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Morning Meeting: An Essential Routine [episode 6]


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Morning Message: 

[0:55] How can you build a classroom community?

There are so many ways to create a classroom community. Heidi suggests incorporating a lot of group work, having students sit in tables, which results in collaboration.

Emily loves greeting students at the door with either a hug, handshake, or high five, which creates a small moment with your student before starting the day. We would love to hear your thoughts on this question and what you do to build a classroom community!

Here's an overview of episode 6:

Welcome back for another episode! As teachers, we know how essential a positive classroom community is for our students, and us. But how do you establish that community?

One of our favorite ways was starting our day with a morning meeting with our classes. So in today’s episode, we’re diving into why having a morning meeting is an essential part of your routine and classroom community.

The Morning Meeting Book describes a morning meeting as an engaging way to start each day, build a strong sense of community, and to set children up for success socially and academically.

Within the book, it lays out four components of the morning meeting which are:

  • Greeting
  • Sharing
  • Group activity
  • Morning message

In developing your own morning meeting, think about which components serve best for you. What’s your purpose or intention behind each component and how would you incorporate it? You know your students best, so find solutions to encourage your students in the most effective way. 

One of the many reasons we love morning meetings is the endless benefits it provides our students. It regulates their nervous systems, starts the day with a focus on school and academics, allows students low-risk opportunities to share and be involved and nurtures their self-confidence.

Morning Meetings also strengthens student communication and problem solving skills are some benefits, just to name a few. 

Just like with our classroom, we wanted to create a community through our podcast format. Although we’re not seeing you face-to-face, we still wanted to connect and build a safe community for our listeners.

This is why we decided to start our podcast with a morning message! It provides you, our listeners, with predictability and a way to connect with us. 

There is power in having a morning meeting routine developed in your classroom. Making that a priority ensures a positive community, connectedness, and a sense of belonging for each student.

With the countless benefits they bring, we encourage you to start each day with a morning meeting!

In this episode on morning meetings, we discuss:

  • A morning meeting walkthrough of what it looks like in a regular classroom that includes purpose and reasons behind each activity
  • A breakdown of how to include each component to fit your classroom
  • How developing a morning routine creates predictable and safe environments for your students
  • The countless benefits of a morning meeting
  • How to be intentional about creating your classroom identity
  • Developing a morning meeting that is focused on you and your students

This week's teacher approved tip:

[20:36] Recognize your support staff

It’s a great idea to recognize the people in your building that help support you every day. These can include secretaries, paras, librarians, custodians, and so many more.

Show them and let them know how much you appreciate them and all of their hard work! You could even incorporate your class by making a card to do something special for them.

What we're giving extra credit to this week:

[21:08] Heidi is giving extra credit to blackout stickers

[21:58] Emily is giving extra credit to kindergarten pep talk hotline! You can call the hotline at 707-998-8410.


Read the transcript for episode 6, Morning Meeting: An Essential Routine:

Hey, there, thanks for joining us today. In today's episode, we'll be discussing morning meeting and why it's an essential routine and sharing a teacher approved tip about your support staff. We're starting our episodes with the morning message just like we used to do it morning meeting in our classroom. This week's morning message is how can you build classroom community? Heidi, what do you think?

I always made sure to build in lots of opportunities for group work. My kids are working in pairs or small groups, at least once a day, if not more than that, because it was just so important to the feel of our classroom, the running of our classroom. And I feel like they got so much out of it. And also like to have them sitting in tables. I think that helps kind of build the sense of you know, we're all in this together. What about you, Emily?

So I liked to start the day when the kids arrived by waiting for them at the door. And when they came in lined up, they could do a hug a handshake or a high five. And now I've seen the addition probably on Instagram of adding something like a little dance break boogie for kids who don't want to touch at all, which I think is a great idea. And I know I've seen some classes where they have the options posted. And they can just point to which one they want. But I just would say like okay, hug a handshake or high five. And as they came down the line, they would tell me which one they wanted. And I felt like it was a good way for me to greet them each by name and have a little moment with each of them. And I usually did it at the end of the day to on the way out the door, if we had time.

Time, time is always against you. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this question over on Instagram, you can find us at @2ndstorywindow. And that's what the two.

