Ah, the morning meeting — that daily group session that begins right after kids hang backpacks in their cubbies. To parents and those with an outside view, the routine might seem like a formality or a simple exercise in classroom management. But really, something transformational can occur when kids circle up and sit cross-legged on the elementary classroom carpet.
No two classrooms are the same, to be sure. No teacher experiences the same day twice. And the kids? They bring new meaning to the concept of unpredictability. Still, the morning meeting always has the power to set the foundation for a successful day. This recurring meet-and-greet allows teachers to ascertain their kids’ emotional needs, set expectations and objectives, mitigate the troubles of yesterday, nurture classroom community, and increase academic retention.
The way we see it, the recipe for an impactful morning meeting boils down to five steps, which can be tailored to fit your classroom’s needs and culture.
Part 1: Check the Emotional Barometer
“How are you feeling today?”
This is a powerful question, the closest a teacher can get to seeing the internal mechanisms of a young person’s psyche. As luck would have it, kids tend to give candid descriptions about their emotional state. While it’s not always easy in a class of 20+ students, it’s best to ask each individual child this exact question.
Kids might tell you something silly their dog did. Or they might tell you about a concern they have about an upcoming spelling test. Or they might tell you they feel sad, or confused, or frustrated, or scared. When you know the emotional temperature, you can provide the instruction and care they need to feel safe and included.
Part 2: Set Goals and Expectations
It’s not all SEL and soft skills. As a teacher, you have concrete goals you need to complete each day, and when kids haven’t shaken out their sillies, or find themselves in an emotional space where it’s tough to pay attention, it’s difficult to meet those objectives. This is where clear goals and expectations enter the equation.
The mission might be to prepare for a math test, to enjoy 20 minutes of silent reading, to work together fluidly, or some combination thereof. The particulars of the goal are irrelevant; the important thing is that kids are aware of what they should be working toward.
Part 3: Address Opportunities for Behavioral Improvement
If you enjoy a class of perfect angels who enter the room each day hungry for knowledge and practicing good citizenship, then congrats — you have achieved the impossible. But if you’re like most teachers (read: pretty much all of them), then your students exhibit some level of behavioral problems. The morning meeting provides an ideal opportunity to course correct, provide incentive for good choices, and address the issues of yesterday.
While positive behavioral intervention systems provide the best results, this is not to say that issues should go unaddressed. The morning meeting allows you to express what happened, the negative consequences that arose from it, and how to make better decisions should a similar issue arise.
Part 4: Engage in Social Growth
It might be a secret to kids, who think all of us grown-ups are in cahoots, but not all adults get along on an interpersonal level. Sometimes two well-intentioned, perfectly pleasant, morally upstanding people don’t mesh well. And that’s OK. The thing is, the same rule applies to youngsters. What matters is that we can work with those with whom we don’t necessarily enjoy spending time. That’s what true social maturity looks like.
During the morning meeting, you can divide students up into twos and have them say good morning, ask one another preset questions, or play a short game. If you continuously switch pairs, eventually students will encounter classmates with whom they don’t enjoy a stellar relationship. But can they communicate with one another? Eventually, they’ll learn.
Part 5: Ring Academic Bells
Did you know you can use morning meeting time to practice academic skills? In fact, the opportunity allows you to blend social exercises with scholastic activities. For example, you might have a conversation that requires the use of new vocabulary words, or divide into two-person groups by pairing math problems with their correct answers.
Academic bell-ringers are so important to prepare for state testing and to enhance knowledge retention, but these initiatives often upset the flow of the day. By sneaking a little gamified academics into your morning meeting, you ensure the things that you and past teachers have instilled will stick in their brains.