We return from fall break on Monday. I haven’t seen or heard from my students in over 9 days. A lot has happened to them, with them, for them, about them—some good and some bad; some okay and some horrible. The world moved and things happened. They witnessed some stuff that is stuck in their memory drive forever. There are some things that can’t be deleted. I have started to totally see and understand that silence and calmness are needed to shift and change the culture, climate, and atmosphere in my classroom as my students return.
I have come to understand what “mindfulness” looks like in my classroom and how I can model little ways that my students and I can incorporate them into our daily lives to manage, handle, and center our day. To do this, I started Minimum Monday. Now, let’s be very clear, this is NOT a play day, a chill, a movie day, or a no-work day! This is a day that is not stressful and moves at a smoother pace— our classroom environment is initially set to allow students to work at their pace within our space with a goal in mind. Here are a few suggestions on how to handle a Minimum Monday classroom.
- Have a morning message that tells students key information. Each day, the board includes: Message, Do Now, Agenda, Date, Quote, Timer, and more. This color-coded message is part of our routine each day but especially on Minimum Monday. alternate between using the Pro version of www.canva.com (which is free for educators, using your school email) and www.classroomscreen.com (which has an awesome free version, but I have Pro and pay $29.90 per year for more perks).
- Play some music. Music is on as students walk in, and I may play it the entire class period (though sometimes it is just for the first 10 minutes). I use a mix between www.youtube.com and www.spotify.com. I love the Lofi YouTube channel which is also found on other platforms. This channel has study, chill, hip-hop, neo-soul, and other mixes. I think about what seems appropriate for the climate I want to create in my classroom. We all know the power that music possesses. It is played in stores, coffee shops, elevators, and so many other places for a reason! Playing it softly or loudly for your classroom is essential to changing and shifting the energy. On Fridays I also DJ, but that music is a mix of what they like and what I like, and the vibe is different!
- Do a quiet attendance. Normally I call out attendance and students answer out loud, but on Minimum Mondays I do a quiet attendance. I use random ways to do this. One way is to send around a blank seating chart for students to fill out. If we have laptops, students have to log into Google Classroom and fill out their Google Attendance Doc. When using Google for attendance, I always include a funny or crazy question for extra credit on the day’s work. For example: “According to Ms. Gordon, which HBCU is the BEST HBCU?” I give them multiple-choice options, but they know it is Hampton University. I also walk around and check their Do Now assignment and use the app on my phone to mark attendance.
- Give students autonomy. “Optional” and “mandatory” are a way of life. Life lessons happen all the time in our classroom. During our Minimum Monday, we do a group activity at the beginning of class for about 30 minutes, and that gives students 50 minutes for independent work time. Students are given a quarter-page checklist with the assignments for today. This allows students to review a series of 4-8 assignments to complete during the independent work time. Each student has a checklist, and they have two mandatory assignments that they MUST complete and then between two and four choose-your-own assignments to complete.
- Show an interactive video. I use technology to help enhance a skill, objective, or book and get students to make connections to what is happening in class.
- Conduct student check–ins. These happen one-on-one, in pairs, trios, teams, etc. We can discuss anything. It may be a group about sports from the weekend or a student whose attendance is now impacting their grade.
I started with only doing two of these ideas consistently for a month. Then I started adding more ideas. My tips and tools are extensive and essential as a seasoned teacher but, more importantly, as a human teacher teaching human students. Ebbs and flows are constant. Minimum Mondays are part of our routine, and it has made all the difference; even the students appreciate it.