For nearly every teacher I’ve ever met, morning meeting is the teeth brushing of the classroom—it feels good, it’s good for you, and it has lasting effects. The human connection made during morning meeting might feel different online, but it’s no less valuable. Here’s what it can look like in K-12 online classrooms:
#1 Rule For All Ages: Don’t make online morning meeting mandatory
I know this goes against everything you want for your students. How can they benefit from something if they aren’t there? But these times call for flexibility and support. So instead of making anyone feel badly for not making it to a meeting—in some cases it’s outside their control—let’s try to make online morning meetings too irresistible to miss.
Tips for Elementary Online Morning Meetings
Include everyone who used to be in the classroom on the call
Kids need predictability and consistency more than ever. If you had an aide in the classroom or your morning meeting involved a co-teacher, ask them to join the meeting.
I teach k-2nd grade kiddos with ASD! I wasn’t sure how it would go or how many of my students would get on. But it went amazingly well. We had our classroom aides join us and we did our typical morning meeting routine. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They were waving at each other and saying hello to one another (they never did in class) … they sang with the songs, parents were helping them form the ASL signs (as part of our meeting we do ASL and visual phonics). Parents were singing and participating with the students and loved learning the ASL signs with their students! –Patricia Ann Coates, Reno-Stead, Nevada
Show up early
Even the bravest students don’t like to be alone in a morning meeting. Show up five minutes early and have casual conversation as students join one by one. My daughter’s teacher welcomes each student as they join and I can hear them happily greet her as well.
Take attendance so you can connect with every child
No matter how many students are on the call, I find calling each one by name and asking them a question helps them stay connected. Even the shyest of students lights up when asked about a puppy or the blueberry pancakes still on their face. Keep a list of your students next to your computer and check off each as you talk with them. If there are kids not on the call, mention their names each call and ask anyone if they’ve heard from them. Say out loud that you miss them. I’ve found word gets around quickly and even if some students never get on the call because they can’t, they’ll love knowing they were missed.
Give them a method for response
You’ll find out quickly that others get cut off if more than one person speaks at a time. With a lot of children on a call, you’ll want a system for responses. Consider asking yes/no questions so they can use thumbs up and thumbs down. Or ask your students for a solution that works for everyone. Think of these first weeks with online morning meeting as September all over again. It’ll probably go more quickly, though, since you already know each other so well.
I am learning to ask some questions they can answer with 👍 or 👎. I also use the mute feature and I unmute them one at a time to share. -Nicona Becker, Westerville, Ohio
Read a book aloud
If you are in a group with just your students, it’s okay to be reading a picture book aloud online (according to copyright rules). This is a perfect activity to keep kids engaged and excited to hear your voice. They miss you and this might be the only chance they get to hear a story each day. Want some ideas for books to read? Check out our Best Books For the Classroom by Grade & Topic.
Have a morning message ready
You’ll want to jump right into something kids can do right away. Having a morning message gives everyone the chance to participate. Here are some great morning messages to get you started.
Send a postcard reminder about morning meeting
Many families don’t know how to stay connected online and they aren’t looking at school or district announcements. Getting a handwritten postcard from you letting them know that you miss them during morning meeting might make a big difference.
Keep it short
This connection is so important, so anything that makes kids disengage should be avoided. For that reason let kids know exactly how long the morning meeting will last and stick to that time. You might even have an onscreen timer running so kids know what to expect. For younger children, 10 minutes is probably the right amount of time. Older children might be able to stay engaged in an online meeting for 15-20 minutes.
Tips for Middle and High School Online Morning Meetings
Much of the suggestions provided for elementary morning meetings will hold true for this older age group, but here are a few that are more specific to students in middle and high school.
Make morning meeting mandatory (if possible)
Call the meeting whatever you like, but make sure students know that logging on is your preference. Yes, there are still some kids unable to logon, but for those kids who can make it, this may be the only thing that keeps them connected. It’s hard enough as a tween or teen to stay focused and motivated. If you make the meeting a very short check-in, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impression all day long.
Open the door to questions
One of the toughest life skills to learn is to be brave enough to ask questions that clear up confusion. Use morning meeting as a way to ask if anyone had trouble with a difficult problem. “Did anyone have trouble with problem number 15?” When you put such a specific question out there, you model for kids how to ask questions. Talk about metacognition skills and the different thought processes they might use to come to a solution. Your students will realize that they don’t have to be confused when they are learning at home alone.
Do an activity once a week
If kids only logon once a week, consider adapting some of these activities to suit online learning. This time to share can be helpful for keeping kids connected to school and engaged with their peers.
Using morning meeting for 5-20 minutes of your day might end up being the best part of everyone’s day. We all need to connect and here are some ways to make that possible.