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How to Launch Morning Meeting [episode 28]

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Morning Message: 

[00:55] What’s a skill that only teachers have?

Let’s be real, there are certain skills that only teachers possess. We have unique abilities that lend us a hand in the classroom and when dealing with students. We said skills only teachers have are getting a crowd where they need to be as efficiently as possible and deciphering kid-invented spelling.

Hearing from our listeners is so fun for us, so we had a lot of responses to this question! Our community responded with reading and writing upside down, walking backwards, clearing a paper jam from the copier while eating a sandwich, using the bathroom down the hall and getting back in a minute before the bell rings, healing student ailments with the wet paper towel trick, making kids think they’re having fun while they’re really learning, and finally, the infamous “ look”.

Here’s an overview of episode 28:

It’s no secret that we love and value the importance of procedures and routines, and one of our favorite routines is our classroom morning meeting. We find it a vital part to our morning and love that it helps foster community within the classroom. After getting into the groove of the first few weeks of school, you’re probably ready to establish your morning meeting routine, if you haven’t already. So in today’s episode, we’re sharing how to launch morning meeting in your classroom successfully.

We’ve already discussed what morning meeting is and the components in Episode 6, Morning Meeting: An Essential Routine, so be sure to check that episode out for background information. Just to refresh a little, we developed our morning meeting through a program that’s laid out in The Morning Meeting Book by The Responsive Classroom. Within that program, there’s four components: greeting, sharing, activity, morning message, and we added a fifth component of a moment of mindfulness and deep breathing. 

But there is a right and wrong way to introduce the morning meeting routine. You may feel that you need to introduce all of the components at once. Big mistake! It’s better to take it slow and take time to introduce each step slowly and purposefully.

Remember, morning meeting isn’t only valuable when you have all the components in place. Just the act of gathering for a shared moment as a class really has big benefits that will last the whole day.

Throughout the episode, we go into detail about when to add another component, how to know when your students are ready to add a new component, the importance of doing morning meeting every day, even on irregular school days, and finally, understanding the goal of morning meeting. While it’s a great time to address class issues or play a fun activity, the goal is connection. Connection amongst each other and connection within the class. 

Whether you haven’t established your morning meeting or you’re 2 weeks in and need to revamp it already, we’re here to show you how to launch morning meeting in your classroom. When you take it slow, start small, and remember the connection is the goal, you’ll have a successful morning meeting that will last the rest of the school year!

In this episode on how to launch morning meeting, we discuss:

  • A brief overview of the components of a morning meeting
  • Why taking it slow and being purposeful will bring you morning meeting success
  • How connection is the ultimate goal and benefit of morning meeting
  • The reason why morning meeting is a key component in your overall management plan
  • A listener question regarding rewards using a program by the Responsive Classroom

This week’s teacher approved tip:

[18:33] Keep a basket of props near your morning meeting space.

We’ve established that greeting and activity are two of the components in morning meeting, which can require extra props. Since we want morning meeting to run smoothly, it’s important to have those props readily available when you want to use them. Therefore, keeping a basket of props near where you conduct morning meeting is a smart tip!

Plus, we discuss and give explanations of some of our favorite morning meeting greetings and activities that require extra props.

What we’re giving extra credit to this week:

[20:22] Heidi is giving extra credit to The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

[21:22] Emily is giving extra credit to The Bodyguard by Katherine Center and Scribd

Resources:

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Read the transcript for episode 28, How to Launch Morning Meeting:

