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Supporting Student SEL Needs and Building a Culture of Community during Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting is the bread and butter of school. 

It’s quite truly my favorite part of the school day – it’s one of those things that makes me feel so lucky to be an educator. 

What I love about Morning Meeting is that it is such an engaging way to start each day. And above all, I think it really helps teachers create a classroom community and a culture of trust, safety, inclusion, and belonging. 

And let’s be real – Morning Meeting honestly just gives me all the warm and fuzzy feelings. I love greeting students every morning and reminding them how much I care about them. 

If school were a salad, Morning Meeting and classroom community would be the dressing, tying everything together 

Can you tell I’m hungry with all these food metaphors?

Seriously you guys, Morning Meeting sets students up with the social-emotional and academic skills they need to thrive in school. 

But with all this uncertainty about next school year, you might be wondering: how can we continue to hold Morning Meeting with our students remotely or in this new in-person environment?

In today’s episode I’m going to be answering that question for you. I’ll be sharing some strategies and tips for conducting an engaging Morning Meeting.

More specifically, we’ll be discussing how to support student social emotional needs while simultaneously building a culture of community during Morning Meeting.

Because now more than ever, students need our love and support. And if I’m really being honest, we need them too.

Like all my episodes, I have a clear structure in place so you can leave today’s episode with key takeaways. We’re really cutting to the chase with this episode. 

So grab a pencil, grab some paper, get cozy – but, if you’re driving, walking your dog, cooking dinner, or just not feeling it right now, don’t even worry – check out the episode transcription later, and I’ll have all the details for you.

But before we dive into the actual Morning Meeting itself… let’s talk about establishing Morning Meeting Agreements

For this portion of today’s episode, I’m going to be focusing on online Morning Meeting agreements because I think that most teachers probably have some ideas on how to establish in-person ones. 

So, before starting an online Morning Meeting, it’s a good idea to create a list of Morning Meeting Agreements. 

Here are some items that you might include on your list…

  • Video calling from a productive space
  • Being prepared and ready for the meeting
  • Being on time
  • Turning on your video
  • Muting yourself when you aren’t speaking
  • Raising your hand before you speak

Then, at the start of each Morning Meeting, you can share a list of these agreements on the screen to remind students of your classroom guidelines. It’ll take a little while for students to adjust to online classroom agreements, so the more you can include these as part of your routine, the better.

#1 Video Call from a Productive Space 

I’ve seen my fair share of beds, pajamas, TV screens, and more during online Morning Meeting. If your students are anything like the little ones I’ve been around, they are squirmier than ever. 

A helpful classroom management tip is to make an agreement or rule that all students must video call from a productive space.

You can provide students with several examples of what a productive space looks like. For example, a productive space might be a desk, table, couch, or chair. If I notice that one of my students is not participating in the call from a productive space, I remind everyone of this agreement or rule without calling anyone out.

#2 Be prepared and ready for the meeting

What does being prepared and ready sound like? What does it look like? What does it feel like? These are questions I’d recommend asking students when you establish these agreements. Being prepared and ready might vary from classroom to classroom, and it’s important to set clear and regular expectations for kids.

#3 Be on time

In order to give kids predictability and routine, they also need a schedule to follow. Encouraging (and requiring) students to be on time helps jump start their day of online learning, just like being on time to school. At the same time, remember to have realistic expectations, as well as be flexible and mindful of various home situations.

#4 Turn on your video

If students are able, asking them to turn on their video allows them to connect with you and their classmates face-to-face. Not only is this agreement essential for community building, but it is also critical to ensure student safety. With issues like Zoombombing and hacking on the rise in digital classrooms, having all participants “on camera” allows you to know exactly who is in your room at all times.

#5 Mute yourself

Students also should remain on mute unless called to speak. Most teachers have discovered the wonders of the mute button by now, but it is a good idea to remind students why teachers use it.

I usually tell teachers to allow their students to speak freely for the first 5 minutes of Morning Meeting. They can chat and greet each other to start the meeting. Then, when it’s time to move on, you can mute everyone. Of course, if this doesn’t match your classroom needs, then you can do what makes the most sense for you. 