Today we're going to be talking about morning meeting and why we consider it to be an absolutely essential routine in your day. So morning meeting, I was introduced to more than 20 years ago, I wasn't even a teacher yet. And as one of my college courses, we had to interview so many teachers about their job. And I was home for the summer, so I interviewed my parents neighbor, who had taught for several years. And she's the one that introduced me to morning meeting. And I love the idea. But I was you know, college custodian, so I couldn't afford a book, a teacher book was like really out of my price range. So my mom surprised me and had it shipped to my apartment. So the morning meeting book was my first teacher book. And it was the one that I referenced, every single year, I've taught because it's just so foundational to how I want my classroom to run. That's such a good book. So the morning meeting format that we follow is the one that is outlined in the Morning Meeting book from the Responsive Classroom. And we'll link to that in the show notes. If you're not aware of it, it really is so good. And every time I meet someone that's going into teaching, that's the book I buy for them, too. So here is a description for morning meeting directly from that book. Morning Meeting is an engaging way to start each day, build a strong sense of community and set children up for success socially and academically.

So the four main components of morning meeting are greeting sharing group activity and warning message. But what's really important here is to be clear about what purpose each component of the morning meeting serves for you in your classroom. So if your purpose for the greeting, for example, is that every child is recognized by name that would inform what greetings you choose from each day. And knowing that's your purpose, you can open the door to 100 different ways that you can achieve that purpose. But you can't achieve your purpose if you're not clear what it is. So we just want to be encouraging you as you listen to this episode, if you want to do morning meeting, or you want to spruce up your morning meeting, to really think about what the purpose would be for each of the components as you listen today.

And you might agree with the purposes that we outline and you might totally disagree, but the important thing is that you're intentional in your choices, because that's going to have the best outcome for your students.

Right, everyone can have a different purpose for each of these areas. So let's start with greeting. That's the first component of morning meeting. And your purpose in that component might be to have each child get their voice into the room. Or like we said it could be to have each child greeted by name, or it could be something else entirely. What's important for one classroom might be different for another. The traditional morning meeting greeting is going around the circle and greeting each child by name. So everyone is welcomed into the classroom community. And that's a great one to start the year with too with everyone's still learning names. But you might want to do a greeting where every child is saying something so they each get their voice into the room at the start of the day. And your purpose for the greeting might change throughout the year or even from day to day, so you're not married to whatever you choose as your purpose.

The next component of wanting meeting is sharing where students share information about the events in their lives. Your purpose for this activity might be to validate your students experiences, it might be connecting with one another on a personal level, it might be celebrating your students as individuals, it might be giving your students opportunities to practice empathetic listening and responding. There's a host of possibilities here. The way sharing is outlined in the morning meeting book has kids sign up for a data share. But that's not how we ever did it. No, neither of us, we would assign a table to share on specific days. So we'd have five tables, you know, table one showed on Monday, table two on Tuesday. So when we had our morning meeting, I would ask if there's anyone on table three have anything to share today. And then let the kids who wanted to share share their message. And then after they shared, I would check you know, if anyone hadn't raised their hand, oh, you know, do you want to share Do you wanna share? And some kids would want to share after some little nudging, they were too shy to raise their hands. Some didn't, some didn't share all year. And that's okay. We teach students do finish their sharing by asking for questions and comments. And it's important to set the boundary ahead of time for how many questions and comments each child will take. And also what is and isn't appropriate for a question or comment at the skills when that takes a lot of practice, especially for the younger ones, you know, you know what, they're not naturally gifted at centering a conversation around someone besides themselves, bless their hearts. That's why morning meeting is so helpful. But maybe your purpose for sharing is that everyone contributes to the conversation. So you might want to do something like round robin sharing where everyone is answering the same question. Or maybe your purpose with sharing is to foster that responsive listening and putting students in pairs or small groups to practice sharing and listening may better serve that purpose.

