How to Make Morning Meeting the Best Part of Your Day

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In the regular ed classroom, Morning Meeting was always my very FAVORITE part of the day, and most of my students shared this sentiment.  During Morning Meeting, I connected with my students AND they connected with each other on a personal level more than any other time of the day.  Not only did I feel like I feel like our classroom community was nurtured and refreshed, I felt that the “positive vibes” during Morning Meeting set the tone of mutual respect for our entire school day.  The truth is, every child, every day needs to feel valued and included. The long term benefits of Morning Meeting make the 20-30 minutes per day well worth your time!
 I’ve seen several variations of Morning Meeting, some that are entirely focused on building social/emotional skills, some that are heavily focused on academics (often involving calendar and math skills), and some that involve a little bit of both.  My favorite model of Morning Meeting is from the Responsive Classroom program and is almost entirely devoted to social and emotional development, but easy to incorporate academic review as well.  According to the Responsive Classroom philosophy, the social/emotional curriculum is just as (or even more) important than the academic curriculum.   My favorite Responsive Classroom resources are The Morning Meeting Book and The First Six Weeks of School.  Quite honestly, they changed my ENTIRE classroom philosophy, guiding me to build the ideal classroom community of learners!  Click below to learn more about the Responsive Classroom program!
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You might be wondering (as I did) why Morning Meeting might be worth your time.  Like you, my instructional minutes were already packed as tightly as possible.  How on Earth could I devote 20-30 minutes per day to One. More. Thing?!  Well, it takes some flexibility and careful planning for sure, but the truth is, more and more students are entering our classrooms each year with a significant lack of social skills, leading to a continual increase of behavioral problems and social conflicts…ALL of which INTERRUPT our instructional time on a regular basis.  It’s an unfortunate reality that so many children do NOT learn or practice social and emotional skills in their homes, and the responsibility is ours to ensure that we are sending students into the world as models of citizenship and character.  I promise you, Morning Meeting is a pivotal tool that will PREVENT behavioral issues, allowing you to devote even more time to academic instruction.
Here are just a few of the skills that are practiced every single day during Morning Meeting:
Here is the sequence for the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting:
First things first, click below to download your FREE Morning Meeting templates and display poster!
I’ve seen teachers do the Message either at the very beginning of Morning Meeting or at the very end.  I always did mine at the end, for reasons that I’ll discuss below, but it’s really a matter of personal preference.  Students are usually seated in a circle for morning meeting, either on the carpet or in chairs.
The “Greeting” is the first component of Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting, and is a terrific way for students to practice healthy, respectful communication skills, not to mention begin the school day on a positive note! Appropriate greetings must be explicitly taught, modeled, practiced by students, and reinforced appropriately in order for them to be optimally beneficial in the classroom. As you introduce Greetings at the beginning of the school year, emphasize the following expectations:
*Eye contact
*Clear speaking voice with appropriate volume and friendly tone
*Stating the other student’s name
*Safe, appropriate touches
I also find it helpful to have a classroom job called the “Morning Meeting Master,” and that student is responsible for beginning the greeting for the duration of the week.  As students gain mastery and control over Morning Meeting, I will allow the Morning Meeting Master to choose the greeting each day.  Also, it is important to promote an atmosphere of kindness and respect for others during Morning Meeting, emphasizing that there will be a time for silly greetings, but self-control is still expected.  The Greeting Cards pictured above can be purchased in my TpT store.  The package includes 32 of my favorite greetings, along with editable greeting cards for you to add your own!
Sharing might be my very favorite component of Morning Meeting.  It’s no secret that students LOVE to talk about themselves.  It builds confidence, helps them feel valued, and helps them learn how to communicate effectively.  I learn more about my students’ interests, families, and talents during Sharing time than any other time.  Unfortunately, we do not have time for every student to share every day, so I have a daily schedule, with 4-6 students sharing per day.  Students always look forward to their “Share Day” to share special news with the class.  I allow them to share whatever they’d like, although students might need a prompt or starter at the beginning of the school year until they feel that they can open up more to their classmates.  When students finish sharing, they may choose 3 student volunteers that may ask a question, give a comment or compliment, or make a connection.  This is where the communication skills are optimally practiced, as all students must listen and respond appropriately and respectfully.  When a child finishes sharing, he or she says, “Thank you for listening,” and the class responds, “Thank you for sharing.”
The Activity or Game is usually the students’ favorite part of Morning Meeting. Why?! Because it’s so much fun! Responsive Classroom activities and games are intended to introduce, practice, and establish a classroom community of respect and trust. The ultimate goal is a gradual release of teacher responsibility, with a focus on student-led decisions and control. Through activities and games, students gain self-discipline, confidence, communication and social skills, empathy, respect for others, and a sense of belongings.  Students must be specifically taught expectations and given ample time to practice them. In order for the activities to become student-led, they must be repeated regularly. The first six weeks of school is the ideal time frame to introduce and practice expectations for activities and games. This is also the time for teachers to model procedures, lay “ground rules,” and deal with behavioral issues in a proactive manner. Specific skills to model and practice with students include cooperation, self-control, sharing, taking turns, listening skills, following directions, sportsmanship, mindfulness, metacognition, and basic social skills.
Sequence of instruction:
1) Introduce whole group
2) Model, practice, reinforce
3) Repeat activity, gradually releasing teacher control
The Morning Meeting Activities and Games cards pictured above are also available in my store, containing 85 favorite songs, activities, and games.  They are color-coded for the beginning, middle, and end of the year and also include editable cards for you to add your own!
The Message, as shown in the example above, gives students a “preview” of their day to come, including major lesson objectives and special events.  Children LOVE to know what to expect, and the Message is a simply way to give them a quick summary.  I always add a challenge, review or website link at the very end that leads into our first lesson of the day.  In the example, the prompt at the end would lead directly into a whole class mini-lesson on adjectives.  Morning Messages can also be handwritten on chart paper or large dry erase boards.  Giving that I have zero patience for handwriting ANYTHING, I always type mine to project on our Interactive Whiteboard.
***BIG TIP:  If you plan to type your Messages, I would suggest that you use PowerPoint and SAVE your slides by the week!  This is a huge timesaver because you can simply edit the general format year after year!***
I hope these tips might encourage you to give Morning Meeting a try in your classroom! The benefits are truly limitless for both you and your students.
 ***This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.  By purchasing an item on Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.***
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