#6 Raise your hand to speak

Developing a hand raising system gives students an opportunity to share their voice. Whether you choose a thumbs up, a hand raise, or some other gesture, I’d recommend using a system to call on students.

While these six agreements have worked really well in the online classrooms I’ve visited and taught, at the end of the day, you know your students and your classroom the best. Do what works for you and your classroom needs. 

Responsive Classroom Structure

The rest of today’s episode is largely based on the Responsive Classroom structure. 

If you aren’t familiar with Responsive Classroom, it’s “a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline.” 

And a lot of elementary school teachers especially really love the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting framework, which I’ll walk you guys through.

There are 4 key elements of the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting Structure, and I’ll be giving suggestions on how you can conduct this remotely or in a socially-distanced way. 

What are the Four Ingredients to an Engaging Morning Meeting?

  1. Greeting: Students and teachers will greet each other, often in the form of some sort of activity. 
  2. Sharing: Students will share important information about their lives. There’s often a topic or some sort of prompt, and students can ask each other clarifying questions if they’d like. 
  3. Group Activity: Students will participate in a group activity that focuses on community building. In lots of elementary classrooms, this takes on the form of a game, song, or dance.
  4. Morning Message: Teachers will share a short message that helps set the tone for the rest of the day. There’s often an academic focus or a relation to what students will be learning later on.

If you’ve been doing Morning Meeting for a while now, chances are… you’re starting to run out of ways to make it engaging and fun. It’s hard to come up with fresh ideas.

And, if you conducted a Morning Meeting on Zoom or Google Meet this past spring, you’re probably wondering how you can make it more engaging and fun too. 

So today, my tips will really be centered around bringing energy back into Morning Meeting, no matter the learning environment.

#1 Greeting:

At the very start of the meeting, students and teachers will greet each other. In both an in person or an online environment, it’s a great idea to put this greeting up on the board or screen. 

I love to create a slide presentation for Morning Meeting. So I’ll create a really visually engaging slide presentation that I would screen-share with my students on Zoom or project on the board in person. 

These slides typically are simple with very legible fonts so that they are easy for kids to read and they also have some colorful graphics to help brighten the morning. 

And by the way, you don’t have to recreate this presentation everyday either. You can just have a template that you put new text in, and you can update the color scheme every few weeks or so. 

On the Greeting Slide, you might have a big colorful rainbow and a sun with the date on it. Or, maybe you’ll have the morning leader send you a picture ahead of time of their pet or their favorite hobby to make it a little more personal. 

Now on the board or on the screen, it would be a great time to share something like:

Good Morning friends! Today is Tuesday July 28, 2020. Jordan is our morning leader. Jordan, how will we greet the class today? 

If you give students the option to select a greeting, they often opt for the same greetings, especially online. So for example, you might all do a dance move to greet each other. Or, maybe you’ll do a virtual wave greeting.

But what I think is really key here is that you address all of your students by name. Now I know this might seem like it’s unnecessary, but I think that right now, kids need to hear you address them by name. They need to feel seen and heard. 

So take the time to go through and address each student by name, or have your morning leader address each student. They’ll feel seen, heard, welcome, loved. 

If you’re on Zoom, you can just go tile by tile addressing each student. Or, if you’re in person, you can do a popcorn-style greeting. 

#2 Share:

Then, we’ll move onto the share portion of the Morning Meeting. In this new environment – whether you’re online or in person – it’s going to be really critical to use this time to support student social emotional needs. 

There are a couple of different share prompts that I really like

  • I really like the “Rose, Bud, and Thorn” share because it allows students to reflect on how they are feeling. Students will share a rose, bud, and thorn from their week – or a highlight, a challenge, and something they’re looking forward to.
    • With this one, I’d recommend putting up an image of a rose on the screen or board for students to view.
    • It’s a great idea to start with the meeting leader, and then to draw popsicle sticks to call on students. Or, if you’re using a platform like Zoom, you can call on students in the order that they appear on your “Brady Bunch grid.”
  • I also really like the “peaks and valleys” prompt. It’s similar to rose, bud, and thorn, and allows kids to reflect on some of the high and low points of their day or week. 
  • For my last example, I also really like the share prompts that get students to reflect on topics like friendship and mindfulness and inclusion. So I might ask something like: What does it mean to be a good friend?

