Today was a big day for preschool at Discovery Schoolhouse! Last week the yellow team teacher and I decided that, different as it may be, Blue and Yellow teams needed to part ways. As in, not even in the same room! That’s a tall order for a school that only has one licensed preschool room, but we felt it necessary to reduce the over stimulating atmosphere that was creating some major behavior issues and learning barriers for the children.
After much debate and drafting of schedules, we concluded that drop off should continue to be in the classroom from 7-9, but that the teams would split from 9-12 for circle, choice, and outside time. Yellow team would keep its schedule, and blue would flop outside and choice time, so the teams qould be using the classroom at opposite times. This was a huge change as it was, so of course I decided to take it a step farther and totally change how we run circle, outside, and calendar time! It was pretty nuts trying to pull it all together, but we survived our first day.
I won’t go into everything new in our routine yet, but the best part of our day today was definitely morning meeting, which I decided would replace circle time. I had actually stumbled onto the concept of morning meeting by accident. I thought it was a synonym for circle, but boy was I wrong! Morning meeting is actually part of a larger classroom management system called “responsive classrooms”. There are whole books about the subject, and I haven’t read ANY of them! What I have read are a whole slew of blog posts from teachers who use morning meetings as a way to teach social skills and build community in the classroom. There is even room for academics! As someone who is looking for a great way to incorporate those very things, I decided to jump right on that bandwagon.
For those who don’t know, Morning meetings have 4 parts:
Greeting: This is a time for the children to greet each other. It’s a great opportunity to teach them the social rules of greetings. Greeting each child individually helps the children feel valued and build confidence.
Share: Morning share can be done many ways, depending on the size, age, and development of the group. Essentially this is an opportunity for children to practice the skills of respectful listening, as well as public speaking. Children share their thoughts and opinions one at a time in groups or in front of the class. Since my group is age 3-5 and our attention spans are short, I’ve decided to take a question of the day approach. I’m starting with simple answer questions like, “What’s your favorite food”. Then we go around the circle, and each child answers. As their skill and attention span increases, I’ll ask questions that are more open ended.
Activity/Game: This is a time to get thw kids up and moving and having fun!
Message: The purists say that this should be a written message with announcements for the day and anything special you want to emphasize as the teacher. I’ve decided to keep it looser than that. For me its a verbal message about what to expect with our day and any special instruction I think we need.
We began our meeting right after transitioning outside, which was great! The kids were all a little shocked at coming out so early without the yellow team, and they were curious.
I led them under the tree in the yard, and we sat down together in a circle. I told them that we’ll be doing circle outside from now on and that calendar would be at the end of the day. After that we sang a greeting song, and I invited them to wave when it was their turn. They felt a little silly at first, but they were smiling by the end. After that I asked them to share their favorite food and taught them the hand signal for “me too!”. That really got them excited! We sang some wiggle songs for the activity, and then we discussed the Blue Team Agreement for the message.
That part was hilarious! They were VERY explicit about what how we should and shouldn’t treat each other. “No punching, hitting, pushing, slapping, kicking, choking, spitting, or biting!” The list could have gone on, but I suggested we condense rules like that by saying, “Be safe.” I asked if they had any ideas for how we should treat each other, and they were off to the races again! “Be kind, be nice, give hugs, play together, share toys, and hold hands”, were just some of the suggestions. We wrapped that one up with, “Be Kind.” Now if only they’d actually do it!
Tomorrow our morning message will be to write down the team agreements, and then have them sign their names on it. I’ll push for a rule that has to do with listening when others speak and I think I’ll even ask for what they think the consequences for breaking the agreement should be. I can’t wait to see where that takes us! Updates to come!!
Have you ever tried morning meetings? What are your favorite strategies for promoting community and social development in your class?