Monday, September 15, 2014

Morning Meetings: A Positive Way To Start Your Day!

One thing that I know for sure is Morning Meetings have helped me build a positive classroom community during the past 15 years.  

I used to call these gatherings with students "Community Circle" which was based on Jeanne Gibb's Tribes book.  It doesn't really matter what you call it, it is the same concept.  A time to gather students together and build relationships.

For me, it's a quick way to get "face-to-face" time with students, build relationships, practice positive behaviors, and practice speaking and listening skills.  By including this short 5-10 minute time, I feel more connected to my students.  Students may come into the classroom in a bad mood and by the end of Morning Meeting, this positive time with classmates will turn their day around.  It's a wonderful gauge of how they are feeling on a particular day.

So often, we get so wrapped up in all the curriculum things that we HAVE to do, that we forget the most important thing- building relationships with students.  Build a relationship with a student and I promise you they will do their best to learn in your classroom.  Kids crave this personal connection.

Over the years, I have adapted the morning meeting to keep it simple and easy to do.  For morning meetings, I gather them in a sitting circle in our group area.  It usually ends up being more like an oval because I have so many students, but that's OK.  Sometimes it even looks like a weird amoeba.  I also ask that students face one another and not have their back to anyone.  This reinforces inclusion of all students.  No one ever feels left out.

Before Morning Meeting choose an object to pass around.  It could be a squishy ball or small stuffed animal.  I keep a big basket of items and students love to choose the pass around for the day.

I ask students to adhere to certain mutual agreements. It is important to establish these agreements right away.  Take time to practice, practice, practice!  You may even want to post these agreements in your classroom.

Morning Meeting Agreements
  1. Use attentive listening.  Listen to the speaker with your eyes, ears, and heart.  Track the speaker with your eyes.
  2. Show mutual respect.  Do not speak unless it is your turn and you have the pass around object.  Pass the object respectfully.  We also respect other people's right to privacy.  What's said in the classroom, stays in the classroom.
  3. You have the "right to pass" and always have the "right to participate".  There are some days when you may not feel like sharing and that is OK.  If you choose to pass, then you must be a silent observer.
  4. No put downs.  We don't laugh at others or call other people names.
  5. Appreciate others.  If someone gives you a compliment, say "Thank you".
Below is the schedule that I use.  I keep it the same each week so students know exactly what to expect.  Believe me, they get used to the schedule and if you vary it, they will balk about it.  Before each share time, I model how to answer the question and then pass the object either to my right or left.  I always let the person know which way I will pass so they have time to prepare what they are going to say.  

Morning Meeting Schedule

Weekend Report:  Students tell about their weekend.  I ask them to keep it at 30 seconds or less.  As a teacher, you can gain valuable information during this time.  You will find out how students like to spend their free time and it may spur another conversation later in the day.  Many times, students may find out they have something in common with another student.

Show or Tell:  I did a post on this earlier, but basically students bring in an item to share, tell something, or demonstrate something.  It's old school, but effective for getting to know your students.  Even big kids love it.  Check out my post "Show and Tell is for Big Kids Too" to learn more about this and the positive effects it can have in your classroom.

Compliment Circle:  Students may choose to "give, get, or pass".  Students may "give" a compliment to a friend, a group, or the whole class.  They may choose to "get" a compliment.  When a student wants to get a compliment, I ask that three students raise their hands to give this student a compliment. The student may choose one of those three people to give him or her a compliment.  When receiving a compliment, I remind students to say "Thank you."  You may have to have a mini-lesson on how to give compliments and how to respond to compliments.  

Surprise Topic: It could be anything.  Tell about your favorite food, animal, book, movie, etc... Or it could be based on something that you are learning in class.  You may even have a jar with topic ideas written on small pieces of paper.

Peak or Pit:  Students tell about their high point of the week (Peak) or their low point of the week (Pit).  Again, as a teacher, you will gain valuable information about your students during this share time.  

During morning meetings, students may share information that may be sad. For instance, they may have a family member who has passed away, or a relative who is gravely sick.  They may share happy moments of their life.  It is ok to let them open up in this safe environment, but be sure to establish guidelines of mutual respect.   If you feel a student needs to speak more in depth about something going on in their life, please refer them to your school guidance counselor who can help them in more serious matters.

Here is my well loved and used TRIBES book.  It has great ideas for
how to establish community building time in your day.  
Morning Meetings are a great way to build a rapport with your students and encourage a supportive, positive learning community.  

You can get more ideas in The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete, Morning Meeting Afternoon Wrap-Up by Donna White, or TRIBES by Jeanne Gibbs.

Do you use Morning Meetings in your classroom?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section below!


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