George Lucas Educational Foundation
Classroom Management

Making the Most of Morning Meetings in Middle School

Whether held in the morning or at the start of any class period, a quick check-in can inspire and motivate students.

February 29, 2024
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How do you start the day with students? Some schools have a homeroom or an advisory period that’s fairly short but open-ended in how students and teachers spend that time. In other schools, students jump right into content from the first bell of the day.

While we, as educators, always look to maximize our instructional time, there’s so much to be gained—for both students and teachers—by dedicating time to a morning meeting. This is particularly true in middle school, when students are transitioning between the constraints of elementary school and the freedom of high school.

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated time for this sort of activity, you might be wondering how to spend it. These three activities not only allow you to build deeper connections with students but set the tone for the entire day. They can be added to the first five minutes—or less—of class to set students up for success and to build community in your classroom. You can also try out these activities during lunch, indoor recess, or any other short burst of time you have with students during the day.

3 Ways to Set a Positive Tone with Morning Meetings

1. Provide some motivation. How do you start your own day? Maybe you start with positive affirmations or by setting a small goal for yourself. Whatever strategies you use to get motivated for and excited about the day ahead, bring those to your students.

If affirmations are something you like to use in your own life, pick one that’s particularly motivating, and share it with students. Post the affirmation on the board, and ask students to repeat it, discuss it with a partner, and then share their thoughts as a whole group. If affirmations don’t feel authentic to you, invite students to share a goal as daily motivation. You can frame the goals around academics, behavior, or a combination based on your particular students. Give them time to discuss with a partner and then share with the whole group.

By creating a space for students to ground themselves in positive statements and goals, you offer them the chance to build motivation for the day and connect with one another as they do it. This is particularly beneficial for middle school students, who, as they begin developing their individual identities more, can struggle to find motivation on their own or can struggle to feel as connected to their communities as they may have in elementary school.

2. Engage in nonacademic conversation. One of my favorite ways to get students ready for the day is to get them talking. So many students arrive at school and might as well still be asleep, so the morning meeting provides a chance to get students awake and engaged. Nonacademic conversations are a great way to do this because they are fun, welcome all voices, and ease the transition from home to school.

If you’re wondering what a nonacademic conversation would look like, it can really be anything you want. I always relied on would-you-rather questions that got my students eagerly debating the superiority of Takis over Cheetos, ice cream over cookies, or football over basketball. Depending on your students’ interests, you can tailor questions and find ways to get every student involved.

By starting the day with an exciting debate, students will be better prepared to speak up in class, as they have already woken up their minds and their voices.

3. Celebrate community. Your morning meetings provide a unique opportunity to celebrate the community you’ve created and both individual and group accomplishments. Has your class been working hard to improve homework completion, reduce behavior concerns, or support one another more? Whatever the goal, use your morning meeting as an opportunity to reflect on the goal and acknowledge progress.

You can also take time to celebrate individual accomplishments in your class. Has a student won the spelling bee, scored in the most recent basketball game, or made the volleyball team? Take time in your morning meeting to bring attention to these accomplishments and celebrate them as a class.

If you’re a middle school teacher, you’ve probably had at least a few students who have leaned into the too-cool-for-school mentality—I certainly did! But even these students, and maybe particularly these students, were excited to have the positive attention on them and their accomplishments.

These celebrations can help your students recognize the value of their positive contributions to the classroom community. You want your students to feel at home, supported, and loved in your classroom. What better way to do that than by celebrating their success and showing that the entire classroom community is rooting for them?

These activities are a great way to start the day, and as you continue to learn more about your students and what they need, you can adjust to ensure that every student gets engaged and excited for the day ahead. However you choose to start your day, think about the tone you want to set for students: How can you inspire, motivate, and celebrate your students from the first moments they enter the classroom? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • 6-8 Middle School

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