Monday, August 8, 2016

Roadblocks to Implementing Morning Meeting

I'm so happy to introduce you to my Southern belle friend, Tammy over at Tarheelstate Teacher! One of the favorite parts of our school day is Morning Meeting & Tammy is an expert!

Hi Yall, I'm so excited to be guest blogging at Tried and True Teaching Tools today! When Kathie asked me to guest blog, I was eager to say yes. When she suggested that I talk about Morning Meeting, well, it was an offer I couldn't turn down! Before I discuss the roadblocks of implementing morning meeting in our classrooms, I'd love to briefly introduce myself. I've taught for 11 years in North Carolina as a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher. As an upper-elementary educator, I am most passionate about creating devoted, confident readers, thinking about the ins-and-outs of differentiated math instruction, and inspiring teachers to utilize our classroom platforms to build character and community. Let's get on with that "character and community" part today!

back to school beginning of year in upper elementary
Have you thought about how you will
  • set the tone for your classroom environment?
  • maintain your classroom community yearlong?
  • solve classroom problems and conflicts?
  • regularly respond to students' emotional needs?
  • regularly provide time and space for your students to set goals and develop personally?
  • consistently give your students the opportunity to bond with one another?
Do all of these questions have you stressing a little bit? What if one routine could help you target all of these common classroom needs? Well, I believe Morning Meetings (or community meetings as I call them) are key to the social, emotional, and academic development of our upper elementary students. Using community meeting, you can set the tone for your environment, maintain your community, solve behavior problems and conflicts, respond to students' emotional needs, teach your students to set and reflect on personal goals, and create an everlasting bond among your students.

If you've never heard of Morning Meeting, I'd love to share how I define my kind of morning meeting: a routine classroom experience that allows older elementary students an opportunity to develop personally, academically, and socially through the use of read alouds, videos, quotations, key vocabulary, classroom discussions, and the teacher as a trusted guide.classroom routines for morning meeting definitions
To me, "morning meeting" is the most sure-fire way to launch a strong classroom community, troubleshoot when the community is not feeling so "communal," and keep the love going all year long. A routine classroom community meeting provides a time and a place for you and your students to take care of classroom business, take care of one another, and grow yourselves.

If you have heard of Morning Meetings and not yet implemented them into your routine, then you may have developed some beliefs and roadblocks that I'd love to help you put to rest today! 


Actually, no. Your morning meeting can look like whatever you want it to look like. The routines you develop and the strategies you use should be age-appropriate for your students! One year, our Monday's Morning Meeting was a "Smile Moments Day." I had a student leader (who loved to make everyone laugh) create a document of funny memes and videos that he compiled with his mom. He would forward his ideas to me over the weekend and share them on Monday. This ensured that we never started our week off with grumpy Monday attitudes and we instantly bonded together around a funny image, meme, cute kittens, or a video of someone dancing like a fool! {And, a student who sometimes could not control himself or engage socially got to be the star of the show!} At different points during the week, taking a look at these smile moments again became a small reward for students' good behavior.

My current morning meeting routine incorporates high-quality picture books, journaling, classroom discussions, and personal reflection. Students analyze inspiring quotations and learn sophisticated key vocabulary. I use common themes in literature to create the foundation for our classroom discussions and to sequence my community meeting lessons. Imagine discussing themes like belonging, kindness, perseverance, goal setting and achievement, integrity, happiness and joy, being true to oneself, and strategies for resolving conflicts through the use of high-quality picture books. Although I use a variety of teaching methods in my community meeting (videos, music, and inspiring quotations to name a few others), read aloud is always my go-to strategy for providing an entry-point into meaningful discussions with my students. Can I get an AMEN for character development + children's literature? This kind of morning meeting routine is definitely NOT just for the little kids!
Before you totally give up on trying to find a way to include a community meeting time into your schedule, consider the time lost when your students constantly blurt out too much or when the class doesn't have enough time for a science activity because a handful of students took too long to transition. Recall all the chunks of time you spend in the hallway helping two students solve a conflict, on being frustrated because your students are checked out and don't seem to want to play an active role in their own education, or giving your students a lecture because their behavior in a special area class was terrible.

morning meeting is a great way to grow students socially, emotionally, academicallyThe Community Meeting is a place to set classroom norms, solve classroom issues, and create a teamwork atmosphere that aims to improve the classroom environment. While I teach my morning meeting through themes in literature, I always know that I can pause on those lessons to focus on classroom issues that have been creeping up. One way that I use community meeting to solve classroom problems is to have the class generate all of the issues they have observed and then we vote on which issue they feel is the most critical. Walking down the hallway in a straight, silent line and transitioning more smoothly and quickly in the classroom have popped up year after year for my 4th and 5th graders. After choosing our focus issue, I have a student leader lead the discussion with the following sentence stems and questions:
  • We are working on ______________. 
  • How did we do yesterday? 
  • How can we do better today?
I sometimes chime in with follow up questions, asking students to elaborate or to tell how they felt about the example they are sharing. During this time, students do not call out specific classmates, but may say "Some people were..." I've written extensively about this classroom behavior management strategy, if you want to read more of the details. Kathie has also written a great post on how to use a similar method to help students learn more about setting and achieving goals. We continue this process until we feel we have achieved our goal. Often, improvement in one area creates a ripple effect in other behavioral areas! WIN-WIN!

If you realize that a community meeting is important (and soul-fulfilling for your teacher-heart), but figuring out when to fit it in is still truly a struggle, I want you to know that a quality morning meeting routine can happen in just 15 minutes and at any time during your day.

