Classroom meetings have long been a tradition in schools. Most commonly, Morning Meeting is an opportunity for all students in a classroom to gather with their homeroom teacher for community-building and the teaching and practicing of both academic and social skills. Typically, these classroom meetings take place first thing in the morning, setting a positive tone for the day and lending predictability and routine for students by reviewing the day’s schedule. The Responsive Classroom approach to Morning Meeting details four specific components that must be present: a Greeting, Sharing, Activity and News and Announcements chart.
The Greeting component of Morning Meeting promotes a sense of inclusion, importance, and belonging. Every child and adult is greeted by name and all students are able to see each other, typically sitting in a circle in the classroom meeting area. The Greeting is infused with countless social skills such as learning a proper handshake, making eye contact, and practicing appropriate voice and tone. Greetings range in complexity based on grade level and time of year. As students grow more comfortable with their peers, the Greeting includes increased risk-taking (i.e. shaking hands vs. simply saying hello.) Greetings also often incorporate academic skills. For example, a child may greet a classmate by name, followed by reciting a multiplication fact. Greetings are often themed, as could be the case if a teacher asks students to greet a classmate and then tell them the name of one state in the US. Greetings, as well as the other components of Morning Meeting, are adaptable to any skill – social or academic – chosen by the teacher.
The Activity component of Morning Meeting, while continuing to reinforce academic and social skills, often focuses on cooperation amongst members of the larger classroom group. The Activity is often a game and may involve listening, strategizing and working together toward a common goal. Students learn important skills for supporting each other and persistence, and these skills carry over into other school and home settings.
Giving students an opportunity for Sharing lets them know that they have something important to say and that they are valued. It affords the student a chance to practice public speaking and all of the skills associated with that. Typically, classmates ask questions or make comments to the person sharing. Often, these conversations give the student sharing a great deal of practice backing up their share with specific details. This skill frequently carries over into academics like writing, where details are essential. Sharing may be news that is lighthearted or serious. It allows students to practice socially appropriate responses to a variety of events. Preferably, students share news verbally, rather than physical objects. However, as students learn the routine these props can be helpful.
The News and Announcements chart – also frequently called the Morning Message – is an interactive document usually written by the teacher. Students are typically asked to respond to a prompt or solve a problem. This allows them to share information about themselves (i.e. Do you have a dog?) or showcase their academic skills or thinking. The Morning Message also orients the class to the daily schedule and any changes in routine, such as special events. Students read the Morning Message upon entering the room, even before the meeting begins.
Morning Meetings are a fantastic opportunity to showcase student leadership, particularly for older students. With support, students can write the message, lead the activity or facilitate the sharing.
The importance of Morning Meeting necessitates that all students are at school on time each day. It teaches and reinforces important academic and social skills. It orients students to the schedule and creates a sense of importance and belonging. Missing Morning Meeting can cause undue stress and cause students do not have information that is given to the general group.
While Morning Meeting is the cornerstone – a daily occurrence – of classroom meetings, many classrooms also conduct a closing meeting or problem-solving meeting, when needed. Closing meetings are typically held at the very end of the school day and give students an opportunity to reflect on the day, how the group worked together, and on their individual successes and challenges. Frequently, the class and/or individual students set goals for the following day. It continues to build community, but is less formal and typically last for less time than Morning Meeting.
Problem-Solving Meetings are conducted on an as-need basis. They gather the entire class in an effort to address systemic challenges and plan for the groups’ success. These meetings encourage collaboration, peer support, honesty, respect, and envisioning an approach to create future success. During these meetings, the teacher (or sometimes students) facilitate and ensure a respectful, caring approach.
Classroom meetings are a great tool for building community and supporting academic and social skills development.
Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon