Monday, July 20, 2015

Building Relationships with Morning Meetings



The best thing that has happened to me in my career so far has been Responsive Classroom. I was highly skeptical about its effectiveness at first, because it was so different from the clip chart systems, points systems, rewards systems, etc. that I used in my first few years of teaching. Once I gave it a chance and gave it my all, it completely transformed my philosophy as a teacher.

One of the main focuses of Responsive Classroom is building cooperative, respectful, trusting, and empathetic relationships. When these relationships are formed, and students intrinsically want to do the right thing for the good of the classroom and school community, behavior issues practically disappear. Children from all backgrounds, with a vast range of emotional, physical, and academic needs come together as a successful community of learners.

One of the key ingredients to building a successful community is the Morning Meeting. The Responsive Classroom model consists of four parts; A greeting, an opportunity to share, an activity, and a morning message from the teacher. Here's a handy dandy little visual to help you remember each step! Save it and print it out to keep nearby as you are getting used to the structure of Morning Meetings!


 This structure provides important social experiences, rather than an academic-focused morning meeting. That's not to say it can't have any academics.... We make a lot of connections to our content during share time, and I almost always incorporate phonics and writing convention skills in the morning message. Mostly though, it is meant to be a safe social time of the day where students feel recognized and valued. It should be around 20 minutes, although I have squeezed them into 15 minutes in the past and was still able to hold meaningful, powerful Morning Meetings.

I usually plan for the same Morning Meeting to be held for a week, then each week the meeting changes. When I say it "changes" I mean the particular ways of greeting, sharing, and participating in activities change; the structure is always the same. Predictable, safe, and a perfect way to transition from home to school every day.

Sometimes my Morning Meetings have a theme, sometimes they are more random, but they are always built around a particular character trait or social skill that my students are working on or need a refresher on. Here's an example of a Morning Meeting I would use when my students need some focus on self control-

I used a Promethean Board in my old school (I'm moving this year!), so most of my Morning Meetings agendas and messages were up on the Promethean.


Greetings provide children a sense of recognition and belonging. This greeting, Roll the Ball, is just what it sounds like. ;) Students sit in a circle and roll the ball to someone across the circle from them, greeting them by name (A very important detail to remember! Using names makes everyone feel valued!).

The share time gives students an opportunity to share news or information, and then respond to each other in a meaningful and respectful way. It develops their skills of communication. For this particular share activity, Lightning Round, I would give a (usually content related) topic for the students to think about, such as "Share what your favorite place in your community is!" Then one person would start the "lightning round" of sharing by saying their answer as fast as they can, then each person around the circle shares their quick answer until all have shared. Sometimes I get a timer out to really make them think quickly! Afterwards, I would ask a few students to share what someone else's answer was and tell about a connection to that person, to ensure that they are really listening to each other and learning about each other.

The activity portion of the Morning Meeting builds a positive class culture by encourage inclusion, participation from all, and cooperation. And most importantly- it should be FUN! The Laughing Feather is so much fun, and a fantastic way to show what self control really means. You simply take a feather, and throw it up into the air. As it is floating down, the students laugh and laugh their heads off. The moment the feather touches the ground, they have to become silent and perfectly still. When repeated a few times, they really get an understanding of how it feels to be out of control, and in control.

The morning message for the day tells students a little about what they can expect, and it eases the transition into the day. The example I've posted incorporates a particular word focus that the students would be working on: contractions. I would have them identify and circle the contractions in the morning message, and tell or write which two words make up each contraction. I also would have students think, pair, share to summarize the message to ensure they are really reading/listening and comprehending what is stated in the message.

At the end of the meeting, before moving on to the next part of our day, we would have a brief discussion about how we used self control in each part of our morning meeting, and we would connect those thoughts to how the skill of using self control can help us throughout the day at school.

These meetings are just a lovely way to start the day, and they help students to build the character traits and social skills needed in order to be members of a well functioning community of learners.

On my never-ending To Do list, I plan to put my many morning meeting ideas for different greetings, shares, and activities into a format that I can share with others.

**Update!!! Check out the comprehensive resource below that makes planning for Morning Meetings so easy. With 20 greetings, 20 share structures, 20 activities, and 6 morning message templates, you will be good to go!

Morning Meeting Resources


You can also find lots of good stuff on the Responsive Classroom website and youtube channel, and I highly recommend the following books from Responsive Classroom:

https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/product/morning-meeting-book


https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/product/energizers


https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/product/80-morning-meeting-ideas-grades-k-2

If you have been considering giving RC Morning Meetings a try, go for it! You won't ever look back, I guarantee it!  =)

One more thing! It's not recommended that you do a full out Morning Meeting right away. Here's a good article explaining how and why to take it slow in the first weeks of school, and piece by piece build up to a full morning meeting. http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/blog/take-it-slow-morning-meeting

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing these resources. I am interested in using morning messages in my pre-k classroom. I also need the experience because I never know if I will have teach K-3.

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  2. Thank you for sharing these resources. I am interested in using morning messages in my pre-k classroom. I also need the experience because I never know if I will have teach K-3.

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    Replies
    1. You are very welcome! Morning Meetings would absolutely be great for Pre-K too. I have a child going into Pre-K this year and I know he would love this structure for Morning Meeting!

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