Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Why Have a Theme-Based Community Meeting {Series Post #3}
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Why Have a Theme-Based Community Meeting {Series Post #3}


Other Posts in this Series:
Introduction to the Series
Series Post # 1: Why I Devote Time to Community Meetings
Series Post # 2: The Design: An Overview


In my last post, I shared with you my journey to the idea of a theme-based morning meeting. When I implemented a morning meeting routine into my classroom, I found that Common themes and messages kept popping up in our meeting discussions and in the literature we shared together {showing kindness, extending a sense of belonging to others, believing in oneself, showing compassion, that people can do more than they ever thought they were capable of, etc}. All of a sudden, it just made perfect sense to base the course of my community meetings on themes that allowed me to continue to touch on these important messages while also creating an organizational structure to tie everything together. {Post # 2 focuses on the design and organization of my meeting routines}.

Why Do I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the conscious decision of teaching through theme in my Community Meeting? Here's why:

Greater focus, more creativity. A theme-based approach to community meetings has allowed me to be more organized as I plan for our meetings. Within the expected structure that I have designed for my classroom meetings (introduction of the theme, vocabulary, and related quotations, self-assessment, discussion, making connections), I can still be very creative in how I share the theme with students and provoke discussions. Youtube videos, songs and lyrics, picturebooks, poems, mini-activities and projects, current events, artwork, memes, or just a simple question for students to respond to—the possibilities are endless but any and every creative teaching idea fits into the routine when the activity is part of building understanding of the focus theme!

Increased use of picturebooks. My theme-based community meeting allows me the increased opportunity to use picturebooks with my students. As we get past the “beginning of the year phase,” my reader’s workshop read alouds quickly become chapter books, but I know that picturebooks are still an appropriate, engaging, and fun teaching tool for upper elementary students. Picturebooks give us the opportunity to see a full story unfold in a short amount of time. They offer us the opportunity to "get to the point" and have discussions around a complete text in one or two classroom meetings. I like to think that I instill a life-long love of picturebooks in my students. So now, rather than use them sporadically with a feeling of guilt that I have not shared more picturebooks with my students, I am able to use picturebooks as a teaching tool consistently because of my community meeting lessons.

Increased Commitment. Designing my community meetings so that important themes are the driving force has increased my commitment to consistently hold community meetings because the theme-based approach allows me the regular opportunity to teach important literacy skills in addition to what we learn in reader’s workshop. As I expose students to new themes, teach related vocabulary, and read multiple books on the same theme, I am able to target how author's build a theme, analyzing an author’s message or perspective, and teach students to compare and contrast literature. Because of this, I’m not really “taking time away” from my classroom by adding community meetings to our schedule. I am complementing and increasing the meaning behind everything we do, especially in our literacy block. When I know and believe that community meeting complements my literacy instruction, and sometimes becomes my literacy instruction, it makes me more committed to sticking to my community meeting routine.

What really made me a firm believer in my themed-morning meetings? The first year that I implemented my theme-based morning meeting, I saw immediate and tremendous growth in my students’ understanding of theme. I regularly observe students referring back to our "Morning Meeting Themes" bulletin board during our readers workshop and I often ask them to take a look at it when we are discussing theme and central messages during our reading mini-lessons. Our community themes bulletin board is a great reference tool for students when they are writing in their reader response notebooks. The fruits of our community meetings multiply during readers workshop!

Community meeting is double-dipping in the best way! Take a look at the Common Core standards that are met through my theme-based community meeting lessons.

Later, I will show you how I cover a lot of ground during the first few weeks of school so that students are quickly introduced to themes that you will get a lot of miles out of as your year goes on.
Missed any posts in the series? Catch up now and see what's ahead!

See you next Saturday!  

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