Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Building Classroom Community Through Morning Meeting (Part 1: Greetings)

Creating a strong classroom community and positive climate shouldn't be overwhelming or frustrating but it must be your top priority on Day 1. Yep!  On the first day of school, I start building a strong foundation and work on creating a positive environment that fosters and supports my students' social, emotional and academic learning. The stronger the community, the less disruptive behaviors there are to derail the day.

That's why I 100% believe in Morning Meeting. I'm all in. The 15-20 minutes spent each day on Morning Meeting gives me the biggest return for my community building investment. Hands down.  When done correctly, it sets the tone for the day.

Morning Meeting is made up of four parts: Greeting, Sharing, Activity, and Morning Message.  I have been extensively trained in Responsive Classroom and have heard their mantra loud and clear:  Morning Meeting is designed to create a strong sense of community and sets the kids up for social and academic success. Does it work? You betcha! It has been the biggest game changer for my classroom climate.  What are the key social skills we focus on?

Today's Morning Meeting focus is on GREETINGS.

Why Are Morning Meeting Greetings So Important?

By the time my class arrives at Morning Meeting, I've already greeted them at the door upon arrival and have given a group greeting after attendance which is a minute before Morning Meeting begins.

Why all the fuss?

1. Greetings are a way to say, "Hey! I see you!  I'm glad you're with us today."  Your greeting may be the first time the child heard his/her name that day.  Who doesn't want to be seen and acknowledged? 

2. It creates a sense of belonging. In a perfect world, all my kiddos would be in loving environments where the parents are happy to see them when they roll out of bed and when they arrive home each day.  But that isn't our reality.  So when they are with me, you better believe I'm going to greet them enthusiastically and let them know how happy I am that they are with me.  US.   

3. It allows kids to practice social skills.  For example, eye contact is a must because it shows respect in our classroom.  That is hard for many of the kids to sustain at first.  And we rarely just greet with a wave or kind word.  We ALWAYS use names.  It's respectful and forces us to get to know our friends' names. This isn't always so easy!  Every year, no matter how hard we work at this, I will hear someone say after the holidays, "What's your name again?"  But if you are successful at Morning Meeting, the kids WILL ASK (taking a risk) instead of staying silent.

What kind of greetings are best for Morning Meeting?

1. INDIVIDUAL GREETINGS: We sit in a circle for Morning Meeting so most greetings involve students to the right and left of the child. This give the students TWO opportunities to use their loud and proud voice, eye contact, and say student's name.

2. GROUP GREETINGS: Usually we are standing in a circle for these.  They often involve a chant or a song like this:

I pick and choose greeting according to the time I have.  If a longer activity, usually a shorter greeting.  I vary them to keep Morning Meeting Greetings fresh.  I always MODEL the greeting first so expectations are known. The first time we did a quick High Five greeting, a child cried because the slap was way too hard. That was a quick lesson for me to MODEL everything and let the kids know my exact expectations.

NOTE: For the first 6 weeks of school, since I am laying the foundation to build a strong classroom community, I tend to focus more on GROUP GREETINGS so kids can frequently hear all the names in the class.  My GREETINGS usually run from 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on which one I pick.

Speaking of names, it is imperative that you take time to pronounce each child's name the correct way. They deserve it. In the community where I teach, I admit to struggling with this especially during my first year in the district. Over 90% of my students are from India. I usually speak to the K teacher about correct pronunciation before school starts but still struggle. Often a child will say, "Say it how you want." to be polite but I point out that their name is special and beautiful like them and they deserve to have us say it correctly. I swear I see the kids sit up a little taller after that!

How To Avoid Common Pitfalls During Morning Meeting Greeting Time

1. The kids are losing interest in GREETINGS during Morning Meeting?

Switch it up!  There are a million greetings that can be used. Have your kids brainstorm some new ones. Keep a list handy and let kids vote (or a student) pick the one for the day. Remember, it can be as simple as, "Hi, Lisa!  How are you today?"

2. My kids love the songs/chants and silly greetings but they get carried away and act too silly!

Being PROACTIVE is better than having to be REACTIVE. Model, model, model! Again, make your expectations CLEAR on DAY 1. Review the PURPOSE of morning Meeting and stop the problem as soon as it emerges. I had one student this year who always got overly excited.  I often sat by him, gave nonverbal cues before the greeting or review expectations with him PRIOR to Morning Meeting.  

3. Kids only want to do the "fun" greetings.  I don't want to bore them with simple greetings.

You are not a cruise director. Your goal is to ENGAGE, not ENTERTAIN your kiddos. Stick to your Morning Meeting Greeting philosophy and feel good knowing you're engaging them in a respectful process that is going to strengthen your classroom community.

4. My shy kids aren't into ANY aspect of Morning Meeting. What should I do?

I have had shy kids, select mutes, and kids that really didn't give two hoots about being in any learning environment. What do I do? Make adjustments, of course. Differentiate.  We differentiate for reading, math, writing, etc.  Morning Meeting is no different. But here's the thing: When you truly have a classroom community that promotes respect and empathy, the kids themselves will help each other out.  (NOTE: A post on how I differentiate is forthcoming.)

Let me know if you have any questions about incorporating Greetings into your Morning Meeting.

I recently decided to put all of my Morning Meeting materials together and turn them into a paperless/projectable product. (Unless you want to print out.)  It doesn't mean I show the kids each slide each day when up on screen. It depends. But to me, it's having everything in one place to save me time especially since I have Morning Meeting twenty minutes after arrival.  (On those few days when I don't have time to write a Morning Message, I use one of the five pre-made messages.)

Like I said earlier, creating a strong classroom community and positive climate shouldn't be overwhelming or frustrating. Here's a ONE WEEK Morning Meeting freebie that you can download now and have it ready in your Back-to-School file. It might just get your juices flowing for some ideas of your own.

If you're a new teacher or someone who's looking to lay a strong foundation to start building your classroom community on Day 1 but are short on time, (your juices have too many places they need to flow!) you may want to peek at my monthly packets or the bundle.

Ready to read Part 2: SHARING?  Click here!

Ready to Read Part 3: ACTIVITIES? Click here!

Ready to read Part 4: Morning Message? Click Here!

Any questions or something you want to share with me? Let me know!

In the meantime, if you know a teacher who might like or benefit from this post, please send them the link.

Have a great day!

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