The Power of the Morning Meeting: 5 Steps Toward Changing Your Classroom and School Culture | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"The whole morning meeting not only sets a really good tone for the students, but it sets a tone for me." - Teacher in Louisville, Kentucky

When I first learned about the Morning Meeting model, I was working as an elementary school principal in Pasadena, California. I was new to that school, so I was skeptical about launching too many initiatives, but also curious about how it could work to transform my school and the lives of our students.

The Morning Meeting was first proposed to me by a new teacher who had studied it in her pre-service classes. She explained that the model was designed to:

  • Set the tone for respectful learning
  • Establish a climate of trust
  • Motivate students to feel significant
  • Create empathy and encourage collaboration
  • Support social, emotional and academic learning

She had me at "respectful learning!"

You see, I'd come to a school that was in a bit of trouble. Kids were struggling with behavior issues outside of class, teachers were finding ways to remove kids from their class, and it was clear that I needed to put my faith in something that I believed could improve the culture and climate of the school. I knew that I had some serious work ahead of me if I was going to build a positive sense of community. So I worked with a small team of teachers to launch the Morning Meeting -- and was thrilled with how it spread like wildfire across our campus.

Having been able to observe this school pre- and post-Morning Meeting, I can tell you that it was transformational. We didn't use a fancy prepared program or spend thousands of dollars on training. We simply rolled up our sleeves and, with the help of this one new teacher (and good resources), we were able to "rebuild" the school community and encourage kids to care for one another. The resulting decrease in bullying and increase in pupil attendance was amazing! Kids began taking ownership of their actions and resolving their own conflicts. They began to feel safe at school and share more about their lives. They were able to meet each other face-to-face and appreciate and honor the differences.

How It Begins

Making the Morning Meeting a daily practice in your class will take work. Let's look at five simple steps that can help you get started.

1. Learn How to Use the Morning Meeting

As with any new classroom initiative you are considering, be sure to learn everything you can about how it works. Take time to discover the whats, hows and whys. Do a little bit of investigating. Seek out colleagues who might already be using it, and see if this process can work for you. (Check out the resources below.) See if you can collaborate with others at your site to join you.

2. Establish a Time

Before you commit to a Morning Meeting, you'll need to be sure that it fits with your schedule. Ideally it needs to happen every day, first thing in the morning, just after students arrive. Give it a good 15-30 minutes but no longer than that. You want enough time to connect, but not so long that students have difficulty staying focused.

3. Introduce the Morning Meeting to Students

Take a few days to introduce the idea of a class-wide meeting that will happen every morning in classroom. Let students know what your hopes are. Be transparent about the goals that you want to accomplish, and how important each student will be to this process.

4. Communicate with Parents

Parents will be receptive to the Morning Meeting if you keep them informed. Let them know right away what it is and how you intend to use it in your class. As with any project, letting parents know about the important learning you have planned will support you when kids go home and share their experience. Consider inviting parents to join a Morning Meeting in your classroom, if it works for you.

5. Phase In the Process

Once you're confident about moving forward, share all the components of the Morning Meeting structure with as many details as your students need. You’ll soon find that classrooms have many adaptations to the model. A general order for introducing the process to students could be:

  1. Greeting
  2. Sharing
  3. Group Activity
  4. Announcements

Keep in mind that a full Morning Meeting may take weeks to implement, but I believe that the benefits will be worth the effort.

Where to Learn More

Whenever I'm getting ready to try something new, I like to have some backup. Here are three resources that can support you as give this a go. Be sure to adapt them for your needs.

  1. Morning Meeting & YouTube Inspiration
  2. How to Serve a Nutritious Morning Meeting
  3. Morning Meeting Pinterest Resources

Finally, I encourage you to watch this video on "Community Begins with the Morning Meeting." It's a beautiful example of how this model supports students and teachers to start the day and pave the way to academic success and a happy, healthy school.

The five steps I've shared today are not inclusive, but they are a way to help you consider how the Morning Meeting could launch in your classroom. Are you using the Morning Meeting? Is it working for you? Do you have suggestions of your own? I'd love to have you share them in the comments section below.

Comments (28)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dorothy Chambers's picture

Hi Whitney, it was so good to get your response.
I do agree with you letting other teachers know what is working and making a difference in our classroom and school is really the way to go in helping each other. Teachers working and sharing to build a learning community can only have a positive effective on our education system.
As you stated a number of persons are nervous about trying things that are not in a textbook, to a large extent this is because they see schools only as institutions to educate the children; and leave out the vital aspects of socialization and development. If we don't establish an influencing relationship with the students we will not be able to guide them to develop goods standards of morals, interactions and behaviors and then we will not be able to educate them. Setting the right tone is resulting in tremendous success for both the teachers and the students, as it is a positive way of guiding students in the right direction at the start of each day or class, so I strongly recommend that all teachers try out this principle.

