20 Morning Meeting Ideas For Staying At Your Desk

I love games and activities in morning meeting! While I know that carpet time may be gone as we re-enter classrooms, there are so many possibilities for maintaining connection and community even with physical distance.

Below are songs/chants and activities that I think would work well while staying at a desk space. These could make for great energizers or brain breaks as well. While many of these require standing up and sitting down, they should be able to stay in their area. Songs and Chants should be fine with masks, but of course, follow district policies.

Quick Note: If you think these are just for primary, I’ve done most of these with 6th graders with success. They especially love Psychiatrist. I noticed the novelty wears off faster with older students, so I don’t repeat often whereas with primary students, I would purposely repeat activities.

Songs and Chants

1. Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Sing a song such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and drop off one word at a time starting with the last word. It may help to put your finger over lips to help silence everyone at the appropriate time.

For example:

1. Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

2. Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

3. Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

4. Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

5. Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.

And so on…

Original song by Eliphalet Oram Lyte

2. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

Everyone sings the song, “My Bonnie lies over the ocean.” When students hear the “b” sound, they either sit down or stand up. For example: My Bonnie (stand) lies over the ocean. My Bonnie (sit) lies over the sea. My Bonnie (stand) lies over the ocean. Oh, bring (sit) back (stand) my Bonnie (sit) to me….” (Note: Bonnie is a word for pretty and refers to a “sweetheart.” The song may originally have referred to “Bonnie Prince Charlie” during the Jacobite Uprising or 1745 in Scotland.)

“The words to the song are: My Bonnie lies over the ocean. My Bonnie lies over the sea. My Bonnie lies over the ocean. Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me. Bring back, Bring back, Oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me. Bring back, Bring back, Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.”

I’d skip the second verse (“I dreamt that my Bonnie was dead”) but the third verse could also be used (“Oh blow ye winds over the ocean..”).

One Celtic song version with lyrics on YouTube

3. Roll Call

This is a call and response greeting. Children say a name, a nickname, and a label/role such as “student,” “soccer player,” or “friend.” It may help to identify some positive possibilities.

Group: Roll call, check the beat, hey, hey, check the beat. Roll call, check the beat, hey, hey, let’s begin!

Child: My name is ______.

G: Hey!

C: They call me (nickname).

G: Check!

C: I am a (role/label).

G: Yeah!

C: That’s what I am.

G: That’s what they are.

I’ve heard many versions of this. There’s also an episode of the Office where they do a similar thing. You can see some here but ignore the weird end; this is just the best clip or 1:30-2:30 of this one of deleted scenes from that episode.

4. Someone’s Calling My Name

In this call and response, the group begins by calling a child’s name. That child responds. At the end of the call and response, the first child names another child in the circle. The chant continues until every child has been named.

Group: Hey there, _____.

Child: Someone’s calling my name.

G: Hey there, ____.

C: Must be playing a game.

G: Hey there, ____, you’re wanted on the phone.

C: If it isn’t my friend, (another child in circle), I’m not at home. Just sitting on the sofa watching the clock.

G: Go tick tock, tick tock, de wawa. Tick tock, tick tock, de wawa-wa.

I heard this from Responsive Classroom Trainings. I’ve also seen The Telephone Song described here.

5. Here We Are Together!

Directions/Examples: The children sing the following song to the tune of “The More We Come Together.” In line three, they follow the teacher’s lead, filling in the names of each child in the circle. This can be done in several ways, depending on how far along children are in learning each others’ names. Each child can say their own name; the teacher can sing names alone, acknowledging each child; or the whole group can acknowledge each child if a pattern is developed.

“Here we are together, together, together. Here we are together all sitting on the rug. There’s _____, and ______, and _______, and ________. Here we are together all sitting in room ____.” Repeat until all children are named.

Here’s a generic song version with “in our happy place”. Here are 2 videos that show something similar with little ones and older kids (this last version is not good for distancing but silly and fun).

6. Brown Bear Greeting

The student who begins the greeting turns to their neighbor, and the two students look at each other and smile while the group chants:

“(First student’s name), (First student’s name), what do you see?

