Morning Meetings – How to Empower Students, Build Community, and Create a Sense of Belonging
The school year is beginning and you want to start the year with a strong foundation. You want to establish a climate of trust in your classroom and among your students. It’s important to you that students feel a sense of belonging and have fun in your classroom.
You know that being a teacher is so much more than teaching content – it’s about fostering social and emotional learning as well.
That’s why having a Morning Meeting in your classroom is a total game-changer. If you’re not familiar with Morning Meeting we’re going to break it down by dissecting all the benefits and how to tangibly implement Morning Meetings in your classroom.
What Exactly Is a Morning Meeting?
I’m so glad you asked. A Morning Meeting is part of the daily routine in many classrooms across the country. It sets the tone for respectful learning among students, and the overall tone for the day.
Social and emotional learning is crucial for all ages, and while scheduling a Morning Meeting into your day is easiest in elementary school, aspects of the Morning Meeting can be used to connect with students of all ages.
Here’s how it works: Each morning, students, teachers and visitors gather in a circle on the floor. They greet each other by name, and listen and respond to news shared by members of the group.
Morning Meeting consists of four components:
- Group Activity
- Morning Message
Let’s take a closer look at each component of the Morning Meeting.
Greeting – It Matters That You Are Here
After everyone is seated in the circle, the greetings begin. Each person in the group will be greeted by name, and greet another person by name as well.
Before students know each other, this part includes asking names, then greeting using that person’s name. This ensures that every student is acknowledged, and over time, fosters a sense of belonging.
This also sets a positive tone for the day and helps children learn each other’s names. And, practicing hospitality is a skill that will serve students well for their entire lives.
As your students get more comfortable with greeting each other, you can add some variety to your greetings. This variety should be added a few months into the school year, when students have a solid routine and know the Morning Meeting expectations well.
Here are a few ideas to spice up your Morning Meetings after your students have the normal routine down. You can have students:
- Greet each other in alphabetical order.
- Gently toss a ball to the student they want to greet. That student returns the greeting, then passes the ball on to another student.
- For older students, use the ball toss greeting above, then have students pass the ball back around in the same order, but silently. You can even introduce more than one ball at a time and have students keep the same pattern.
- Give a compliment as they greet each other.
- Practice greetings in different languages. This can accompany what you may be learning about in Social Studies.
- Formal greetings using Mr. or Ms. and the student’s last name.
Greeting by name each day helps students feel valued, liked, and wanted.
Sharing Is Caring
According to Roxanne Kriete, author of The Morning Meeting Book, sharing helps develop the skills of caring communication and involvement with one another.
This takes students a step further than just knowing each other’s names. When students begin sharing at Morning Meeting they get to know each other’s interests and things about each other outside of school.
Once students begin building these relationships, they’ll gain empathy for one another and naturally begin to inquire about their classmates' well being.
Plus, sharing helps students become more comfortable speaking in front of a group and strengthens vocabulary development.
Unlike the greeting, not all students will share every meeting. This is optional for students who would like to tell the class about something that’s important to them.
Here are a few ideas for creating a structured sharing time in your Morning Meeting:
- Have a plan for who will share by creating a rotation or a sign up sheet when students come in the door in the morning.
- Always make sharing optional. Even if a student signs up to share and then changes their mind, that’s okay. There should be no pressure to share.
- To encourage student sharing, you can present students with a topic to share about, such as a favorite food, holiday memory, or a “would you rather” type question.
- After a student shares, classmates can respond. Have a procedure for how this will look. For example, the sharer will choose three classmates with their hands raised to respond to the news that was shared. You can do whatever variation of this that works best for your class and teaching style.
Sharing at Morning Meeting develops the skills of articulating thoughts and forming related questions, both of which are important for cognitive development.
Group Activity – Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Group activities during Morning Meeting contribute to the sense of community in a classroom. They build engagement and help fight apathy by providing a safe activity that ALL students are able to participate in.
Here are a few ideas for activities during Morning Meeting:
- Alphabetical Story – Students collaborate to create a story. Going around the circle, each student contributes one sentence to the story. The first student must start their sentence with an “A,” the next student with a “B,” and so on.
- Ball Toss – Have one student stand in the center of the circle with a ball. This student spins around 3 times, then tosses the ball to another student. The student who catches the ball names a category. The student in the center returns to the circle. Then students pass the ball around the circle naming things in that category.
- Song Scramble – Have students divide into groups of two to three people. Name a topic (examples: colors, dancing, joy, animals, etc.) then give students three minutes to come up with as many songs as possible that include that topic.
- Frozen Scene – Choose two students to go into the center of the circle. They will decide on and act out a simple scene, such as grocery shopping. At any time, another student can shout, “Freeze!” and the two actors must freeze in place. Then, that student will replace one of the actors in the scene putting their body in the exact same position. The two in the center now act out a different scene that makes sense for the positions their bodies are in.
Practicing group activities during Morning Meeting encourages cooperation and inclusion, while simultaneously giving the class a sense of identity.
Messages With Meaning
Morning messages are a way to get students excited about what they’ll be learning that day. Messages are written as a letter or chart on poster paper or the whiteboard. They can be related to any subject. The daily message will help reinforce mathematical concepts, language, or social skills in a meaningful way.
To keep things consistent, your message should include the following each day – a friendly greeting, the date, focus of the message, and an interactive task.
Here’s an example of a morning message for younger grades:
Good Morning, Children!
Gracie is first.
Charles is the doorholder.
Today is Monday.
Do you like hamburgers?
Here’s an example of a morning message for older grades:
Good Morning, Mathematicians!
Wow! You have been multiplying machines the last few days!
Here is a problem for you to try: 45 x 9 = __________
Have your work with you at Morning Meeting and be ready to explain how you got your answer.
Create your own multiplication problem for your classmates to solve during work time later. Write your problem below:
These examples show how the morning message can be easily adapted for any age or group. As the last part of Morning Meeting, the message transitions students smoothly into classroom learning time.
Teacher Tips for Morning Meeting
Although there is a specific structure to the Morning Meeting, each element is flexible. As you get to know your students better you’ll be able to tell what activities will be a good fit.
Set expectations for respectful sharing and listening from the very first Morning Meeting, and stick to them. There will be days where this is easier, and days where this is more challenging, but in the end, you will have students that feel a sense of belonging and a strong classroom community.
Make Morning Meetings a priority in your classroom, and watch as your classroom community grows, and your students feel a sense of belonging and joy at school.
Morning Meetings are just one strategy to build community and make your classroom an awesome place for your students. If you are an early education professional looking to feel the same community and empowerment you facilitate in your classroom, you won't want to miss our Early Learning Teach Your Heart Out Conference. You will gain innovative ideas, and feel empowered to be more inspiring in the classroom.