LEugene's picture

Dorothy I am glad that you started a change in the school culture. We as teachers can start with our classes. Once we create an atmosphere that has love and show the students that we care, I can tell you that it goes a long way, even when they leave the walls of the school. I agree that many teachers are intimidated and feel as though if the students see another side of them, they may be thought of in another way, but it is not so, they just have to be willing to take up the challenge. I have done some similar activities at my classes but I still decided to try one of the exercises after watching the video and it had great results.

The next morning I had students select a classmate's name from a bag. I explain what they had to do although I was a bit hesitant, but I took up the challenge anyway. I had them go to the person, shake their hand, say good morning and something positive about the person. Now this is a class of only 12 students, who are usually harsh to each other, always saying hurtful things to each other, so I figured that was the best class to start with because of the size. I was so elated at the end, because I heard such positive words said to their classmates.

I then asked them how it felt to say something positive to each other, and the students were really deep in explaining their feelings. There was even one student who was afraid to express their feelings in words but at the end was able to say what they wanted to say and I could see that they were so happy. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Some students even confessed that they felt I knew something was going on in their homeroom which I did not know about, and the activity came the right time. I was surprise to hear that and even more glad that I did it, because that day, the students probably were saved from even hurting their classmates.

They were then asked to form groups to start their school work and oh my, the class was so peaceful that they could not believe the period was over for them to go to another class. It was a very great feeling and it indeed changed the atmosphere within the classroom for both students and me. We had the best class on that day and well continue to have the best classes onwards from now on!!

Thank you again Lisa Dabbs for that wonderful article. I have shared it again with more teachers and I hope they well get the virus of wanting to make their classroom an atmosphere that demonstrates love and all the kind attributes to make the students feel safe. I can say from the students testimony, it came the right time for me to use.

Lili's picture
Business Manager - Boulder Prep High School

Our school has 125 high school students, and we have been getting them all together first thing in the morning for 15+ years. We call it "Stories"; a time to share a thought provoking, motivational or inspirational story to get everyone's brains warmed up for the day. It is a great way to create community. We love when students do the stories presentation to share something that is important in their lives. I had not heard of other programs doing this kind of thing, so thanks for your blog and spreading the word about morning meetings. It helped validate what we have been doing for so long.

Dorothy Chambers's picture

LEugene, It is such a feeling of success, when we try something new with our students and it works so well. Reading you post almost brought tears to my eyes too, to see the positive difference one simple activity can have on a whole class. LEugene, your have made the start in your classroom, but you just watch and see the domino effect it will have on the whole school when other teachers and students start following the good example you set off.

Line Bourgeois's picture
Line Bourgeois
ESL Teacher from The Magdalen Islands, Canada - Currently working in China

I think that morning meetings are a fantastic idea! I read initial post and comments with delight. I was looking for something to enhance my lessons. Some ideas designed for school wide morning meetings can totally be adapted for a a single classroom. Thank you for your sharing such a great practice!

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Yes, yes, yes! A positive start to a new day: welcoming students and making plans. I found this worked very well. A step above going over a class agenda and bellwork. Morning meeting is personal and supportive.

Corah's picture

I've been using the Responsive Classroom's morning meetings for the past three years now. I absolutely love it! The kids get such a kick out of it and it really creates a nice class community. On the rare day we don't have time for a team meeting or get to the handshake they really miss it.

Catherine O'Brien's picture
Catherine O'Brien
I teach sustainable happiness.

Thanks so much for this! I'll be sharing it in my sustainable happiness course. A positive start to the day is great at the university level too. I always start my class by asking "who has good news to share?" The response can be as simple as, "the sun's shining!" We are so often surround by "bad" news and a culture of complaint that it's refreshing to highlight the positive.

Cassie's picture
2nd Grade Teacher

Morning Meeting
I've heard of Morning Meetings before, but I did not understand what it would look like in a primary classroom. After reading this, I now have a better understanding and I am excited to implement morning meetings into our daily schedule. Also, having read in the comments section about how other educators are having success with morning meanings makes me what to tell other teachers in my building about it. Lastly, thank you for including links to additional resources on the topic. Those links led me to other resources that were also inspiring and made want to implement Morning Meetings even more.

Rebekah's picture

This is awesome. I love the idea to have fun with students, grow deeper, and create a community. I have taught as an outdoor educator and every single morning we would do a fun activity to begin the day. It is cool to see this implemented in the classroom setting. Love the minute mornings!

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