George Lucas Educational Foundation

How do you foster communication within your classroom?

How do you foster communication within your classroom?

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In order to foster positive relationships within the classroom, it is important to have open communication among the teacher and the students, but also among the students. How do you achieve this within your classroom? I currently attempt to foster a sense of community and open communication by implementing a morning meeting every morning in which the students tell each other good morning, share stories of things of importance that are occurring in their life, and others get to comment or ask questions. I find it fosters relationships that may not usually be there. I am interested to learn what others are doing in their classroom to build community and open communication. How do you feel you support your students and encourage them to share their thoughts, opinions, or lives with you with absolute trust? Also, if you do morning meetings, what kind of activities do you do with your class?

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Julie Tansill's picture

In my morning meetings, I always start with a greeting. If you google Christine Bainbridge 2nd grade and go to her website she has a teachers section with morning meeting greeting ideas. We do high five greeting, elbow rock greeting, ET greeting, silly voice greeting, etc to make it exciting and new. After that, I usually call on 3 students to share about something going on in their life. They can talk about a issue they are having in class, a situation at home, what they did recently that was exciting to them, etc. Anything they wish to discuss. I do not limit them. After that they call upon 3 students who may ask a question or comment on the story. After the 3 students ask their questions or comment the student says, "That was three, thank you!" I got all these ideas from The Morning Meeting Book (I cannot think of the author right now, but they also write Rules in School and The First Six Weeks). After the students share, I go straight into a morning message. I have always left out the activity. I have ideas from Bainbridge, but I just have never implemented them.

I usually begin morning meeting from day one of school. It is a great way to start the year off and get to know one another. I also enjoy that we can discuss classroom issues together and come up with solutions together. I am just curious if I am spending too much time on it and leaving out a crucial element by not doing the activity. I typically spend only 15 minutes, but in a school day, that seems like so much time. Also, just an idea, in your morning message that you write to them, I tend to relate it somehow to what we are learning. I write letters when we are studying friendly letters. I also make them identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, compound words, etc within the message.

Amanda Dinger's picture

I love the idea of the morning meeting. Out K-teachers incorporate this activity into their schedule. Unfortunately, our administration expects first graders to be engaged in written morning work within 5 minutes of entering the classroom. I'm sure your students feel special because you allow them the opportunity to share their own personal experiences. How can we get to know our students if we don't allow them the opportunity to tell us about themselves?

Thanks for sharing your ideas and your resources. I thought of purchasing some of the texts mentioned and present to my principal for feedback.

Casie Nider's picture

I spend 30 minutes every morning on morning meeting. I allow any child to share (one at a time). After they share I have them call on three friends for either ask a question or comment on their sharing. I do not limit their sharing either and the students can pass on sharing if they do not have anything to say or show. The first year I did this, I was able to have the whole class share each day, but last year my kids would share for hours if I allowed it, so I had to assign days for the kids to share. I start moring meeting on the very first day of school. I teach kindergarten and this can be difficult at first, but once we all know each other and are familiar with the routine, the kids love it. I also got my ideas from the book "The First Six Weeks of School" there is also another book "Morning Meeting" that helped me out.

Dana's picture

I feel that it is important to have strong communication in the classroom between you and the students. Each day I welcome my students in the classroom and tell them the expectations of the morning. They love the structure of knowing what to do and what I expect. Most students want to please you by doing what they need to do. I have a morning sharing time (especially after a long holiday) to talk about what they did over the weekend or what was something exciting that happen to them. If I forget, they remind me that it is talk time. It is important for the students to know that you care and how excited you are about listening to them. A great teacher I know once told me that listening is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. Even in times of misbehavior, it is important to listen to what each side has to say.

Kristin's picture

This has been a struggle for me to incorporate into my classroom. I teach 5th grade and have many students that do not respect each other. I have great communication between myself and my students, but my students do not know how to communicate with each other. I like the idea of a morning meeting, although my school does not allow us the time for something like that. I have been able to find a great way for students to share their opinion about different topics with one another during reading time. I often have my students participate in written conversations. I usually have four or so texts that my students are able to chose from. They then pair up with students that picked the same text as them. After independently reading the article/text they write a reflection. Once everyone has finished writing their reflection, they pass their papers to their left. They then read that persons reflection and comment on it. This is very much like having a conversation with someone, except that it is in writing. I have found that doing this gives my students the oportunity to share their opinions about various topics. Most importantly, it motivates my struggling readers to read.

cheryl's picture

Hi Julie
I tried the morning meeting with my fifth grade students today and it was great. Thank you for starting this blog the information you shared is very helpful.

Michael Striker's picture

These ideas for giving students time to get their frustrations out in the open and recieve feedback not only from those who are sometimes in the same boat but also from the teacher who can then address their concerns motivating solutions. I teach first through eighth grade art and while I would love to have the time to sit down and really understand what students are having difficulties with and learn, in more detail, who they are as individuals as each of seem to be able to do; but, when I have a class once a week, or everyday for only a quarter, it seems almost impossible. This does not mean I do not attempt to. At the beginning of each project I try to have an exercise with constant feedback (where the students have multiple parts that are individually checked) so that I am able to talk to them one-on-one and learn how they feel about the project and where their skill level is. Sometimes I begin to learn more about who they are, but not as much as I think would help to fully understand who they are and which teaching methods would best suit them. Do any of you have any ideas that might help with getting to know my students better? I was also thinking about trying five-minute exercises at the beginning of class to allow them to settle down and focus on something related to the project they are working on. Has anyone tried these before? How have they worked for you?

Stephanie Mattison's picture

There are many ways to foster communication in classrooms. I choose to have morning meetings in my classroom for a number of reasons. By learning the process of how a morning meeting works, fosters respect between the teacher and students. Issues and topics of discussion are developed by the students which allows me to learn about their interests and what problems they may be having in school or at home. Morning meetings allow me to show the students that I care for them inside and outside of the classroom, and that I just do not value their academic development, but their development as a future productive citizens as well. Active listening, critical thinking, and responsible speaking skills are learned through the morning meeting process. Morning meetings help create a sense of community within the classroom and aids in helping students take responsibility for their learning when they are able to discuss topics that interest them (Kottler, Zehm, & Kottler, 2005).
For my students who have a hard time sharing their thoughts during morning meetings, I also provide daily journaling. Those students are able to get their thoughts and ideas across to me that they may not want to share with the entire class. Through the journals, I can encourage students to be more open during morning meetings and let them know that their ideas and comments are just as important as anyone else's. After a while, those shy students often warm up to the ideas of sharing during morning meetings and begin to have confidence in communicating their ideas.
Reference: Kottler, J. A., Zehm. S. J., & Kottler, E. (2005). On being a teacher: The human dimension. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Sherry_K's picture

I love all the ideas.
I have also used the strategy called "Say Something". It can be used in pairs or small groups. One person starts by talking about anything they want or a teacher prescribed topic. All members must first listen to what is said by the first person, then have a "wait time", then another member must comment about what the first student said and so on until everyone has "said something". It is a great way to foster conversation, thoughts, and it gets everyone involved.

Anna Forrester's picture

What a wonderful activity to promote positive character within the classroom and to help model positive human kindness within your students. I'm going to try to do this also. Your students are very lucky to have you for their teacher.

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