After sharing, we have a group activity and this allows all the students to complete a brief lively activity together. Your purpose for this might be to foster classroom community. So your group activity might be a cooperative game, like who has the button where they all have to work together for the same goal. If your purpose is to let your students see you having fun too, you might choose an action song like my aunt came back or too de ta something where you can just be really silly. It might be that you want to practice academic skills by doing something like skip counting around the circle and we go by twos and every time we say multiple 10 everyone stands up. It might be that your purpose is to get the wiggles out so you can focus on something academic in a few minutes. So you might want to do a freeze dance or an activity like Acka Backa Soda Cracker, do you know that is Emily? No. Oh, so you'd say a little Acka Backa Soda Cracker Acka Backa Boo, Acka Backa Soda Cracker Out goes you. And as you're saying that you're doing jumping jacks, and when you end on you, anyone with their feet apart, has to sit down, they're out. And it goes really fast. So even if you get out, you can get back in the game in 10 seconds.

If your purpose is to help kids work on their social skills, you may want to do an activity where there are winners and losers. We generally try to avoid these activities in the younger classrooms, but this is a safe space to build that frustration tolerance and learn how to work as a team and practice being a gracious loser and a gracious winner. Just make sure that you set goals for these behaviors before the activity and then discuss them after.And they need lots of practice with that.

In the last component of morning meetings, students interact with a short message written by their teacher. If the purpose of the morning message for you is to help students focus on work they will see later in the school day, you might choose an academic question with multiple right answers that lends itself to discussion. If the purpose is to help kids know what to expect during the day, you might want to explain the upcoming schedule and answer their common daily questions like what the lunch special is today in your morning message. And we've seen lots of teachers like to do this in a letter style. If you need to prep your kids on how to behave in an upcoming assembly, or discuss how they're treating the music teacher or about choosing good recess activities, you may design a morning message that fosters community discussions about important topics.

So like I mentioned earlier, the morning meeting book was my first teacher book. I got it when I was still an undergrad. And in one of my classes I had to do a presentation; I don't even know what the presentation was what the purpose was, but I chose to do on morning meeting. And so I had some volunteers come up and I gave them each a balloon that they had to keep bouncing in the air. And on the balloon it had things written like oh argued with my mom, didn't get a breakfast, can't find my backpack, didn't do my homework; things that kids might encounter in a regular morning before they come to school. And so they had to keep these balloons up and I would add some to their balloon juggling situation. But then I started giving them math problems to do in simple math terms, they were fine. But then as the math problems got more complicated juggling, those balloons became more tricky. And so I talked about how morning meeting can come in like a pin, and kind of just like pop those balloons, maybe it's not totally popping them, but letting the air out a little bit so that kids can regulate their nervous systems better. And they're able to focus on the purpose of school, which is learning so they can let go of some of those burdens that they're trying to carry. And just be little kids.

And that's why morning meeting is so important, and it has so many benefits.

And we consider it a non negotiable part of our day. And here's some benefits to what it provides for you. Morning Meeting is designed to include each child which creates a sense of belonging. It allows students low risk opportunities to share and be involved in a safe environment that nurtures their self confidence. It strengthens communication abilities, and builds problem solving skills. It encourages cooperation and inclusion, and it helps level the playing field, so I'm not just the teacher on the stage. I'm just another human and we are having a human experience together. And it helped me have a positive connection with all of my students at the start of our day together, so we're not starting the day with a deficit, we're filling our buckets together first and reminding ourselves that we do like each other. And it helps them to get to know each other, they can see connections with others that maybe they haven't noticed otherwise and it gives us a chance to celebrate our differences as well. But when we sat down to start a list of all the benefits of morning meeting, this list kept growing. So Emily, what else do we come up with?