The reason I like all three of these examples is that they really get at this community building aspect of Morning Meeting that I was talking about earlier. Keep in mind though – some students might not want to share one day. And that’s okay. 

Keep these prompts optional. Especially in this new environment, some students might not feel prepared to share yet, and that’s okay. You can always do anonymous check-ins at the end of the day to find other ways to support your students.

#3 Activity:

This is my favorite part of Morning Meeting – activity time! When you’re teaching in person in a normal school year, you probably have tons of really great activities that you do with your students.

In this new normal, however, you won’t be able to do many of the activities that you originally planned. For example, there are all these new recommendations against singing in classrooms – because things like singing can spread coronavirus more rapidly.

And, even things like activities where students share objects with a partner are no longer feasible.

Then, of course, if you’re remote, it becomes even trickier to figure out how to do a fun activity on screen. You can only do so many Zoom scavenger hunts and freeze dance games until things start to feel a little dry for you and the students.

So I’ve put together a short list to help you come up with some activity ideas:

  • Guess Who! You can play Guess Who with your class. In this game, you can mentally pick a student in the class, and then you can have your students ask you a series of questions, like “do you have brown hair?” or “do you have a pet cat?” until they guess who you are. 
  • You can also play a game like emoji charades. This game is really similar to regular charades, except it has an SEL twist. Students can take turns acting out an emotion or an emoji. This is a great activity for identifying different emotions.
  • Maybe you’ll even do a mindful movement activity where you lead students through guided meditation or a series of yoga poses. If you like this idea but don’t know how to lead it yourself, there are dozens of great videos that you can find online that you can share with your students.

#4 Morning Message:

For the last part of our Morning Meeting, it’s time to share the morning message. This portion of the meeting is a great time to introduce an academic or social emotional topic that your students will explore that day. For example, you could introduce a math lesson, a writing prompt, or even a tech tool they will use that day. 

Your morning message could say something like “Today is Tuesday July 28, 2020. Today we will have math class from _____ to _____.”

Then on the board or screen I might show a picture of two clocks, the start and end times of math class, and then I could ask questions like:

“What time does math class start? What time does math class end? How long is math class? And, how do you know?” 

In this example, I have chosen to do a mini math lesson, but as I mentioned, you can also be creative here. The morning message is a great tool to help jumpstart their day of learning.

Again, all of these examples – from the greeting to the share to the activity to now the message – all have a visual aid for students. This is why I really think it’s critical to create a slide presentation to help engage students.

If you’re remote, they’ll have visual cues to understand the structure of the meeting. This is a great way to add predictability and routine. 

And if you’re in person, it’ll be easier for them to follow along, especially if you’re socially distanced in your classroom.

Morning Meeting helps build trust and a classroom community, and students need social-emotional support when they feel distanced and isolated from their classmates. They need things like routine and predictability and support, now more than ever.

So whether you’re in person or remote next year, I hope you find these Morning Meeting tips and tricks to be helpful. While I feel strongly that these ideas will work well for most classrooms, at the end of the day, we’re all learning and growing together.

We’re all in the same boat. 

The 2020-21 school year will be filled with uncertainty – for you and your students. 

And maybe, just maybe, Morning Meeting will add a bit more stability to their lives. A bit more community. A bit more hope. 

Thank you so much for listening to the EdTech Classroom podcast. If you liked today’s episode, be sure to subscribe, write a review, throw me some love. It helps new podcasters like me SO much, and I’ll see you back here next week on Tech Tuesday.

Bye friends!

If you liked this episode, you might also like this Morning Meeting bundle.

2 thoughts on “Supporting Student SEL Needs and Building a Culture of Community during Morning Meeting Leave a comment

  1. I love Morning Meeting! I couldn’t agree more that it is the bread and butter of school. My favorite part is the activity because I teach second graders and it is so cool to see them work together and really build community skills during this time. I sometimes take a step back to allow them to problem solve as a group and then guide then when they are struggling. Thanks for sharing some Zoom activities! I definitely struggled with that part of MM once we started remote learning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and for your comment! I totally agree that activities are great for community building, and I love your idea of having students problem solve as a group. Thank you again!


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