Hey there, thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re diving into how to launch morning meeting and sharing a teacher approved tip for making it run more smoothly. We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. Today’s morning message is what’s a skill that only teachers have? What do you think, Heidi? I think being able to get a crowd of people where they need to be when they need to be there as efficiently as possible. I don’t know if you remember that. Like when we visited the Statue of Liberty like it’s been a few years. So maybe it’s better now. But at the time, it was just so disorganized and chaotic. And we kept saying that all they needed to do was bring in like six first grade teachers for a week. And it would just be a completely different experience. Oh, I find myself frequently in some public place thinking, oh my gosh, this is not the most efficient way to do this. They need to do this differently. What do you think Emily? While deciphering kid invented spelling is a top teacher skill I think that a lot of people do not have definitely. We have some responses from our community too Stephanie said reading and writing upside down. That is a definite skill. Kayla said walking backwards. And I have done that and then tripped multiple times. Same. Jessica said, clearing a paper jam with one hand while eating a sandwich with the other. I guess bonus if you’re eating a jam sandwich, we’re the ultimate multitaskers. Sherry said using the bathroom down the hall and getting back in a minute and a half. bladder control and speed walking very impressive. But you gotta like slow walk past the classroom doors. So hurry. And Molly said healing student ailments with the wet paper towel trick, which feels like it should be trademarked. That’s like a top secret teacher skill there. I bet if they tried that in emergency rooms, they’d have a lot fewer people they should. Jeanne said making kids think they’re just having fun when really they’re learning. And Jen said the look oh yes. That skill has served me well over the years, especially in assemblies. We’d love to hear your response to this and other questions over in our Teacher Approved Facebook group, or on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow. And that is with a two.

By now you’ve probably made it through your first day of school, yay. Hopefully things are settling down and you’re seeing your sweet class start to come together as a community. One way that you can help foster that community is by scheduling a daily morning meeting. When we talk about morning meeting, we’re talking about the program that’s laid out by the Responsive Classroom. We’re big fans of them. They have an excellent book about morning meeting if you’re wanting to learn more, and we’ll put a link to that in our show notes. And you love morning meetings so much that we’ve actually already done a whole podcast episode with lots of tips and tricks for ways to make morning meeting more effective. And you can find all of that back in episode six back in early days.

But today, we’re going to dive into how to launch morning meeting at the beginning of the year. So Emily, why don’t you refresh our memories a little bit about the parts of a morning meeting? Oh, well, I would love to. In case you’re not familiar, a traditional morning meeting has four components, greeting, sharing, activity, and morning message. And then we added on a fifth component and end our morning meetings with a moment of mindfulness and deep breathing. We’re not going to dive into that last one too much today. But you can hear more about how we do that in our previous morning meeting episode. It’s so awesome when you have all of those pieces working together to create a peaceful nurturing transition to your school day.

