Oh, the joys of developing your classroom! There are so many things to think about. First, your classroom. How will it look? Will you do desks or tables? Flexible seating? So many things to ponder. Then you begin to think about rules and expectations. When and how will students ask to sharpen pencils? When is a good time to use the restroom? Should I even bother with a line order? Two lines or one?
With all these things to consider, it is easy to forget about developing the community of your classroom. You may even think “It will just all fall into place.” This may work for some teachers but in my experience… N O P E.
I quickly learned how important it is to create a welcoming and engaging space for students to learn. The teachers job is to create an atmosphere for students to succeed, but the students must help manage the community.
At my school, we have a block of time scheduled for teachers to hold a morning meeting with their class. This has become a treasure I hold near and dear. Many morning meetings take place throughout my school, but each teacher has a different routine and structure. I will share how I hold my meetings but know this is NOT the only way to do it. What works for you is wonderful!
Before I started my morning meetings, I read the book The Morning Meeting Book and found it to be incredibly helpful in planning and executing a morning meeting. There are 4 components to a morning meeting: greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message. Now, I’m going to be honest… I never get to all of these. I usually will hit two or three out of the four, but never all four components. My kids get too wiggly and we have specials right after our meeting, so we are always on a time crunch.
My Morning Meetings:
- We come to the carpet, sit in a circle, and start with our Whole Brain Teaching Rules. I choose one student to lead us in our rules. My students mirror the leader that was chosen.
- Handshakes. During this time, students go around the circle and shake the hand of the person sitting next to them. We have practiced using eye contact each time and always greeting others in our circle by saying, “Good Morning” and using their name. This helps my kids to learn each others’ names and also build meaningful, respectful relationships with their peers.
- Now, I ask the whole group a question and give them 30 seconds to think about their answers. Then we go around the circle and each student gets 5 seconds to share (it is probably more than 5 seconds… I usually countdown from 5 to 1 on my fingers). If a student doesn’t know we skip and then ALWAYS come back to them later.
- By this time, we are usually nearing the end of our morning meeting. I always leave the meeting by telling the students what our day will look like. I allow this to serve as my message for the day.
This probably seems chaotic or unnecessary, but this has made the biggest difference in my students’ days. When we don’t have time for a meeting or have another thing to take care of, it shows. Often when we skip our meeting my kids struggle to follow the rules and lack empathy for each other. These students crave time to talk: Morning meetings allow them a moment to learn about each other and care about one another.
I have enjoyed seeing students trust one another with some of the things they have shared. They have become very transparent with one another and it truly shows. Each day, I get to come into a classroom where students care about each other; I really think they care because they are allowed an opportunity to and taught explicitly how to treat and respect one another.
One of the biggest treasures I have seen this year I attribute to our time in morning meetings. Because of our success in morning meetings, I have seen a few of my kids come alongside and support a student in my class who struggles with staying on task and following directions. They always try and make sure he is included. They help him if he isn’t doing the right thing. They support him and give him high-fives when he gets a good report. They care about him and how he does in school and life. It is so amazing to see these kids developing their character and becoming beautiful people inside and out. Oh, what a joy to build a community.
Next time, I will discuss my top five treasures as a first-year teacher in the first quarter.