The Power of the Morning Meeting: 5 Steps Toward Changing Your Classroom and School Culture
"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:
- Group Activity
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.
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.