But how do you get there? Well, the answer to that is slowly and it can be so hard to take things slow. At the beginning of the year. I think it’s really common to feel like you’re wasting time until things are up and running smoothly. Then there’s a tendency to apply that same pressure to morning meeting. You feel like you’re falling behind if it is the second week of school, and you still don’t have a full meeting in place. Oh, for sure that is a familiar feeling. But we really need to pump the brakes on that energy. It is not serving us well, in general, but it is especially not useful when it comes to morning meeting. That’s because when the meeting is zero stress, it is whatever you need it to be. And that’s it. Some classes are going to take six weeks to get up and running. And that’s okay. And some might be ready by the second week. And that’s okay, too. We need to remember that a morning meeting isn’t only valuable when you have all of the components in place. Just the act of gathering for a shared moment as a class really has big benefits that will last the whole day. Yes, and morning meeting is non negotiable to me, we will do some form of it every single day, even no crazy days of like field trips. So I like to get started with it right away, even in a very simple form. The first day of school, we just learn how to come to the rug. And then each student gets a chance to share something with the group. But I don’t really introduce the concept of morning meeting until the second day. And then that day, we start coming to the rug at our regular morning meeting time. And it takes some time for them to figure out how to make a circle. That’s one of those things that seems like it should be easy. But somehow it takes a lot of effort, especially if you don’t have like an equal amount of space all around. So maybe your circles s come in. We’re on one side. Yeah, we adapt. And then once they’re situated, I explain morning meeting. We’ll gather each day as a class and have the chance to learn about each other and have fun together. And then I start by teaching the classic morning meeting greeting of the handshake. And these days, kids typically don’t have much experience shaking hands we have found no, they really don’t. And you’ll learn this real quick. If you try and do this with your class, they’ll often like try and switch hands between greeting people on either side of them. So we just take it slow, I use our tell try to tally steps. So I start by telling them how to do it. And I model with a volunteer, it might go something like, I’m going to use my right hand and Zahra is going to use her right hand. And if I don’t know her name, I can ask then we shake without squeezing too hard. And I wish her good morning. So Good Mornings Zahra and she tells me good morning back. And guess you kind of do have to be that explicit in your instructions at first. And then the kids get a chance to try as the handshake is passed around the circle. And I’m always paying close attention. So I can offer coaching as needed. They particularly need support and asking each other’s names. Then after everyone is greeted, we do an easy sharing activity, like what’s your favorite color, and then we again go around the circle. And I expect them to say their names when we do this so that everyone else can learn their names more quickly. So it might be like, my name is Miss V and my favorite color is green. We just take it easy. But it does take several minutes on that first day. So that is all I planned for the first few days. And that’s okay, because we are not in a rush. I love how you can get started with this routine. So slowly, but still see benefits, you really can. But then as your class gets more comfortable with the morning meeting routine, you have to decide, are you going to introduce more components first, or you’re going to add more variety? Yeah, and I think it’s normal to feel that you want to rush right into getting the whole routine introduced as quickly as possible. But taking each component slowly is a much simpler approach. It’s more about the connection than it is about checking all the boxes. Yes, the connection is the whole reason we are doing this in the first place. So we focus on the things that build connection. We’re going to do that handshake greeting for probably the whole first week. And then once I feel like they’re comfortable with that, maybe I introduced the morning message component. I want them to answer the daily question as part of their morning routine. And then we discuss their responses as part of our morning meeting, just like we started a podcast. So we would still do the handshake for a few days while they’re getting used to the morning message. And then when I feel like they’ve got a good handle on that. Maybe I introduce a new type of reading like the ball roll. I love the ball roll such a fun greeting.

And then how do you decide when you’re going to introduce another component? I don’t introduce anything new, until I feel like what I’ve already introduced is running smoothly. And then I can add in maybe the mindfulness moment. And then maybe after that a third style of greeting can wild and crazy. Really by the time you’ve introduced the greeting, morning message and mindfulness components you might be a few weeks into school. Yeah, I probably would be and it’s okay hang out there, if that’s what the kids need. After a few more days, when I feel like we’re ready to change things up, I then introduce our formal sharing procedures. Sharing is one of the more flexible parts of morning meeting, I feel like. And I’ve seen lots of different ideas for making it work. But we both like to assign a table to have a day for sharing. Yeah, that worked really well for us, the kids just knew what days they could count on being able to share, right, and then the last component that I introduce, even if it’s not the last in the sequence of events in the morning meeting, is the activity. This adds the most fun to our meeting time. And it is definitely the kid’s favorite part. But I as a wet blanket, want to make sure that we are really solid on our predictable routine before I destabilize it with a bunch of novelty.

