From my experience being a student and teaching children in a church school program, we often neglect to focus on the classroom community. We focus on the books and what it means to be Orthodox. Oftentimes, we do not teach children what it means to have fellowship. Even though our students may have gone to church school their whole lives, they only see each other for 30-45 minutes per week and may not know much about the person sitting next to them. By having regular Morning Meetings, children will learn to appreciate one another. It can also lay the foundation for the future of our church communities. While you may be thinking that Morning Meetings are for little kids, you are mistaken! Having this type of set up is helpful for all students across ALL grade levels.
One of my favorite teaching websites is the Responsive Classroom. I have several of their books and love them! They focus on creating a caring classroom environment. Their teaching methods are research and evidence-based, which means they have done studies to prove their teaching methods work.
Instead of me reiterating what was written, take a moment and read this story before continuing. It powerfully communicates how morning meetings can impact lives while giving you the nuts and bolts of how to set up your classroom: http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/article/morning-meeting-powerful-way-begin-day
Did you tear up while reading the story? It gets me every time I read it! The set up is simple. Greet, Share and Group Activity. You might be thinking, this is great but I don’t have the time for this! Instead of making the morning Meeting a separate activity, try to incorporate it into your classroom structure. Here is my vision…
10:50 – 11:05 am (10-15 min)
Children arrive from communion and do a small activity like coloring, reading books or puzzles while you wait for everyone else. The teacher makes a point to greet each child and have conversations. This is not a time to talk to your co-teacher, get coffee or set up the classroom. Be present with your students and set the tone for the day. Encourage kids to talk to one another and ask each other questions.
First there’s the Greeting Activity. Instead of making it a separate activity, have children greet each other as they arrive. You could have the kids shake hands with one another when they get there or maybe have them do one of the greeting activities described on the Responsive Classroom website.
Next up is Sharing. Sit in a circle so everyone can see each other, whether it is on the floor or in desks. Children share their lives with the group. This would be a good time for prayer requests – thanksgivings and supplications. Ask them, “Name one way God has blessed you this week.” They can share the highlights of their lives. If they share something that needs a prayer, it is a good opportunity to model how to be loving and caring when someone shares something difficult. You may want to coach the children and have them role-play how to respond lovingly.
Say prayers together and mention what they shared as a supplication or thanksgiving where appropriate.
Group Activity – you could use this time to do your lesson. Try to think of lessons as a group activity and how the kids learn together, rather than reading from a book, doing worksheets or doing a craft. Is there a different way to teach the lesson objective that gets the kids to work and learn together? If you needed extra time to complete a lesson, then skip the sharing for a week, but never skip the prayers! 🙂
Challenge students to think about how they can apply the lesson objective to their lives. Ask them to share a few ideas. You could write down their responses and save it for next week to use the list as a start for sharing. Were they successful in applying the teaching to their lives? What challenges did they face?
Wrap up – Clean up, review lesson objective, give reminders for next week.
Morning Meetings will transform your classroom! It will turn your class from a group of kids to a caring learning community. It will help your students experience fellowship with others and learn what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. If you use this strategy, please share it with me! I’d love to hear how it worked for you!
Special Topics from Responsive Classroom
Morning Meeting & Children with Autism http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/planning-morning-meetings-students-asd
Morning Meeting Activities http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/category/category/activities-energizers