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!

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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.

Schools with a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) often use morning meetings to nurture relationships and build a culture of kindness to reduce bullying.

The Benefits of Using Morning Meetings

Participating in morning meetings can help students to:

  • settle into the school day with a positive attitude
  • know what will happen that day
  • set goals for and be motivated for engaged learning
  • learn about structure, limits, and rules
  • develop patience while waiting for their turn
  • listen to and respect the person talking
  • have empathy and understanding another person's perspective
  • understand the importance of listening and not just talking
  • open up and communicate in positive ways
  • regulation emotions 
  • develop social skills to better understand their peers
  • be accountable for their words and actions
  • work collaboratively to find solutions and resolve conflicts
  • be part of and foster a positive and trusting community
  • build confidence, self-esteem, and resilience
  • offer support and healing for children suffering a loss

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:

  • Keep them relatively short, 10 – 20 minutes, depending on the age of your students.
  • The teacher leads the meeting unless a student has been nominated.
  • When a student is speaking, they cannot be interrupted.
  • When it's time for group discussion, students should indicate they wish to speak and wait until they are selected.
  • Students may be expected to contribute or may have the option to pass if they do not wish to speak.
  • Students are to be reminded that everyone's opinion matters and that the circle is a supportive and non-judgemental space where no-one is put down.
  • If an issue is being discussed within the circle, students are reminded to keep their emotions in check and use positive language while working towards a peaceful resolution or course of action.
  • Students are to respect everyone's privacy and only speak about their own experiences, concerns, or celebrations.
  • If someone wishes to share a personal matter or experience, other students must be respectful and not gossip about it outside of the circle.
Free kindness coloring pages for children

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:

Friendship
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
Respect can be an especially good topic if you’re teaching remotely and have problems with students paying attention or interrupting.

  • Ask students about their definition of respect.
  • Have students give some examples of what is and isn’t respectful.
  • Discuss why it’s important to show respect and how it feels when someone isn't respectful.
  • Find some quotes about respect and discuss their meaning.
  • After your discussion, have students make their own posters about respect.

Goal Setting
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.

Gratitude
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:

Physical

  • stronger immune systems
  • less bothered by aches and pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • exercise more and take better care of their health
  • sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological

  • higher levels of positive emotions
  • more alert, alive, and awake
  • more joy and pleasure
  • more optimism and happiness

Social

  • more helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • more forgiving
  • more outgoing
  • feel less lonely and isolated

Extend Topics

Any topic you use can be expanded upon after your morning meeting with a variety of activities:

  • have students construct an acrostic poem around your topic
  • group students to participate in roleplay
  • read picture books that relate to your theme
  • watch a video or movie based on your topic
  • have students to work together to create posters
  • share some quotes and ask students to create their own
  • brainstorm some synonyms for your topic word
  • write a song as a group that the students can record
  • construct a bulletin board around your topic

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:

  • helps reduce stress and anxiety
  • improves concentration and memory
  • increases happiness
  • improves relationships
  • boosts energy
  • encourages better behavior
  • creates greater self-awareness
  • improves sleep
  • increases physical and mental health

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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