Building a Caring Classroom Community
Building a caring classroom community with my students was one of my most important classroom management techniques. If your students know you care about them and learn to care for each other, it cuts down on a lot of behavioral problems (or it at least makes them easier to solve). One of the best ways to build and maintain a caring classroom community and culture is through morning meetings. Not only do they set the tone for the class each morning, but morning meetings also allow you to lead students toward behaviors that build strong relationships that include trust and respect. Best of all, adding a morning meeting to your routine is easier than you may think.
Here is how I set up my morning meetings:
After completing our morning work each day, I would play our gathering song. I love Jack Johnson and his Curious George soundtrack, so I choose Upside Down as our “come to the rug” song. There are tons of cute song ideas you can find on my Morning Meeting Pinterest board.
If you’ve been reading my posts for a bit, you probably already know that I do not like to waste any time. So, I would always have my students come to the rug fully prepared for our first reading lesson with their reading journal and bag of books.
Once the song was over, I expected all students to be at their assigned spots and ready for our classroom morning meeting to start.
I would start off by greeting everyone and telling them a short story about something that happened the day before. I would then invite any students to share any news or exciting events. This took about five minutes most mornings. That’s it! This little ice breaker is something so simple that creates a welcoming environment where your students know you care about them. Doing this day-after-day helps even your closed-off students open up and feel like a part of the community.
Using Morning Meetings to Problem Solve:
As issues arose, I would allow students to discuss them at this time. For example, if a student was missing their special necklace, they would ask their classmates to help them find it. If a student was having trouble with a peer, either I would approach the subject directly or I would ask questions to allow them to resolve as a group (of course without naming names or putting the other child down). We would spend time brainstorming how to handle issues with our peers together. Sometimes we would role-play different ways to resolve conflict. This really helped my students understand that their words and actions affected others.
Many of them became very cognizant that they had the power to positively impact their peers. They used thoughtful words and actions, which I encouraged.
Using Morning Meetings to Celebrate Success:
We also spent time celebrating the wonderful deeds our friends and classmates did. A student would thank another student for helping them with something, or call someone out for being patient or kind during a difficult time. It’s O.K. to ask a few leading questions to get students talking about other’s positive behavior, but it’s also important to let them take initiative to call each other out. These engagements really helped build emotional collateral between the students, which made them more patient with each other and made it easier for them to resolve issues on their own.
Having these open discussions regularly with my students taught them to be leaders. They learned to be leaders in their classroom with their peers, but also in the school community. They set positive examples for others around the school and even their siblings at home. They learned to approach and resolve their own problems, rather than relying on me. It seems like it’s too good to be true that such a simple thing can have such a large impact, but it really worked for my students year after year.
I encourage you to try regular morning meetings in your classroom. Your time will be well invested!
Looking for More??
If you’re looking for more ways to develop student character in your classroom, check out my Character Trait Reader’s Theatre. It contains ten different two-page reader’s theatre scripts that can be used to engage your students in character education, fluency, and presentation skills.