Friday, November 22, 2013

Morning Meeting with Older Students

Write a Morning Meeting Mission

Morning Meeting shouldn't be something we do in our classrooms because it is what everyone does or its what we have always done.  It should be, like everything else we do in school, purpose driven and related to classroom and individual educational goals.  Writing morning meeting mission is something you can do on your own, with your classroom staff or with your TEAM.  The idea is to reflect in writing the purpose of holding a daily morning meeting and really reflect on what parts of your morning meeting meet educational goals and which parts are done because everyone does them.

Here are some things you can consider putting in your Morning Meeting Mission:

  • Morning Meeting sets the tone for the day
  • Morning Meeting is a time to re-establish trust and connection
  • Morning Meeting allows use to ensure students needs are met beyond the physical and academic
  • Morning Meeting is a time that allows students to learn goal-setting and self-reflection
  • Morning Meeting is a means for the class to govern itself
  • Morning Meeting generates a space for students to create and explore
  • Morning Meeting is a when students are able to learn about what will happen in the day 

The Morning Meeting Area
Much attention is given on Pinterest and teacher blogs to cool looking morning meeting areas with a LOT of attention to how the calendar and its related activities look.  There are many inspiring ideas online, but in older classrooms we want to steer away from "pre-school" looking morning meeting areas.  We don't want peer visitors to enter the room and think, "Oh look, we had that calendar in my Kindergarten!"
  • Your morning meeing area should reflect your morning meeting mission.
  • Your morning meeting area should be age appropriate which means no blue or yellow pocket chart calendar after elementary school and no cutesy numbers either.  Would you see those straws for counting the number of days passed in any other classroom at your students age level? If not time to get rid of them.  
  • Older students would likely be interested in having some input into what the morning meeting area looks like or even if you have one at all.  Consider doing survey and having votes over how things should look.  
Sharing News From Home
This activity, which seems to be based somewhat on "show and tell" from pre-school, is a staple of special
education morning meetings.  It makes sense to some degree as it allows non-speaking students to tell about their evening or weekend.  However, having 5 to 10 students each play back a series of messages can be time consuming.  Many of our students also learn, with out us meaning to teach them, that dragging out this process allows them time where they have the full attention of adults and classmates and power over everyone as we beg them to play their message!  Is this really what we are aiming for?  Not to mention that a formal retelling of your evening or weekend stops happening after about Kindergarten in general education, so it isn't really age appropriate.  This isn't to say students should not share news, they should!  This is to say that we need to rethink how students share news from home.

Some questions to ask yourself:
    • can students share their news during breakfast, snack or lunch?  Could you have "water cooler" talk in your pre-vocational classroom?  Coffee Talk in your high school room? This would be a much more logical time for that kind of conversation in older classrooms
    • does it need to be in a large group?  could students "pair and share" instead?  
    • can you use a different time of the day to help students comment on what is on their switches or devices thus moving the focus from playing someone else's words to generative language?
    • could students use their message from home to write in a daily journal? 
Calendar Activities
Calendar Activities are a staple of morning meeting through elementary school.  Telling the date and weather,
counting the calendar, making patterns with the number cards on the calendar and graphing the weather are all common.  There is nothing wrong with these activities per se in older classrooms.  The question is does calendar fit in with your morning meeting mission or are you doing it because you think you should? Are your students actually learning anything from the daily recitation of "Yesterday was... Today is... Tomorrow will be..."?  Have you thought about what it would be like to do that activity everyday from pre-school to graduation and possibly then in adult services?  Are the materials you are using for calendar age appropriate or would they be more likely to be seen in the second grade classroom down the street?  

Calendar Considerations:
  • look back at your morning meeting mission - do calendar tasks fit?
  • ask yourself if calendar activities are meaningful, educational and age appropriate
  • If not then 
    • consider moving calendar tasks to another part of the day:
      • journal writing
      • students filling in an individual calendar
      • students setting up their daily schedule or agenda book with the date on top
    • consider eliminating calendar tasks altogether 
The Pledge
Most schools have the pledge on the loudspeaker daily, yet we in special education often then repeat it in our morning meeting.  We sometimes add to the event of saying the pledge by handing out flags to everyone or having a large flag and a student to hold it despite the flag on the wall every other classroom uses.  Would it be possible to particpate in the pledge with everyone else and use the flag on the wall?  What do you gain and what do you lose by doing this.  The pledge is an important part of the being a school child in America and I am not advocating eliminating it, but as teachers we need to give thought to how much time we spend on saying the pledge and if there are other things we are losing out on doing during that time.

Morning Greeting
Morning Greeting is a part of many general education morning circles.  Typically the teacher picks (although sometimes a child picks) a greeting such as "smile and wave", "shake hands" or "high five" and then one child starts by turning to the child next to him or her and giving the greeting and it passes around the circle.  This activity is great in those elementary classrooms for working on eye contact, learning each others names and some of the pragmatics of language.  Many times our students need to work on this too.  We can also use this time to work using our AAC devices for greetings, cool!  However, our students have often been in the same group of children for years before they get to middle school or high school.  How many times can we ask Raheeb to greet Jovanny in a year?  In three years?  In ten years?  As teachers we can give careful thought to how and when morning greeting occurs.

Morning Message
In lower grades morning message is a time when the students read a note written to them as a class by the teacher on the board or a flip chart.  With a little modification this can be a great activity in older special needs classrooms - because lets face it, getting a note from someone is age appropriate for every one. Some ways to adapt for our learners include embedding key picture symbols into the text (keep a supply of key symbols ready), using morning message to teach core vocabulary for AAC, recording the morning message on a switch for a students to "read" to the group or using a video of a mystery morning message reader on your interactive whiteboard.  How can you make morning message fit with your morning meeting mission?

This is a good time to review visual schedules and calendar box for the day as well as go over any changes
that might be happening.

Other Ideas
What can you do that is age appropriate, engaging and functional for your students at morning meeting?

  • Have students present work that they are proud of and have other students comment on it
  • Create a video (on the computer or iPad) about an activity and share it during morning meeting
  • Watch a video or listen to music and have students comment about it, vote on how much they liked or disliked it or create a video response later
  • Run morning meeting as a news show or morning talk show with current events, weather forecast, fashion review, entertainment news and celebrity gossip (your students can be the celebrities)
  • Go for a morning walk instead as a class and use the time to chat and exercise
  • Make it an AAC group focusing on greetings, social exchanges, learning about the core vocabulary word of the week and re-connecting 
  • Create a rotating schedule of fun activities - Monday Morning Music and Movement (dance party!), Talk to Me Tuesday (students invite a guest and interview him or her), Word of the Week Wednesday (where students make a word map about the core vocabulary word of the week), Thinking Thursday (where students solve a real world problem that is relevant to them - like how to get mom let them stay up late), Fabulous Friday (where student do a This Was Our Week review of photos they took with the iPad or communication devices during the week) 
  • Cut it down to a morning check in where students say hello and how they are and review their schedules and announcements and then use the time for other things 


  • Responsive Classroom has done a lot of work around morning meeting in elementary and middle school (they call it CPR: Cicle of Power and Respect in middle school)


  1. Wonderful post brimming with good ideas and real wisdom. Can't wait to share this with an administrator who has been asking how to guide a new teacher. Thanks, Kate!

  2. Nice! This is something new if most Pre school teacher learns about this and are able to do this on their own class. I am very much sure that the students will pay attention and will understand more given the chance that this kind of teaching is available.

  3. Hello!

    I am a special education teacher who has recently published a program related to pre-vocational training for young adults with special needs.

    I thought you may be of interest, You can learn more at:


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