I see (second student’s name) looking (or smiling) at me.”

The second student then turns to the next person and the chant repeats with new names.

After all students have been greeted individually, the whole group says: “Everyone, everyone, what do you see? I see children looking (or smiling) at me.”

You can listen to the chant here.

Instead of a greeting, this can be a game. In response to, “What do you see?” one person describes something, such as “I see someone building a sandcastle.” The students act out that idea until you again say, “___, ___, What do you see?” That student suggests another idea. Students can pass to one another or you as the teacher can continue calling out ideas and give a cue to children such as “I See Something New” to prompt them to ask, “Teacher, Teacher, What do you see?” Older children will probably not want to be bees buzzing around or bubbles floating, but they may enjoy pretending to be rock and roll stars or a famous basketball player.


7. I Have…Who Has…?

Directions/Examples: For this activity, all students will have one card or slip of paper or popsicle stick. One person’s answer is the answer to another person’s question. For instance:

Who has 2 + 2

I have 4. Who has 3 + 7

I have 10. Who has….

And so on.

This can be done with math problems or vocabulary words and definitions or other terms related to any content area.

8. Going on a Trip

Begin the activity by saying “I’m going on a trip, and I need to pack the van.” The first child then says what they will pack in the van. For example, I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking my bike.” Each child in the circle then adds one item to the van. “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking my bike and my swimsuit.” “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking my bike and my swimsuit and my skateboard.” And so on around the group. 

9. Continuous Sums

Use a set of index cards on which you’ve written numbers, playing cards (remove face cards), fraction strips, or decimal cards. Give each student one card face down. One at a time, students will flip over their card and say their number. When the next student reveals their card, they add the two values. For example, if the second student’s card reads 3/4, they should announce that the total is 1 1/4. The third student reveals a card (ex. 1/8), adds the value to the running total, and announces the new total (1 3/8). The deck continues around the circle until it is exhausted. Students can use a “lifeline” by asking a friend. To make this easier, you can use whole numbers and/or minimal variety in denominators (only 1/2s and wholes).

10. Guess the Object

Gather items in an opaque bag such as:

  • Recess Equipment such as soccer ball, frisbee, jump rope, basketball
  • Toys such as legos, stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, Matchbox cars
  • Different objects the same shape such as
    • rectangular prism: tissue box, eraser, notebook, DVD case
    • cylinder: chap stick, water bottle, candle jar, marker

This can be a great opportunity to describe something mathematically using inches, number of faces, etc. Students can also guess the category you’ve used if you don’t say that at the start.

11. Stand Up, Sit Down

Give students 2 options for a variety of choices:

  • dogs or cats
  • wake up early or sleep in late
  • movies or tv shows
  • fiction or nonfiction
  • any “Would you rather…?” questions

For each option, state that if you like the first more (or that describes you more, etc.) you would stand up. If you prefer the second more, you sit down. Students can stay standing or sitting between rounds. I like projecting these options through a slideshow. This also works great for True/False Questions for review. Whichever side of the screen (left/right) is true tells them what to do: stand up if the left side is true and sit down if the right side is true.

12. Categories/Things That…

Choose (or have a student choose) a category such as vegetables, countries, famous explorers, cars, or for review – things we learned this week, things that start with A, things that you shouldn’t touch…. Go around the circle or down the line of desks and each student tries to state one thing for that category. To support students and make it less competitive, you can also have groups of students brainstorm a list to start.

13. Aunt Minerva

Whoever starts (teacher or a student) will think of a category that preferably has a clear opposite (heavy vs. light, outside vs. inside, hot vs. hold). For example, if the category is “hot,” they might say, “Aunt Minerva likes Florida but doesn’t like Alaska. Aunt Minerva likes hot fudge but doesn’t like popsicles.” The other players try to figure out the category that Aunt Minerva likes. When they think they know, they can guess with their own example. The leader who started can tell them if they are right or need to keep guessing.

