Lengthy lockdowns and changes to their routine have many children feeling anxious and isolated. As we settle into a new way of life with COVID-19, some students have gone back to school but for those who are still distance learning, morning meetings or classroom circles are important for reinforcing a sense of community and connection. They provide children with much-needed time to see their friends and interact with their peers while improving social skills, building student-teacher relationships, and giving educators a platform to outline learning for the day.
Here in Australia, psychologist Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg is gravely concerned for our kids. He says, “2021 brings an increased need for parents and teachers to monitor young people's mental health over the long-term and to be vigilant. In essence, we do not know how prolonged school closures, strict social distancing measures, the lockdowns, and the pandemic itself affect the wellbeing of children and adolescents.” He also advocates for structure and daily schedules and that’s why morning meetings are so good!
What are Morning Meetings?
A morning meeting is an allocated time each morning for students and teachers to connect, share, and discuss what’s happening that day. They make everyone feel welcome, included, and heard and can help children to transition from home to school life, which can be especially important if they’re learning at home.
The Benefits of Using Morning Meetings
Participating in morning meetings can help students to:
How to Use Morning Meetings
Traditionally, students would sit in a circle on the floor so they can see one another, but in this day of digital learning that is taken care of with speakers being highlighted on devices.
Set some basic guidelines for facilitating a smooth-running and effective meeting:
Morning Meeting Format
Have the same format each day so children know what to expect. You can adapt it to suit your cohort, but an example would be:
3 Ideas for Your Morning Meetings
One reason I love morning meetings is that there are so many fun and engaging ways to use them. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Conversation Starters
Meetings give you a wonderful opportunity to start conversations that help students to develop listening and social skill. They also allow students to voice their opinion, celebrate, or share something that is troubling them. You can choose a theme that suits your grade if there is a problem to address or a topic you want to teach.
Here are a few examples for topics:
Make up some slides with Getting to Know You questions to use during your meeting. These are terrific at the start of the year when students are making new friends or if you have friendship issues within your classroom. We have a ready-to-use digital resource, which can be tailored to include specific questions that relate to your grade. This type of activity encourages students to increase their circle of friends when they discover how many of their peers have similar interests.
Respect can be an especially good topic if you’re teaching remotely and have problems with students paying attention or interrupting.
Talk about goals and why it’s important to have them. Discuss what a goal might look like and how to have different goals for different areas of life. For example, goals for learning, challenging themselves, persevering, controlling their emotions, hobbies, or sports, etc.
After your discussion, challenge students to set some for the day. Make them simple things to start with, like completing a difficult task or tidying their area after they’ve finished for the day. You can then expand their goals but setting them for a week, term, and even a few for the year.
This is obviously a great one for Thanksgiving, but gratitude is an important topic at any time of the year, especially if you feel your students have developed a sense of entitlement.
Robert Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. The results of his studies have overwhelmingly and consistently concluded that practicing gratitude has a range of benefits. He shares his findings below:
Any topic you use can be expanded upon after your morning meeting with a variety of activities:
2. Introduce Mindfulness and Meditation
Many teachers already use mindfulness and meditation in the classroom to help stressed or anxious students by giving them tools for coping with big feelings and challenging situations. These relaxation techniques are often introduced to curb anxiety or angry outbursts by helping kids self-regulate. While children are learning from home, mindfulness and meditation can help create calm, peaceful learning environments and improve focus and concentration.
If you haven’t considered mindfulness and meditation in your classroom, I encourage you to take a look at the list of benefits below:
Read our post to learn more about incorporating mindfulness or meditation in your classroom. There are a few fun activities to get you started.
3. Nurture Positive Character Traits
A great way to improve behavior in the classroom is to build character. Kindness is my favorite thing as it’s the foundation on which all character traits are based. It’s proven that teaching kindness in schools improves relationships, happiness, wellbeing, and reduces stress and bullying (just to name a few)!
There are so many fun kindness activities that will have your students begging for more. These can be introduced during your morning meeting. If you start a kindness challenge for the whole grade, students can discuss progress during your meeting each day. It’s a great way to encourage enthusiastic involvement and teamwork.
Here are just a few ready-made activities you might like to try:
I’m certain you’ll find the inclusion of morning meetings a Godsent, however you decide to structure them. Starting with a calm and productive activity that will not only improve their wellbeing but get their brains ready for a big day of learning is the perfect way to ease your students into the day.
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