- Morning meeting is a time for students to gather, discuss the day’s events and lessons, and anything else on their minds.
- Morning meeting is a strategy for building community in a classroom.
- Each morning meeting is facilitated by the teacher, but is student-driven.
At precisely 9:25 on Monday morning, the doorbell rings. Students put away their materials, quickly move to the carpet, and sit in a circle. Each person takes off a shoe and tosses it to the middle. Everyone chooses a different shoe and says good morning to its owner.
It’s raining outside, so we stand up and begin “Singing in the Rain”. Some grumble as we stand, but by the end, even the most reluctant singers are giggling and participating.
When finished, we sit down and read our morning message together as a shared reading. We talk about the assembly we have at 2:00 and the science experiment we will begin. Our grammar unit is on adjectives, so I call five students to identify an adjective within the message. Finally, we end with a whip around the circle and each child shares one sentence about their weekend. At 9:45 we move back to our chosen seats and start our day.
For 14 years, I have started every single day with a morning meeting.
I originally learned about morning meeting through Responsive Classroom as a way to build classroom community and it is a non-negotiable in my room. Why? Because I know the importance of building a community that fosters respect and rapport among all members.We let our barriers down and allow others to see us differently. We push out of our comfort zones and take risks. Click To Tweet
When students are given the opportunity to interact with each other without the pressures of academics, they become connected to each other in a special way. It’s easier to show kindness to a peer with whom you have something in common. This leads to fewer behavior referrals and increased instructional time.
Yes, I’ve wondered if it’s truly worth the 15-20 minutes every day. I’ve thought about all the other things I could accomplish with that extra 20 minutes; especially in March when I’m behind in curriculum. Ultimately, though, I’ve never been willing to sacrifice this routine when I can see the long term benefits for our classroom community. If you aren’t meeting with your students daily, I encourage you to use these tips to get started.
Commit to Building Community
At first, 15-20 minutes per day seems like a huge time commitment. You may think: “I’m behind in word study” or “How will I get another reading group in?” This may be the time you normally do a daily language review and you don’t know when you would get that done otherwise. I won’t lie…there are choices you will have to make and you may need to rearrange your schedule or leave something out.
However, I truly believe the positives outweigh the negatives. It may be awkward or strained at first, but eventually it becomes part of your normal routine. There will be exceptions, such as field trip days or assemblies. I hold meetings on those days too, but they look a little different. Meetings can be flexible and fun and instructional. You just have to commit!
Plan Logistics for Building Community
When will you hold your meeting? I have always done a morning meeting because I love how it starts our day. However, a meeting at the end of class may work better for your students. You could use this time to wrap up the day, reflect, and prepare for tomorrow. I know teachers who meet right after lunch and use it as a way to refocus students after recess. If you are departmentalized, you may hold a quick 10 minute meeting instead of a full 20 minutes. The great thing about this is you can be flexible to meet the needs of your class and your schedule.
You also need to decide on your meeting space. Where will you meet? Will you have students sit in chairs or on the floor? Because I teach littles, my students sit in a circle on our carpet. Older students may use chairs. However, the circle is a must-have so students can see each other. At the beginning of the year, I arrange my room with the meeting space as the focus and work around it.
Another thing to consider is how you will signal students when it’s time for your meeting. This year I jumped on the doorbell bandwagon with a catchy tune. But for the thirteen years prior, I used a rainstick. Once again, choose what works best for you.
Plan the Meeting
I plan my morning meeting the same time I plan my lessons for the week. I organize my meeting using the Responsive Classroom model and incorporate four components: greeting, activity, news, and share. Each part has a different purpose and focuses on teaching a different skills. While you may not always include all four parts, be intentional about which parts to include and your purpose for using them.
Begin with a Greeting
Every meeting begins with a greeting. At the beginning of the year, I teach a basic handshake and how to greet each other using names. From there, we go to more fun ones such as chants or a ball toss. I try to teach one new greeting per week and then start incorporating more as the year goes on. The greeting encourages students to say good morning to classmates they may not normally talk to. We discuss the importance of names, welcoming everyone with kindness, and how to show appreciation for each other.
After the greeting, it’s time for an activity. This is a time you can let loose and have some fun with your students. I love to play quick collaborative games that encourage team-building or sing fun songs to get students moving. The purpose of the activity is to encourage students to work together in a relaxed way.
We let our barriers down and allow others to see us differently. We push out of our comfort zones and take risks. One of my favorite activities is “Boom Chicka Boom” because it forces me to think quickly and be silly on the spot. It’s not always comfortable for me, but it’s important to model that for my students.
Activities are never mandatory in morning meeting, so students can choose how far to push themselves. Usually every student participates by the end of the year, but I never want to force that.
Next we move to the news. I write the news of the day in a friendly letter format on the dry erase board. This includes any schedule changes or materials needed for the day. I also include an academic question about a current topic for students to consider. We read the message as a shared reading to practice fluency, and if we have a specific grammar or spelling concept, I will incorporate that into the message for the class to identify. Younger students could fill in the date or helper names. A message for older students could include new vocabulary or a review of types of punctuation. This is the perfect place to review previously taught material or preview new topics.
Finally, we end with a share. Some days this is a quick whip around the circle and students answer a question such as one thing they did over the weekend or their favorite part of the read aloud. At the beginning of the year, we do a lot of ‘get to know you questions’ like favorite colors or number of pets.
One of our favorite shares is when I ask would you rather questions and they have to defend their answers. As the year goes on, I have students sign up to share a story from their personal life. Classmates can then ask three questions. This helps students improve active listening and communication skills. They find things in common with classmates and I encourage them to continue those conversations at lunch or recess. Another positive to share is they leave with new ideas for writer’s workshop.
A quick tip for planning your meeting: choose things that complement each other. For instance, if your greeting is longer, then choose a shorter activity. If your activity has a lot of movement, choose a greeting that is more stationary. This balances everything out and keeps you within your time limit. It’s very difficult to hold a meeting on a whim so take the extra time to plan ahead. If you are struggling for ideas, there are plenty available with a quick internet search.[scroll down to keep reading]
Enjoy Building Community!
Morning meeting is fun! It will quickly become your students’ favorite time of day as well as yours. When I leave my door open, students in the hall stop and watch because we are laughing and dancing and yelling. I love that my class can see me as a person without my “teacher hat”. They see me take risks, step out of my comfort zone, and act silly. They see me greet their peers and feel how excited I am they came to school today. When students see me do that, they are more willing to do it themselves. The relationship skills they learn during morning meeting carry throughout the rest of the day.
I encourage you to make a commitment to try morning meeting this year. Start small…do a handshake greeting and share the news. Work your way up to a longer meeting when you feel ready. Or jump in with both feet, figure it out as you go, and see where it takes you. Either way, use this time to show your students you care about them as people, outside of academics. Such a small moment of time can completely change your classroom climate. You’ll be amazed at the community you build!
About Maggie Gifford
Maggie Gifford is a 17 year veteran with a background in elementary and special education. She is currently loving 2nd grade! Maggie’s ultimate goal is to reach all learners and develop self-motivated change makers. Her passion is to go beyond the standard to make learning fun! She thrives on coffee and good books.. She lives with her husband and 2 children in southeast Ohio.