14. Make 11 (or any number)

All students can choose to make a fist (represents 0), or hold out one finger (represents 1) or hold out two fingers (represents 2). On the count of 3, everyone reveals their hand. You go around the circle and add up all the numbers. 0 + 2 + 1+ 0 + 1 …The goal is to make 11 (or whatever number you have set). You keep trying as a class to make the number. This is a nice brain break.

15. Just Like Me!

You can create a list of statements about students and/or have students prepare statements. Read them aloud. For each one, if a student agrees with the statement, they stand up and say “Julst Like Me!” Make sure you model this with fun and enthusiasm so that it goes over well. The timing will be awkward at first, but then it works out fine.

An alternative to this is to have students write 3 statements on an index card. The first should be a very general statement that applies to almost everyone. The second should be something that they’d expect some people to also have in common. The third should be something very unique. Start each card read aloud by having people sit. If the first fact doesn’t apply to them, they sit down. Then read the second. If it doesn’t apply, they sit down. Then the third, which will either reveal (by who is left standing) who is the “owner” of that unique fact or will prove a fun connection for some people who think they’re the only one who’s been to born out of the country, for example.

16. 1, 2, 3, Pop!

Students count around the circle calling out “1” for the first person, “2” for the second person, “3” for the third person. Then, the 4th person stands up and says “POP!” That person says good morning and shares their name or a fact about themselves. The person who said “POP” stays standing and is skipped as the numbers continue around the circle. For the last student, all students call out “1, 2, 3, Pop!” together.

Make sure to remind students to keep standing after they “POP.” This can be combined with the sharing part of morning meeting and students can give a short share as they stand. You could also do “1, 2, 3, Plop” where students start standing and then sit when it is their turn. You could also change the number to “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Pop” etc.

17. Pass a Sound

This is a variation of Pass the Mask where kids swap funny facial expressions (might be difficult with literal masks). The first person makes a sound and passes it to the second person, who first imitates and then gradually changes the sound (add a beat, make it higher or lower pitched, etc.). The second person then passes the new sound to the third person, and so on around the circle.

I learned this from an theater improv class. There’s a very long list of improv games on this website.

This video from Ford’s Theatre shows Pass the Word is where you can use phrases. Pass the Beat is another option.

18. Psychiatrist

Choose one student to be the psychiatrist. They wait outside the door. All other students agree on being one person or group of people such as Mickey Mouse, Disney princesses, Siri/Alexa, characters from Aladdin, George Washington, past Presidents, One Direction, etc. It is helpful for questions to be open ended such as, “What did you do today?” and to keep asking that question over and over again as opposed to yes/no questions or a great variety of questions, although any of that is acceptable. 

Students may have a lot of ideas about what they want to act like. You can take a few (3-5) suggestions from students and then pick from them or have students vote. You can also use this for academic purposes as an opportunity to review famous people studied in history class. You may want to limit the number of guesses of the “psychiatrist” (the person asking the questions) to 3 in order to keep them asking questions and prevent hasty guesses.

19. Alibi

Choose one student to be the detective. They wait outside the door. While the detective is out, the group picks a crime and a guilty person. The detective comes back into the room. The teacher or a student spokesperson tells the detective what the crime was. Next, the detective asks each player in the circle for their alibi: “What were you doing at the time of the crime?” Each player gives a one-sentence alibi. The detective listens carefully and then asks for all of the alibis again. Each player must give the exact same alibi using the exact same words except for the child who was chosen as the guilty party. The guilty student changes their alibi just slightly. For example, the first time perhaps the guilty one says, “I went to a movie.” And the second time the guilty one says, “I went to a musical.” The detective gets three guesses to choose the guilty person and then a new detective is chosen. 

20. Find 10

Group students in sets of 2, 3, or 4 and challenge them to find 10 similarities.

I can’t recommend Responsive Classroom enough which showed me not only how to have a well running classroom but also how I could take what I loved about being a camp counselor into the classroom. (I write about those connections here.) The Morning Meeting Book and 88 Energizers are both books with TONS of ideas. You can also see some ideas on their YouTube Channel which is nice for listening/watching to a few songs and chants. I wish they had more! Lastly, if you do teach middle school, here’s another post with fun puzzles/mind games.


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