Do you have a small window of time when students return from recess or a special area class? Can you get everyone to your meeting space more quickly in the mornings by being in your chair ready to begin and inviting students over as they get unpacked? They can grab their journals and get started on a reflection page while waiting for classmates. You can even get some one-on-one time, helping students as they work at the carpet and wait for you to begin the meeting. Some days, working at the meeting place with you and a few classmates may be all your meeting requires! Think of the organic discussions that will ensue about kindness, compassion, and perseverance as students are allowed to work with one another on their discussion prompt pages. If you incorporate some of your current theme's read alouds into your literacy block (see #3), then you get even more time during your meeting to focus on having your students reflect and discuss your chosen theme.

If your schedule is tight, I encourage you to find creative ways to chisel out the time for community meeting throughout your week. (Want to learn more about how you can keep the momentum of morning meeting going even when you are not able to have a daily meeting? or Do you feel like you still can't fit it in? I've tried my best to give you more helpful ideas in those two posts!)

This issue is kind of like #2, but a little different. I get it. Teachers do not have time for "one more thing," but as soon as you realize that a theme-based morning meeting is not one more thing and that it is the perfect complement to your curriculum, you will find that a lot of that stuff you already have to teach falls right into place!

teaching morning meeting through literacy, theme basedIf you teach reading, I bet reading aloud to your students is a common practice in your classroom. I'm going to assume that discerning author's purpose, author's message, or theme, figuring out the central message or main idea, or verbalizing the moral or lesson in a story is part of your reading curriculum. Do you also have to teach students how to compare and contrasts texts on a similar topic? In addition to your literacy standards, are you called on to build your students' character? career and college readiness? incorporate 21st century life skills like leadership, ethics, accountability, personal responsibility, people skills?

You do have a lot to teach, BELIEVE me I KNOW! {Do I ever get past the Civil War in Social Studies? Rarely, but that's not because of my community meeting time!} However, you can incorporate so many of the things you already have to teach into your morning meetings.

During my Belonging-themed morning meeting unit, we read 3 or 4 texts that have a sense of belonging as central message and theme. These include Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco, Big Al by Andrew Clements, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, and we watch a short film on YouTube called "The Lost Thing." We complete a compare and contrast chart after experiencing all of these texts. We analyze a touchstone quotation related to the theme {"By building relations, we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier." by Susan Leiberman.} and I teach students new vocabulary (community, exclude, belonging, acceptance) that they can incorporate into their discussions of the theme and their written reflections. (Find all the materials for this theme unit in my belonging theme freebie!) Because my classroom meeting is theme-based and includes significant aspects of literacy instruction, I’m not really “taking time away” from my teaching requirements. I am complementing and increasing the meaning behind everything we do, especially in our literacy block. You can learn more about why I love a theme-based community meeting!

You may work in a teaching environment where you feel that you need to be prepared to justify your community meeting. I think we can handle this, as long as you are ready with your answers from the start. (See #3!) It's a personal "best practice" of mine to always know why I'm doing what I'm doing and this includes being able to point to standards that support the instructional decisions I make for my classroom.
literacy reading common core standards for the morning meeting
Here's a good rebuttal if you need it: "I appreciate your concern for how I spend my students' precious time in my classroom. My theme-based community meeting allows me to get more out of my classroom instruction time because I am able to teach many of the common core standards for reading over a longer period of time. My students become really adept at discerning themes and verbalizing the big idea in stories. Not to mention, they become great human beings in the process too!"

If you want to grab the standards that you can use to justify your theme-based Morning Meeting, you can right click on this photo and print it off for yourself to have on hand! Check your social studies and character education standards too!

First, identify that 15 minutes or so in your schedule that you can use for community meeting. Decide which theme you want to focus on first and pull picture books that relate to that theme. I also like to search YouTube and see if can find any videos related to the theme that would make an impact on my students. Personally, I always start with a sense of belonging as the very first theme during the first week of school. I've got a morning meeting belonging freebie that can help you get started right away! Each of my Morning Meeting theme sets include ideas to help you with lesson planning. I've identified picture books and videos to use, and key questions and student journal pages that are perfect for turning into anchor charts for guiding your discussions on each theme. I've also created bulletin board materials that include the theme, key vocabulary with definitions, and related quotations to share and analyze with your students. You can check them out in my teacherspayteachers store.

reasons to have a morning meeting in the upper grades classroom
The fulfillment I get when I see the investments that I have made during community meeting shine in a students' improved behavior, their growth in friendships, or their belief in themselves is so worth the classroom time I may be "giving up" in order to hold consistent meetings. I feel that community meeting is something that my students benefit from greatly. As they deal with the struggles of growing up, trying to fit in socially, and trying to identify who they want to be, I feel that I have an opportunity to make an impact on who they become in the course of a year. It's really why I became a teacher in the first place!

If you want to learn more about the components of my community meeting, I wrote an extensive blog series last year to answer all things community meeting! I'd love for you to check out my 10 part series and let me know if I left anything out! Best wishes on your new school year!

tarheelstate teacherTammy Roose blogs at Tarheelstate Teacher. Her mission is to provide a place where passionate teachers +  differentiation lovers unite to create classroom environments that get results for our students--socially, emotionally, and academically. She loves to support conscientious, caring, loving teachers in teaching in ways that you can feel great about! If you are an education enthusiast who's ready to change attitudes and create positive mindsets, you can connect with Tammy at her blog, Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate TeacherInstagramFacebook, or Pinterest.

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