Each week, one of my classes comes into the Zoom classroom muted and with their video off. I have (politely) asked the students to turn their cameras on, especially during the discussion portion of the class. Yet, many of the students continue to leave their cameras off. It has been a point of frustration to say the least. As I was finalizing my lesson plans, I was back and forth on what to do about the students who do not turn on their cameras and thus do not participate at all during class.
Then, an idea came to me. When I taught 5th grade, I had a Morning Message on the SmartBoard each morning for the students, welcoming them into the classroom and giving them a morning assignment to work on before the day’s announcements. The 5th graders knew to read the SmartBoard and get to work. I decided to implement this strategy by leaving a Morning Message on the computer with clear directions for my students – the last one telling them to have their camera turned on by a particular time for an attendance activity.
It worked! The students came into the Zoom classroom, read the Morning Message, and a minute before the time I told them we would begin, the cameras started turning on. There was much more active discussion during the class and the students were also speaking with each other during class.
A Morning Message is an authentic form of communication that is put up for the students before they come into the classroom. It is a message that the teacher has written to the class rather than a piece of writing copied from a teacher’s guide and it has something to say to the students. Whether a larger overarching message that guides instruction for the day, or something small and specific, like “leave your camera on,” it sets the tone and gets students ready for the day’s learning.
At the end of the class, two students told me that the Morning Message was a calm way to begin the class. It gave them a few extra minutes to get ready before we began and they knew what to expect once the class began. So, if you are struggling with starting your remote instruction or even your face-to-face instruction, consider including a Morning Message into the mix – it may help with the beginning of the day or the beginning of class routine!