So when I do take the plunge into the activity, there really are endless options I could choose. If you dig a little online, you will find that out very quickly. But at the start of the year, I like to choose Action Songs that we can all do together. I know Emily, you were really a fan of the 2d ta, especially on days, they were driving me crazy. I love that one. And then after a few days of those action songs, I start to introduce more game based activities. It’s so smart to start with the action songs where everyone participates. And there aren’t any winners or losers. So everyone just has happy feelings at the end of that. And now you’ve introduced the whole meeting, it really takes time to introduce each step slowly and purposefully, I’ll know we’ve arrived when the students are able to come to the rug and find their spots quickly. And with a minimum of arguing, when everyone knows everyone else’s name during the greeting, Oh, that feels like a milestone, and you think the kids will have gotten it and it’ll be late November and kids are still asking. So it’s a moment to look forward to. I want the kids to feel safe sharing with the class and then have a class that responds to them in authentic ways. I want us all to be able to participate in a fun activity without getting too riled up. I did have one class where we never did the activity in morning meeting because they could not come back down. And then I want kids to offer thoughtful responses to the morning message. And to use our moment of mindfulness and breathing to give us the focus, we need to move into the academic part of our day. So once you feel like you’ve checked all those boxes, you know you’re finally in the groove with morning meeting. And it really does take a lot of time and effort to build that. Right. There’s no deadline. There are no morning mean police that are checking up on my progress. But morning meeting adds so much value to the day. I hope everyone who has never done a morning meeting can hear this, it is so worth all of the energy that goes into launching it. Yes. And so we hope you’ll find the time to start introducing morning meeting in your classroom, if you haven’t yet. Just start small and remember that connection is the goal. And if you want to talk about morning meeting and get some ideas for getting it started, come join us in the Teacher Approved Facebook group, we would love to talk to you about morning meeting.

Now let’s share a listener question. Today we have a question from Natalie. She says our new principal is going 100% Responsive Classroom. Yay. she typed that we’re not saying that because we love Responsive Classroom. But Dojo is not allowed. We in the past used only positive points to reinforce behavior we wanted to see without taking points away. I do already narrate the positive and build relationships with students and families and use logical consequences. I am just having a hard time wrapping my head around how we earn class parties are how to reinforce desired behavior. Any and all suggestions are welcome. That’s really tricky to have to shift your whole framework like that. It really is. But it is possible to make it work. When it comes to managing without rewards, I don’t know really that it takes any more effort overall, it just takes more intentional effort, right? If you’re relying on rewards, it still takes a lot of effort to be reactive to your students behavior. So to function without rewards, you have to be more proactive about your students behavior because your goal is to prevent problems from developing in the first place, which is kind of a big thing we talk about here with our routines and procedures. We’re always trying to prevent problems before they happen. And I think Natalie has the most important piece in place. And that’s relationships. Yes, students will do a lot for a teacher that they know loves and respects them. And besides having a strong relationship with the teacher, it’s important to foster relationships with each other. And that’s where morning meeting can be such a key component in your over a management plan, it gives you a built in time to address issues that come up. And it helps your students build relationships with each other. It’s also important to use specific language to support the behaviors you want to see. So offering feedback as opposed to giving praise. And for me, I found I didn’t need to offer a lot of rewards because I set high expectations from the start and supported my students in meeting them. I truly think laying the groundwork upfront for acceptable behavior, and then staying on top of it so that things never get out of hand, was the key for me to not need to rely on rewards. That doesn’t mean that’s easy. I certainly had to work hard to stay on top of those things. But setting the expectations in advance really did help it feel like it wasn’t too much work to stay on top of. One question Natalie has is how do you decide when to do a class party. And I think you just decided to have a class party, the kids don’t have to earn it that can just be a gift from their teacher, either. I think you guys are awesome. Let’s celebrate with a party. Or you guys have been working really hard. Let’s celebrate your growth and progress with the party. It doesn’t have to be something you earn to have, you can have fun things without having to earn them. Yes, it can be more feedback based than reward based. And okay, maybe this is a little controversial in a discussion about not using rewards. But I do think there’s a time when rewards are helpful. We talked about this in our episode about end of year rewards. And we pointed out that rewards do work in the short term. But sometimes you need a little push to help you through a rocky time. And so I tended to use some kind of reward system around Christmas, or at the end of the school year. And I think like making it themed kind of helped the kids understand that like this is a limited time thing. So they weren’t relying on the rewards to need that to model their behavior all year. Yeah, it’s kind of like using rewards for potty training. For anyone who’s had to do that. That’s just a really limited time period that will naturally end itself. So it makes sense in certain contexts to have rewards. Also, I think it’s unfair to leave subs without some sort of easy management system, because they don’t have the relationships with your students or the experience in your classroom, to be able to manage without some external support. So I always love some kind of reward for the subs to use, oh, always, you definitely don’t want to leave your subs without any tools to manage your class, or no one’s gonna have good time there. I think probably the most important thing as you try to transition from more rewards based systems of management, is to just be patient with yourself. This is a process that can take a while to master. And it’s also important to remember that this isn’t going to work with every child, some students just are not there. And they’re going to need more external support. So really don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if you have a student or two who need some sort of like tangible tracking system. But for most of your kids, this is really a positive way to support their growth.

