Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: How to Schedule Morning Meeting into your School Day
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How to Schedule Morning Meeting into your School Day

In August, my friend Kara from Making Playtime Count shared some ways to creatively squeeze character building into your classroom routines. In today's Implementing the Community Meeting, I'm addressing the basics of how you can add a community meeting to your class schedule.

How Much Time Does a Community Meeting Take?
During the first few weeks of school, my classroom meetings with read aloud and discussions may take up to an hour. I embed lessons into my “getting to know you/back to school/setting expectations” routines and into readers workshop since each theme has a touchstone picturebook to read aloud. As we get further into our year, it would be ideal to have at least 25 minutes for community meetings each day, however, 2-3 days a week still makes a strong impact on students and your classroom community. I try to get my meetings down to 20 minutes knowing that our discussions will continue during future meetings. One year, I had 15 minutes in the morning before my students went to special-area classes and I was able to make that work for community meeting.

When Does Community Meeting Happen? 
While “Morning Meeting” is the perfect way to start the school day, sometimes schedules do not allow for our meetings to be first thing in the morning {or even every day of the week}. In this case, I call it a “Community Meeting.” Find a time of the day that works for your schedule. Do you have a small window of time when students return from recess or a special area class? Can you get everyone to your meeting space more quickly in the mornings by being in your chair ready to begin and inviting students over as they get unpacked? They can grab their journals and get started on a reflection page while waiting for classmates. You can even get some personal time helping students as they work at the carpet and wait for you to begin your meeting. Somedays, working at the meeting place with you and classmates may be all your meeting requires! Think of the organic discussions that will ensue about kindness, compassion, and perserverance as students are allowed to work with one another on the journal pages. If your schedule is tight, I encourage you to find creative ways to chisel out the time for community meeting throughout your week. {I've found a really creative way to fit it into my busy schedule this year! I'm so excited about this new idea and I'm sharing in next week's post!}

How Can I Keep the Momentum when I'm Not Able to have a Daily Meeting?
If you are unable to have morning meetings daily or first thing in the morning, one way you can continue to embed the theme into your week is to use the journal pages for morning work and play related music in the background as students are getting settled so that they become familiar with the song more quickly. Can students accomplish one part of classroom meeting for morning work while students are getting settled to save time and lead into what you will be discussing during your meeting later in the day? Of course, using your morning work time to build on community meetings will be more effective after your current theme has been introduced and you students have had some experience with community meeting.

Things come up throughout the school year---picture day, field trips, early release and other interruptions. If you don’t have time for a full community meeting on certain days, you can still try to squeeze in 5 minutes by using a quick video from YouTube related to your theme. I’ve listed a number of connected videos in my Community Meetings Made Easy sets, but there are thousands of other great ones out there if you do a quick search! I’ve often stumble upon some of the best videos this way. Students love to be engaged through video, so allow yourself the video option as a back-up plan when your day is packed to the brim. A heartwarming and inspiring message or song is a great way to start your morning together. If your students LOVED a song or video that you have already shown, reward them with a repeat on a busy day so that you don’t drop community time altogether. My go-to videos for playing again and again come from Kid President and the "One Day” Kindness Boomerang video/song. It’s impossible for your students to hear the messages you are trying to impart too many times this year! 

If you have spent the quality time upfront launching your classroom meetings, shorter meetings as the year goes on (depending on your goals) will still feed your classroom community and allow your students to thrive. You may even find yourself getting into a long-short-long rhythm, planning for your initial launch of a theme to go on a little longer and building upon that in the days ahead. 

I am personally convinced that shirking community meetings altogether results in lost class time later on as student behavior and treatment of one another declines and I have more issues to problem solve during my instructional time. And, don’t forget that classroom meetings structured around themes help me meet many of my literacy objectives, so I never feel guilty. When I set aside time for community meeting in my daily or weekly schedule, I am not “giving up” class time for community meeting. Community meeting is giving meaningful class time to myself and my students.

Start small and believe it is worth your time!
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