It is 9:00 am and the Pre-K cottage comes to life. Boys boisterously pour in to the classroom from P.E. ready and eager to start their day. The hallway fills as boys begin to complete their morning tasks of hanging up backpacks and emptying folders. Next, boys quickly jump into their designated spots on the carpet. Yes, all of this excitement is in anticipation for a group meeting. Wait, what?!
Why a meeting for four and five year olds? According to the book, Morning Meeting, “Students and teachers crave a certain amount of predictability and routine in the school day, especially at the start of the day. The format of ‘Morning Meeting’ provides this predictability while allowing room for variation and change.”
Morning Meeting always starts with a greeting. Greetings include handshakes or high-fives and a myriad of other fun options, but most importantly, each boy is greeted by name by both his teachers and classmates. This allows the boys to build a strong sense of community within the walls of our classroom. It helps each child feel valued, known, and understood by his teachers and peers. This message is also supported in the Morning Meeting book noting that, “The way we begin each day in our classroom sets the tone for learning and speaks volumes about what and whom we value, about our expectations for the way we will treat each other, and about the way we believe learning occurs.” At SAA we value knowing one another and respecting and celebrating each boy for who they are. This core belief is so important that it is taught and modeled at the very beginning of a boy’s Academy career.
After everyone is greeted, students share in a structured way. Boys are invited to share about a recent experience, how they are feeling, or something they are looking forward to. Students are expected to be good audience members for their peers—this gives them an opportunity to practice respectful listening. Other boys are also encouraged to ask questions to further practice engaging in meaningful conversations with the group. This portion of Morning Meeting provides a chance for boys to know and feel that their thoughts are valued and that their peers care.
Following a share there is a group activity which helps the boys feel unified and gives them a sense of community. During this time we often practice academic and social skills with games or songs. The boys learn how to work cooperatively as a whole group, take turns, and become problem solvers. This gives our young learners an opportunity to be active and engaged participants of their own learning. Group activities vary in length but always involve the entire class.
We wrap the meeting by reading the “morning message,” which is written as a collaboration by the entire group. This gives the boys a look at the day ahead, reviewing the schedule and relaying any important classroom news.
While the Morning Meeting does take time, we agree with the book’s author that it is “an investment which is repaid many times over. The sense of belonging and the skills of attention, listening, expression, and cooperative interaction developed in Morning Meeting are a foundation for every lesson…a microcosm of the way we wish our schools to be—communities full of learning, safe and respectful and challenging for all.”
So even though they may not comprehend the science of how these meetings are developing strong cognitive abilities and social/emotional learning, our little guys do understand and look forward to the start of each morning where they enjoy listening and learning from each other.
Watch a Morning Meeting in Action: