain sweet. It's fun to guess how Herbie will write his next love letter - and what will happen to it! Students can retell or summarize the story and work on cause and effect with this one.

8. I'm giving each of these next three books it's own spot because each is so powerful. February is Black History month, and I like to use these three books to focus on where we have come from. Amistad Rising is the powerful story of Joseph Cinque and his brave attempt at freedom after being kidnapped and bound for slavery. This story is best suited for upper elementary students, but I have read it to a few of my second grade classes. My students are always able to connect because the story takes place in New London, CT, a city not far from where our school is. (Who am I kidding, I'm in CT... nothing is that far away in this small state!) I would never be able to do the story justice by summarizing it here, so if you're interested, you can check it out on Amazon or do a little research about the ship and its importance in history.

9. The subtitle of this book is even better than the title: "How four friends stood up by sitting down." Sit-In is the story of four college students who decided to take a stand against segregation. The book follows their peaceful protest and the effect it had on the diner. Great for point of view, this book lets students know that anyone can make a difference.

10. My final book on the list this month is about hope. It's the story of a fence, and the two girls who live on either side of it. The fence becomes a metaphor for the separation that exists between them. This book lends itself to some great conversations about how little things can mean so much in the world. I love the way author, in her comments at the beginning, talks about how the fence has not completely disappeared... but it has been lowered. Simple, yet powerful words.

I hope you've found some new books that you can bring into your classroom this month! My kiddos love when they come in and the book display has changed. It's like Christmas to them! I'd love to hear about your favorite books for the month. Do you share any of these? What's your favorite February title?

I'm linking up with everyone over at I Teach K-2 to share some great ideas for the month of February.

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