One of the strategies I grew to appreciate in my several decades of teaching was starting my class with a warm-up. A tangible transition between the previous class (or recess) and mine seemed to orient students to my topic and make the entire class go more smoothly. For me, because I taught what is called specials or pull-outs (I taught technology), I did this at the beginning of a class period. When you do this at the beginning of the day, it’s called not a warm-up but a morning meeting.
What is a Morning Meeting
Morning meetings are a time when students and teacher gather together, usually in a circle, for an organized start-of-day activity. They can be as quick as fifteen minutes or as long as thirty. You determine this based on what students need to start their day as lifelong learners. Some days are quick; others, not so much. That’s OK. In fact, it’s good to be flexible with the schedule and responsive to student needs. They learn faster when you’re listening to them and come to believe they are worthy. As such, they begin to believe in themselves.
Goals of a Morning Meeting
The broad purpose of a morning meeting is to transition students between home and school, to greet them as you would a guest in your house. It’s an informal way to re-acquaint everyone with each other and with the classroom ecosystem. Think of it on par with a family dinner, where parents and children come together in a relaxed environment to do something everyone enjoys. You start by welcoming students, reviewing the day’s activities, discussing changes in the classroom, meeting new students, celebrating the accomplishments of classmates, and anything else that benefits from a whole-group meeting.
While it is informal, it is not disorganized. Here’s how to make sure it goes smoothly:
- Do set the goals for the day.
- Do have rules. These remind children that activities follow a pattern and everyone benefits by the structure.
- Do have a time limit. Students will learn to participate quickly. They also understand that when it’s an activity they don’t like, it’ll end soon. In that way, they learn to be tolerant and patient.
- Do set the tone for respectful learning.
- Do reinforce behavioral expectations. Review proper decorum in class if necessary; correct where needed.
- Do establish a climate of trust.
- Do motivate students to feel significant.
- Do create empathy and encourage collaboration.
- Do support social, emotional and academic learning.
- Do ask for feedback — were goals met?
- Do have only one student speak at a time, to show respect, to reinforce speaking and listening skills. You might pass a baton or toss a bean bag to the speaker.
- Do expect students to speak in complete sentences with rich and robust words.
- Do treat it as a safe space; encourage students to speak honestly while being respectful of everyone.
Favorite Morning Meeting Activities
I dug through the many ideas from my personal learning network and came up with these popular morning meeting activities:
- a greeting where everyone greets everyone else. For some, this might be their first greeting of the day.
- a song
- a video
- an activity (where students get up and do something — like exercise!)
- a discussion of their prior evening
- a discussion of the upcoming day
- a student-led self-reflection
- a five-minute game to reinforce an academic topic such as vocabulary or historic facts (related to a current unit of inquiry)
- a sharing time where students can voice their thoughts, opinions, and feelings. You can even allow a limited number of questions to the student doing the sharing.
- a time for routine practice such as math facts, calendar skills, or another
As you use these, mix them up. Vary them to suit your students. Never use one two days in a row (except, of course, the greeting). You always want them fresh, thought-provoking, and engaging. An education pedagogy that works nicely with robust morning meetings is Whole Brain Teaching (click for my review).
What is my favorite Morning Meeting Tool?
It’s tempting to run your morning meeting the same every day, with some sort of circle of students, holding hands, re-establishing the classroom community. That’s fine but if you want to kick your day starter up a notch, my favorite approach is something called Responsive Classroom. According to the website:
“Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to education that focuses on the strong relationship between academic success and social-emotional learning (SEL). The Responsive Classroom approach empowers educators to create safe, joyful, and engaging learning communities where all students have a sense of belonging and feel significant.”
Responsive Classroom not only provides all the important day starters I’ve discussed but encourages joy, risk-taking, student engagement, and the achievement of student potential. Plus, lots of teachers report that they no longer need “discipline charts” or behavior apps because Responsive Classroom provides the tools for proper behavior that are reinforced throughout the day. The activities laid out by the (fee-based) program connect each in a scaffolded way to each other. Over time, according to those who love Responsive Classroom, it significantly improves student behavior and classroom community, allowing the academic goals to be more easily achieved.
Responsive Classroom organizes the morning meeting for teachers as follows:
- Greeting: Students and teachers greet one other by name.
- Sharing: Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners offer empathetic comments or ask clarifying questions.
- Group Activity: Everyone participates in a brief, lively activity that fosters group cohesion.
- Morning Message: Students read a short message written by their teacher. The message is crafted to help students focus on the work they’ll do in school that day.
Additionally, it ties start-of-day messages to the balance of the day, reinforcing those messages until they become part of the class and who students are.
I am not pushing Responsive Classroom. In fact, it’s just one of several great approaches out there to building a positive classroom community. It just happens to be the one I’m familiar with from my school. Whatever way you start your class day, recognize it as an important five-ten minutes that will set the tone for the rest of the day’s learning. Deliver it thoughtfully, lovingly, and with care.
— published first on TeachHUB
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.