Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Using Morning Meeting to Problem Solving Student Behavior and Issues
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Using Morning Meeting to Problem Solving Student Behavior and Issues

Utilizing community meeting as a platform for solving classroom issues continues to be one of my top reasons for maintaining a community meeting structure in my classroom. Today I'm sharing the simple process that I use to improve poor student behavior in the context of our classroom environment. I'm talking about those times when it seems that the class in general is falling apart. 

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
Series Post # 3: Why a Theme-Based Community Meeting?
Series Post # 4: Community Meeting: Materials and Resources
Series Post # 5: Launching Community Meeting at the BOY
Series Post # 6: Day by Day in the Community Meeting
Series Post # 7: Scheduling the Community Meeting
Series Post # 8: I Still Can't Fit it all In


Teachers often spend a lot of time setting expectations for classroom behavior, helping students develop and improve relationships with one another, and reflecting with students about how things are going at the beginning of the year. We work really hard to fine-tune our machine...And then we get busy and that ball that is so important often gets pushed aside. I realized that dropping community meeting was problematic and blogged about it at Life, Love, Literacy a few years ago. In that post, I shared how we had stopped reflecting on classroom behavior and had stopped setting new goals. See:


This led to a week's worth of community meetings focused on problem-solving and developing strategies to improve overall behavior. You can read more about that journey in the post (and even pick up the FOCUS freebie that I designed based on our classroom meeting discussions). 

Recall that one of my reasons for maintaining a classroom community meeting in my schedule is because I have found {again and again} that my students need it? When I drop community meeting as a routine, behavioral issues are soon to follow. The moment I realized that students truly needed our "beginning of the year" dialogue to continue all~year~long, I dedicated myself to figuring out how to continue these important conversations. If I wanted to create true change in my students, I had to be dedicated to that goal all year long. Morning Meeting was the perfect fit for our needs. 


Based on students behavior and needs, you will have times when you need to step away from your “theme-based” community meeting plans in order to address classroom issues.

Examples of Typical Classroom Issues that Pop Up:
  • too many students are blurting out, making it hard for others to learn 
  • students are saving seats in the cafeteria 
  • during independent work time, some students are chatting off-topic, goofing off, and/or not having a high level of focused, on-task time
  • students are arguing about rules for games at recess and bringing the drama back into the classroom 
  • during group work, students are excluding, being rude, or taking over 
and countless others that I’m sure you can think of!

How do we use community meeting to improve on these behavioral issues? 

First, I choose a student leader to guide the discussion. I find that strategically choosing a student who would benefit from having a leadership role focused on behavior and allowing them to lead the meetings for a few weeks is extremely beneficial as I try to correct behaviors. If my students are overall behaving appropriately, I may choose to allow a different student to be the leader each time I go through this reflection process. Students sit in a circle during this time so that they can see one another and look at the speaker.

I provide my student leader with question stems to help them guide the discussion. (I wrote these on an index card at first and also post them in the classroom by our meeting space.) Here's a typical student-led dialogue:

“As a classroom community, we are working on: walking down the hall silently and in a straight line.

"How did we do yesterday?"                

Students raise their hand and the leader calls on them. I step back from the conversation, but early on, I make sure to model how to encourage students to elaborate on their answers. I often chime in, "Rebecca, make sure they tell you WHY they think we did a good job yesterday." Elaboration is key in this process. You really want specific examples of how they did or did not do well on their goal so that the whole class hears what worked and what needs to change. 
"What can we do today to make improvements?”

It truly is that simple and the power is in having STUDENTS verbalize how things are going. Often, the culprits speak up and admit they need to improve. Students who are frustrated get an appropriate outlet for airing their frustrations, and while this may not immediately change their classmates' behaviors, I do think it helps them deal with the stress of a less than perfect learning environment.

I love this reflective routine and have needed to use it regularly with some groups of students. If you have a lengthier block of time for morning meeting or your students show you that they need consistent reflection in order to make improvements, you may find it beneficial to implement this strategy daily.

I encourage you to choose no more than two goals to focus on as a class. If possible, stick with the one that is most detrimental to your classroom environment until that issue improves. At some point, I will ask students if they feel that we are ready to move on from the goal we are working on. I remind them that we can always come back to it later in the year if needed.

If you find that students are continuously reflecting that the class as a whole did not make improvements, please look for additional strategies and tools to offer them to help change happen. I’m not a big fan of rewarding students with parties and such for good behavior (although I have, of course, resorted to setting goals for earning reward parties in my classroom). If it takes offering something that you believe students will strive for, then go for it! If they improve on a classroom goal that was challenging for the whole class to work together on, then perhaps a celebration is due!

Do you want to make goal setting a regular part of your classroom meeting routine? Each Morning Meeting Made Easy set contains a header for setting a goal within each theme unit and a header for general classroom community goals. I print these on colored paper. We design a goal together and write it on the header along with the date that we set the goal. It would be great to post your goals somewhere in the room as a record and timeline of all you have strived to improve during the year and as a reminder when it seems like students have fallen back on old habits.
I hope this {easy} reflection process comes in handy for you this year! It surely helps me keep my sanity when things are not going so well in the classroom. I love to hear students' reflections. Realizing that students are still learning to control themselves, I am appreciative when they are able to reflect on their mishaps and focus on improvement. I can give them grace, they can verbalize their desire for improvement, and we can turn our attention back to learning!
Want to give Morning Meeting a whirl for free?


FREE IN MY TPT STORE
Integrity and Character Themed Bulletin Board Set
Integrity and Character Suggested Activities and Student Journal Pages
Belonging/Trying to Fit In Themed Morning Meeting Bulletin Board Set
Belonging/Trying to Fit In Suggested Activities and Student Journal Pages

8 comments:

  1. You've made some excellent points in your post. I think community meetings are so important for every classroom. It really lets the kids know that you are interested in what they have to say. The day goes smoother....Thanks so much for sharing.

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  2. Deann, thanks for stopping by! I have found this to be a really effective strategy for resetting the behavior in my classroom in general. It does make the day go smoother to have a community meeting as an outlet and consistent bonding time.

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  3. I love this! "It truly is that simple and the power is in having STUDENTS verbalize how things are going." Thanks for sharing your process!

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  4. I like community meetings and students feeling important in the process!

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  5. Great ideas. It's important for students to feel they have a voice in their classroom community!

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  6. This is terrific, Tamaralynn!! You're right; your post is the perfect complement to my goal setting post! Lol
    Great minds think alike!! I love morning meeting, too. We start off each day with it! I'm going to use your classroom goal discussion frames! Now I"m going back to read the rest of your series; awesome!!

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  7. Thank you so much for writing this entire blog series. It has really helped motivate and energize me to make sure I am including time for my morning meetings. The kids I work with frequently experience challenges with classroom behavior and I know using the morning meetings will help. I will most likely be including this part of the morning meeting every day, or at least several times per week. I was curious what question stems you wrote on the index card?

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    Replies
    1. Lauren, I am so glad you found the morning meeting blog series helpful! Thank you for taking the time to let me know! I see I was not very clear on what question stems are on my index cards...here's what I write:

      "We are working on (classroom-establish goal--almost always behavioral)."
      "How did we do yesterday?"
      "What can we do differently today?"

      Student leaders can of course improvise what they ask based on classmate's responses.

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