Upper Elementary Morning Meeting Resources and Lesson Plans
I believe that each and every morning meeting routine can look different. My morning meeting plans and routines have shaped themselves over the years and yours will too. I am currently using a theme-based, literature-focused morning meeting that incorporates picture book read alouds, student reflection, discussions, activities to inspire students to engage with the topic, and analysis of related quotations. I couldn’t be happier with how students respond to this morning meeting routine and with how I am able to target literacy standards with the variety of activities I have pulled into my morning meetings.
After implementing a very loose version of the Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting routine for a few years, I began envisioning a way that my students and I could get more out of those daily 15-20 minutes together. I knew that as I read aloud community-building books and shared short, inspiring videos with my students throughout the year, common themes (lessons and messages) kept popping up. I realized that my morning meetings could be based on these important themes that I continually found myself discussing with students! I could also “kill two birds with one stone” by using my morning meetings in a way that would complement my literacy instruction.
As I kept processing this idea, I brainstormed a wish list of all the themes I’d like to discuss with my students. Rather than have a seemingly random sequence of discussions planned for morning meeting, I realized that themes in literature could be the foundation upon which our morning meetings were built day in and day out!
The first year that I implemented my ideas for a theme-based morning meeting, I did the best I could to pull materials and discussion questions together before the start of each themed-unit. But, with limited planning time and my over-thinking brain, it was often a struggle to have the whole unit thought out before I had to get it going in my morning meetings. Can you relate?!
Sometimes I was even searching for a good video 5 minutes before my students entered the classroom. I really wanted to have journal pages ready to-go, but often students responded to open ended prompts and just jotted things in their composition notebooks. I loved morning meeting, but it just wasn't something that I had a lot of prep time to work on.
Fast forward to summer, and I finally had the time to put together a cohesive plan for each theme. Bulletin board materials, lesson ideas, student activities, and journal pages grew from this. Not only did I create the materials I needed for the classroom, but I also compiled related picturebooks, wrote key questions, and looked for extension opportunities that included music and videos.
THE COMPONENTS OF MY MORNING MEETING ROUTINE
A MORNING MEETING BULLETIN BOARD TO DISPLAY THE THEME, RELATED QUOTATIONS, AND KEY VOCABULARY
To implement my theme-based morning meeting lessons, I pulled together quotations and related vocabulary words for each theme. Then, I created bulletin board materials to showcase each theme. As I introduce a new theme about every two weeks, I build this growing bulletin board in my classroom.
From the humble, original 5 themes I started with, I’ve now put together 16 theme sets, including: sense of belonging, kindness, compassion, resolving conflict, perseverance, integrity, happiness/joy, compromise, goal setting, individualism, friendship, responsibility, managing emotions, courage, intrinsic motivation, and growth mindset.
MORNING MEETING THEME COVER PAGES
On the first or second day of a new morning meeting theme unit, students receive theme cover pages to glue into their journals. The cover pages include the theme title and 5 or more related quotations. These quotations are the same ones that I display on our morning meeting bulletin board. We will analyze at least one of these quotations during our unit.
Students also receive a journal page that contains the related vocabulary with definitions. The cover page and vocabulary sheet is the perfect reference for students as we have discussions about the theme and as they complete written reflections. Students often refer to the vocabulary to help them use appropriate language. Learning new vocabulary through morning meetings? I like it!
SELF REFLECTIONS & GOAL SETTING
It's important for students to complete a self-reflection at the launch of a new morning meeting theme. These self-assessments typically have questions with rating scales like, “How good am I at making others feel they belong?” and “How strong is my sense of belonging?”
They also use their initial reflection to set a personal goal related to the theme and identify strategies that they could use to improve in that area. For example, during our belonging unit, students may make a goal to reach out to a new person each day.
4 QUADRANT DISCUSSION PAGE
One of the first journal pages I have students complete is the 4 quadrant discussion page. Three of the quadrants include questions that I want students to think about before we begin our discussion and the fourth quadrant contains space for students to create an illustration that embodies the theme we are studying. I created a discussion prompt journal page because I'm a firm believe in having students jot down ideas before I begin a whole group discussion. I like to hold everyone accountable for thinking and it's a great way to ensure that each and every child could contribute something to the conversation because they have a heads up about the questions I will be asking during the discussion. I often turn these journal pages into anchor charts that we can refer back to at anytime.
STUDENT JOURNAL DISCUSSION & ACTIVITY PAGES
I like to have a variety of student journal pages ready to allow for different activities during our morning meeting theme unit. These activity pages allow for more personal reflection, written responses, brainstorming ideas, problem-solving scenarios, and creating lists and symbolic illustrations…just to name a few! I incorporate bubble-maps, book comparison charts, lists, and other graphic organizers. Sometimes students generate synonyms on a bubble map (like for kindness), make lists, or create illustrations. Some of the journal pages go along with a specific book we read during the theme or a song or video that I show them from YouTube.
TEACHING RESOURCES AND LESSON IDEAS
One of the most important things I created when I put together my morning meeting theme sets was a list of teaching resources and activity ideas. I compiled lists of picture books, wrote key questions, found and made playlists of related videos, and generated other teaching ideas into teacher resource pages for each theme. Think of them as diet lesson plans! These plans have been a lifesaver for me as I strive to implement good-quality, theme-based morning meetings, I have what I need at my fingertips, but now, most of the planning is done for me—especially if I don’t have much time to prepare before the week gets going!
My morning meeting materials are prepped for the first month of school. I started my bulletin board, have my teacher resource sheets printed and in my planning binder, and have made copies of the coverpages and student journal pages. I'm starting our first day off with my Belonging theme by reading Big Al by Andrew Clements. I've labeled all of my student notebooks with a "Community Meeting Journal" label (printed 4 to a page to save on ink) and glued in their "belonging" cover page so that we are ready to go! You can read all about my plans in my post on Setting the Foundation for Belonging and grab the free Belonging materials!
If you choose to implement a morning meeting routine this year, I encourage you to allow yourself the freedom to discover what works for you and your students! It’s an excited journey to developing and improving your classroom community through morning meetings!