Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Ideas for Squeezing in Morning Meeting with Limited Time
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Ideas for Squeezing in Morning Meeting with Limited Time

I’m going to tell you a secret today. When I started this school year, I wasn't sure how community meeting would possibly fit into my schedule. I've had a number of challenges that make adding something "extra" to the schedule even more difficult this year. Last week, I shared with you the basics of adding a community meeting to your schedule, but what do you do when you have a tricky schedule to work around? Read on to as I share my challenges and the creative ways I found to overcome them!



“I just Can’t Fit it in!!” I think this all the time about just about everything I teach. We develop and learn about so many good ideas, and then we have to figure out how to make it work for our schedule or simply toss it aside because we decide we really don't have the time.

My scheduling challenges: The challenges feel especially grand when it's early in the year and I don't feel like I've got a good grasp on my basic schedule yet. Well, we just wrapped up our 6th week of school and it took me until the 5th week to feel like I understood the chunks of time in my day. My schedule stayed pretty much the same this year when it comes to special area classes, lunch, and recess. I usually have to do a little tweaking to make the schedule work for my EC and AIG students.

My school also has a STEM program, so they attend 1 hour and 15 minutes of special area classes each day AND have a 45 minute STEM class three days a week. The program is valuable and worthy of our time, but this makes for a different schedule every other day and uses some of the time I'd use for writers workshop or social studies.

To add to my scheduling challenges, I'm doing a math/science switch with another teacher, which means that my 4th graders now have science every day of the year and I will have less time in my schedule for other things. I'm ecstatic to be teaching math for two blocks of my school day, but it has created a few scheduling challenges that I did not expect--like less time for other things.

I've had to really think about how I'm going to fit in all of my required subjects, forget about adding a community meeting to our plate, right? {Now's a good time to go back and review why I devote time to theme-based community meetings before I decide to completely throw it out the window!}

Although I've included a theme-based community meeting in my schedule for years, I was probably in the same boat as you if you wish you could have one but.still.don’t.know.where.to.put.it. I knew it was going to be a squeeze and a stretch this year—especially to include all the in-depth discussions, written reflections, and comparing and contrasting that I want to do with my students. Unless…unless I get creative! I’m going to tell you what I’m doing, but I’m also going to give you two other options that may work for your teaching situation.

Put your community meetings smack-dab into your reader’s workshop (at least for a little while). Have you come to the realization that “theme-based community meetings” that are rich in literature, writing opportunities, discussion, and common literacy goals are perfect to include in reader’s workshop?

This year, I decided that my community meeting lessons would be my first readers workshop unit for the first month of school. We will still have time in the schedule for independent reading and conferring, completing assessments, learning how to use our classroom library, and setting the foundation for teaching many important reading skills. I will still be creating a love of reading, but most importantly, I'm building a community that learns life-lessons from reading books together. {You can read more about what I did during my reading block as I focused on my belonging theme.}

Implement the community meeting themes as mini-reading units all year long. If investing more time in community meeting works for you at the beginning of the year but not so much as the year goes on, I have a way that you can continue your community meetings as you shift your reader’s workshop to focus on the other reading units you have on your agenda. Why not go back and forth between your other reading units and mini-units for community meeting themes? All of the themes that I teach through our community-focused lessons come up in our chapter book read alouds throughout the year. You should feel fully justified in teaching theme-based mini-units that have a community meeting and community building spin on them as reading units!

If you’ve been reading all of the information and ideas I've shared in my Community Meeting series and still think “I just can’t fit it all in,” I want to encourage you to take the ideas I have shared and pare them down. You can surely keep it simple—introduce the theme, read aloud a picture book, have students complete the self-assessment, and complete the discussion page. Be sure to display your themes on a bulletin board and you will get more mileage out of your shorter lessons as students refer to the themes and vocabulary during other parts of your day. I shared how I launch community meeting at the beginning of the year by using picturebook read alouds. Quick introductions to a theme and a short read aloud could be the primary teaching method in your community meetings if you have a cramped schedule and are short on time. Remember, this is HOW I GOT STARTED!

Another helpful suggestion is not to think about your community meetings in terms of one-week endeavors. Begin by deciding on the most important themes you want to target, set aside the time that you are able to (15-20 minutes), and just work through that theme until you feel it is time to move on. Take the pressure off of yourself to "get more done." You just want to enjoy your theme-focus with your students, be in tune with their needs and what future lessons and discussions will be really helpful to them. You might stick with a theme for two or three weeks depending on how many days you have been able to meet together. Remember to have ideas for resources that can be used when you are really short on time (5 minutes with a video) and be ready to go deeper on the days where you can extend the lesson a little longer (with a picturebook and discussion for example).

Next weekend, I'm sharing a structure for problem-solving classroom issues that pop up throughout the year. It's important to allow students to voice concerns and brainstorm ideas for what's NOT working in the classroom. Community meeting is the PERFECT place to remind students of the vision you have for your classroom community and to allow them to problem-solve and I want to make sure that I share what I do in community meeting when things aren't going so smoothly with my kiddos. I'll see you next week!

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