Some of the other benefits are that morning meeting incorporates playfulness and lightheartedness that strengthens your bonds with each other, and it sets the stage for deeper connections. Morning meeting builds your classroom identity in intentional positive ways. You can have a class identity as a trouble class, like your class will develop some identity. So it could be a trouble class, it could be a jokester class that's always being mean to each other. Here we're building a beautiful cooperative classroom identity, where we value each other and what they bring to the group. And we're doing that intentionally with morning meeting, we're not just going to wait and let the classroom identity develop on its own, we're going to encourage it to be the identity that we want it to be. Morning meeting also practices social skills like sharing, listening, responding, which builds social awareness that will benefit them outside of morning meeting. And morning meeting provides a safe space to address issues that may arise in your classroom or on the playground or in the lunchroom, you know what issues we're talking about. This is the place where you can talk about those in a really safe environment. So the key with morning meeting is consistency. What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while. That's what one of our favorite people Gretchen Rubin says. The power in this routine is that it is routine, and you prioritize it every day. So deciding that you will do it every day, even if you have to make it quick somedays eliminates the need for a daily decision about whether or not you're going to do it today. If you know, you're doing it every day, no matter what it's going to happen and you can just adjust how you can do things quickly. Today, you can think of the quickest activities I know Zoom is my favorite group activity that if you're in a hurry, that one's super fast, and the ball roll is a great quick greeting if you need one.

The consistency of morning meeting has a huge return on investment. 15 to 20 minutes in the morning for morning meeting pays big dividends of benefits for your classroom community for the rest of the day. And also students knowing what to expect every morning really helps make your classroom a predictable, safe environment. We don't know what situation a child has just walked out of when they walk into your classroom, but they will feel more confident arriving to school when they know exactly what to expect in your classroom in the morning.

If you think back to the start of our podcast episode today, we start each episode with a morning message. We thought really hard about how we could recreate the experience of morning meeting and building a community here in this audio format. We decided that we wanted to start each episode with a morning message to serve as a welcome to you in this space. And to let you know that we're glad you're a part of this community. So if you haven't already, be sure to follow us on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow, that's what the two or in the Teacher Approved Facebook group. And in those places, we'll post the morning messages in advance so that you can weigh in on them and we may share your responses in a future episode. And if you're listening to this after we've already posted it, those posts are still there. So you can still come and join in on the conversation about these morning message topics. And we'd love to hear what you think.

So Heidi, why don't you tell us about a morning meeting in action? Okay, let me walk you through how it looked in my classroom. And that's we're not trying to say that this is the right way, or the only way, but we wanted to share a little bit about what an example of a morning meeting might look like in our regular classrooms with second graders, and to explain what we did, but more importantly, why we did it. So this can help you start thinking through your purpose and what you need for morning meeting in your own classroom.

So when my students arrive for the day, the morning message is projected for them to read. As part of their morning to do list, they answered the morning message on the board. And my purpose for doing it this way is to mark the transition into the room with a task that immediately engages them. And then it provides a launch into a community discussion later during morning meeting. So it's getting them mentally ready for the next task two different ways. After the morning to do list is done as a class, we move to the circle on the rug. And in my classroom, we would be reciting the monthly poem during the transition. So as we're moving, we're all saying the little poem. And this is a poem I post on the wall, and we use it throughout each month. My purpose for doing the poem here is that it provides a natural time limit on coming to the rug, but in a gentle way, instead of you know, meat, just counting it down. And then it provides a group experience around poetry and language because it's sometimes hard to get poetry into your classroom. And it's just a very common way to start the morning meeting routine. Once everyone is seated at the circle, I usually begin the greeting or I selected another child to do it. In general, my purpose is recognizing each child by name and acknowledging you're here we see you, we're so glad you're here. So some morning, it's a quick good morning, Alice and we pass the handshake around the room. Other mornings, it's a song that calls each child by name. I mentioned the ball rolls, silly greetings, greetings in other languages, we did lots of different things. Next, we have sharing and my purpose was sharing was making sure that each child knew that during the course of the week, they would have the opportunity to have the spotlight on them at least once. So I assign each table a day to share. As we said earlier, nobody has to share but everyone has the opportunity. My other purpose was sharing is for students to practice being good listeners. So I do a lot of modeling here and coaching. For example, if a student shares my dog got a haircut yesterday, and another student responds, I have a dog, I tried to jump in with an acknowledgement and a redirection. So I acknowledge that's great, you have a dog sounds like you and Aleah have something in common that you can talk about at recess. But what can you ask Aleah about her dog, and we might be doing that all year.They sometimes need this extra coaching practice. But I do think it really definitely pays off. And then we do an activity based on the needs of the kids and honestly, how much energy I have that day. And Emily, you did a lot with morning messages. Do you want to share a little bit about that?

