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

LEugene's picture

This was a very interesting article. Reading this article allowed me to gain new ideas in which can help me to set standards for my student behaviors in the classroom and eventually the overall school. Just reading it made me feel relax, far less if it is tried in the classroom every morning with students. I tend to agree with the end results the model was designed to achieve. At my homeroom sessions and even in my individual classes we have something similar, and it is true that students built trust and feel comfortable within their surroundings. When formal classes eventually start the students are ready to learn without reservations. The teacher and students are at peace in mind which can help instructions to be transferred to the students in a meaningful way with a positive attitude by the teacher.

This article serves as encouragement for me to share with other teachers so that they can implement it in their classroom as one strategy or option to be used to set standards for student behaviors. I believe if this is done the other factors that contribute towards rebellion and delinquency among students may slightly decrease drastically because they will be interested in what is going on in classes.

I believe this is another strategy as well that can help in the overall behavior of students if it is done on a class basis, which in the end will change the culture at the school. It can contribute to a more positive atmosphere which will cause students to be more willing to learn. I have encountered students who were a bit resentful in trying the activities but by the end of the month these same students are very cooperative and look forward to the activity before the start of official classes. Their attitude improves which has a rippling effect on the way the envision learning.

In the final analysis, teachers must have a well-ordered environment by implementing practices and procedures to maintain an atmosphere in which instruction and learning can occur. Implementing different techniques at the right time will enhance cooperation and interaction between teacher and the student, and as a result, the teacher achieves the goals/objectives outlined for the class and as a teacher will have achieved there internal goals.

Jen Audley's picture
Jen Audley
Manager of Online Communications for Responsive Classroom/NEFC

Morning Meetings are an amazingly effective and simple routine for launching learning and setting a positive tone for the day! Responsive Classroom "wrote the book" on Morning Meeting (Really! It's The Morning Meeting Book: and Lisa, I can tell from your description that's the style of Morning Meeting that the teacher at your school learned about -- so I want to point readers towards Responsive Classroom resources that will help them get started, starting with this page, "What is Morning Meeting?"

Lucy Rogers's picture

This technique is being used in a special school for emotionally disturbed secondary girls inHong Kong with great success. The meeting is 20 minutes every day. Students also keep a journal where they summarise their day with the good, bad and ugly which only the class teacher reads and responds to. The journal helps as a prompt for the morning meeting. Issues are nipped in the bud and positive ideas and goals (individual and shared) are promoted for the day. We have very small classes of 12 students at the most. Thanks for the article.

Dorothy Chambers's picture

Start of a New School Cultural

I must state that I was truly encourage by this article and immediately got into action of trying the some to the suggestions to get my students off on the right start for the day. The information provide helped me to formulate some simple activities, ideas and steps to try with my homeroom group, which I have for 30 minutes each morning and my prefects who I meet with for 20 minutes on Fridays.

The very next day after reading your article, I came into my class and I told the children to stand and take some deep breaths. I then told them to sit close theirs and think of being in a nice place. While looking at each of their faces I can see much different expression coming over them. I then I said a short, soft, prayer of thanks and blessing for them. I then I gave the students a joke which had them laughing for a good while. I enjoyed this so much as this was the first time I was seeing some of them really smiling and their face just lit up. I invited volunteers to come and try and out do my joke and this was just fun and laughter for a full 10 minutes.

Without a shadow of doubt by very next day I could identify some positive differences in my students. The students look more relaxed and were far more friendly to each other as I had them share one thing that they enjoyed the day before. Since then we have been doing different activities and pep talks each morning and it is having such a good effect on my students and an even greater impact on me for the rest of the day and all my classes.

I have said to all my students let's try a "do to one what we want others to do to us" program to see if we can start a culture revolution and change the school. I explain to them let's do something good to or for at least one person each day and until these good deeds becomes a ripple effect in the school. I gave them the example of, if you want people to smile at you, smile at someone who you don't know, don't like or want to help. If you want people to share with you, then share something with at least one person etc. but let us start changing the school with the "man in the mirror" until it affect the whole school.

Thanks for your article which, I have shared with all my colleagues and what I plan to do. This article is the start of the transformation we (both teachers and students) will compel at our school. I see 200 students each week in my different classes I shall use them to change the entire culture of the school and thus the other 1000 students. A good start, procedures that enhance co-operation and feeling of belonging definitely sets the tone for the rest of the day and will make a difference at school.

Dorothy Chambers's picture

It really motivated me to get into action and make a difference. At first I was doing it for my students, then I realized just how much it was also having a good impact on me too. I have decided to use it as the start to change my school cultural to one where students and teacher share and care for each other much more by much better interactions.

Dorothy Chambers's picture

L Eugene I am like you as it really motivated me to get into action and make a difference. At first I was doing it for my students, and then I realized just how much it was also having a good impact on me too. I have decided to use it as the start to change my school cultural to one where students and teacher share and care for each other much more by much better interactions.

Donna's picture
8th Grade ELA teacher

Our school spent five years implementing the morning meeting in much the same way. Two staff members had attended training on Responsive Classroom in the past and were supporting the rest of us. Our school had varying levels of implementation, but there was a noticeable and positive difference in both teacher and student language and behavior in those classrooms using the components of RC. This past summer, we were so fortunate to receive the Responsive Classroom training for the entire school. While I did previously use all the components to some success, the training provided the missing pieces in my understanding and use of the components.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Dorothy!
I think setting the tone and helping the classroom really become a learning family makes a big difference, and I'm glad it's working for you! We need to keep spreading the word that sometimes the best things we can do in education are not costly, but about helping to make school an important community in the lives of everyone there- kids, teachers, parents. Sometimes it seems that folks are nervous about trying something that doesn't come with a text book or formal prescribed curriculum attached.
I'm so excited that this is making a difference for both the kids and the adults in your school. Helping spread the news about things that work is one of the best things about Edutopia :)

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