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week, we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher approved tip is keep a basket of props near your morning meeting space. Heidi, can you tell us about this? Some greetings and activities will require extra props. So I found it really helpful to keep a basket or a bin near where we had a morning meeting, so that those items were always on hand. So if you want to do something like a beanbag toss greeting, just keep a beanbag in there. One of my favorite games is lightning. And I love it because it’s super quick. That’s what I like to do. So if you haven’t played it, everyone in the circle hold hands. And so the teacher starts by squeezing the hand of the person on her right and I’m like literally squeezing my hand as you can’t see that. And the kids pass the squeeze around the circle while the teacher times it. And I didn’t have to want to like make sure I have my phone with me. So I kept a stopwatch in my morning meeting basket just for this game. That’s so smart. Or another fun greeting is to do a bead greeting. Have you ever done this one I don’t think I have. So with this one, each student needs a bead and they kind of keep it hidden in their cupped hands. And then everyone just stands up and mingles around the meeting area. And when you come near to someone, you show each other your beads and if they’re the same color, you just keep moving. But if they’re different colors, then you get to greet each other and exchange beads. That is really fun. So it’s a fun greeting. It’s active without being wild. But if I had to do To get my baggie of beads anytime I wanted to do that greeting, it would happen zero times. So keeping it near a meeting area made it possible to do more fun things with my students. I love that.

To wrap up the show, we’re sharing what we are giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I am giving extra credit to the book, the Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. It is part memoir, part essay, part Amazon review, kind of masterfully woven together into what it means to be human at this moment in history. It sounds kind of bizarre, but it really is easy to listen to. And I did listen to the audiobook. And I have to say I think that is the only way to go with this book. Some books are like that. I think it was just so moving to hear John Green’s most vulnerable moments told in his own voice. And I don’t I don’t think reading it would have the same impact. It was really an amazing book. It was honest about hard things, but never really depressing always found the hope. And once I finished it, I immediately started listening to it again. And I don’t know the last time I did that with a book. No, me neither. But I have this one downloaded ready to go and I’m excited to listen to it now. So five stars to the Anthropocene Reviewed. Yay. What about you, Emily, where do you give me extra credit to? Well, I’m also giving extra credit to a book. Mine’s a little bit more fluffy, I’m giving extra credit to The Bodyguard by Katherine Center. Sounds dramatic. It’s not too dramatic. Okay. It’s a book about a female personal protection officer who is tasked with providing security for a superstar actor who has come home to Texas for a family emergency. Of course and if you like a fake dating trope, this book is for you. One of my favorite, tropes. I listened to this one on Scribd and it was such a light easy listen, if you’re not familiar Scribd is an audiobook subscription that gives you access to their whole library of books for less than $10 a month. I can’t remember exactly how much and the books are frequently changing. So I always check there first when I have a new book I want to read so I wanted to mention that in case you also use Scribd and I’ll put a link to the bodyguard and to Scribd in the show notes and to the Anthropocene Reviewed. Yes. Which is not on Scribd. At least last time I checked. i Yeah, it wasn’t there for me either, but I will get that one on Audible.

That’s it for today’s episode. Get started with introducing morning meeting in your classroom. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip to keep a basket of props in your morning meeting area.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.