Yes. So we like to do morning messages as a question of the day style. Our question morning messages would mix in topics that are academic to warm their brains up for the day, as well as community and social questions that our class needed to have a discussion about. And we always ended Friday with a joke or a riddle. They really love that. Yes. So we actually sell bundles of editable morning messages for first through fourth grade. So if you're looking for a done for you morning message resource, we got your back, they are on Google Slides, and we provide something for you every day, we've got themes for each day of the week. But you can also edit them and put in any message that you like. We'll include the link to these warning messages bundles in the show notes. So Heidi and I both would have the message posted in our classrooms when the students arrived. And answering the message would be part of their morning to do list. And then we could share the responses to that message later in morning meeting. Sometimes I'd asked who wanted to share their responses, other times I'd see a response on the board that would provoke good discussion and I'd asked that student if they wanted to share. And then we transition from our big circle on the rug, to our spots on the rug for the first lesson of the day.

And that's how I ended morning meeting for a long time too until I started incorporating a mindfulness moment. What that looked like completely depended on the day and the needs of my kids. It might be a guided meditation, or a mindful movement activity. And then we always ended with 10 to 30 seconds of deep breathing. Deep breath in breath out. I started doing this with a difficult group of kids, but I loved what they were getting out of it so much that I continued to do it every year after that. And then when we started teaching preschool, and when I would end our little preschool morning meeting with a stretching routine and a breathing exercise. You might need that breathing exercise as much as your kids do. We hope this discussion about morning meeting is helping you evaluate what your purpose is with morning meeting, and maybe given you some ideas of how you can mix things up now that we're getting to the end of the school year, or to maybe start your morning meeting, if you've never done one before. And you can see all the amazing benefits that it can bring to your classrooms. And it's never too late to start morning meeting. Absolutely.

Now let's talk about this week's teacher approved tip. Each week, we're going to leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week's teacher approved tip is recognize your support staff. Our school secretaries, custodians, librarians and other support staff do so much for us at our schools. This week, try to do something to recognize their hard work and make sure they know how much you appreciate them, and how you know you need them. This would be a good experience to involve your class in as well.

To wrap up the show, we're going to share 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 blackout stickers. So random. But if you are a light sleeper, and you've got annoying electronics that have little lights that shine in your blacked out room, you're gonna want these stickers. It's just a sheet of little tiny dots, stickers or rectangles that are meant to cover up lights on electronics, so that you don't have annoying lights glowing all over when you want it dark. And once you have that you will realize how much of a difference it makes; I use them now too. It does. And to be honest, I started traveling with them because there's nothing worse than being in a hotel room and the light on the TV is like glow and right into your eyes all night. So these little stickers and they come right off super easily. So you don't worry about any causing any damage. kind of expensive for stickers, but so worth it. What about you, Emily, which you are extra credit?

So I'm giving extra credit to the kindergarten pep talk hotline, you've probably heard about this. It's a school in California that has this hotline you can call and you can press a different number depending on what you need. So you can, if you're feeling and now I'm trying to remember, I think it's if you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, you press one. If you need words of encouragement in life advice, you press two, if you need a pep talk from kindergarteners, you press three, and if you need to hear kids laughing with delight, you press four. And we just did it right now before we recorded. And it just made us smile. It's so sweet, so pure and so sweet. And you can get advice like if you're sad or angry, you should go get a cookie, or go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes, which I fully support and hearing the children laugh with delight will make you laugh with delight. And apparently they're going to be updating these messages in the future too. And they're also available in Spanish. Yes, and you'll just love hearing their sweet little voices and the phone number for that is 707-998-8410 and we'll put that in the show notes too.

Please listen to the following options for encouraging messages. If you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous press one. If you need a word of encouragement and life advice, press two. If you need a pep talk from kindergarteners, press three. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press four. You're frustrated you can always go to your bedroom, punch a pillow or cry on it and go scream outside. Be grateful for yourself. Dude, live it up. I trust that you can make things work. If you're feeling up high and unbalanced, think of Groundhog Day. It's okay to be different. We all like you.

That's it for today's episode, consider making morning meeting a non negotiable part of your day. And don't forget today's teacher approved tip to recognize your support staff.

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.