Morning Meeting and Older Students
If you teach older students—those between 10 and 14—you may have wondered if Morning Meeting is appropriate for them. Can you spare the time from the intensifying academic focus in the upper grades? Do they really need the structure and support Morning Meeting provides? The answer is a definite Yes.
Morning Meeting is not only appropriate for older students, it’s especially important as an anchor, a predictable routine that they need more than ever as they undergo rapid physical, emotional, and intellectual changes. Morning Meeting helps them trust each other and value learning at a time when their peer culture may say it’s cool not to care and uncool to be smart and engaged.
Here are a few tips to help you hold Morning Meetings that will engage and support your older students.
- Respectfully but firmly address “it’s little kid stuff” grumblings about Morning Meeting. For example: “We’re going to be a learning community all year long, so we need to develop a positive climate that will help us do great work together. Morning Meeting is a powerful way to do that, and so it will be a part of every day in our classroom.”
- Be mindful of physical changes. Older students may no longer be comfortable sitting on the floor. Teach, model, and practice how to safely and swiftly move chairs to and from the meeting area.
- Consider increasing social sensitivities. Older children become increasingly self-conscious and concerned about measuring up in the eyes of their peers. Choose relaxed greetings, sharings, and activities that avoid putting them on the spot while still giving them the peer interaction they crave.
- Continually observe your class. Morning Meeting best supports students when you adjust each component to suit their developmental needs, capabilities, and mood. To do that, you need to know where they are each day, so close observation is especially important with these swiftly changing children.
Try It Now!
Here are a few Morning Meeting ideas that work well with older students.
- Famous Quotations: Write inspiring famous quotations on index cards. (Choose ones that relate to your class’s studies; for example, quotes by Albert Einstein to inspire their science learning.) Give each student a card. Students mix and mingle to greet each other and briefly share what their quotation means to them.
- Book Character: For a week, students wear name tags of their favorite book character. Greetings that week are done using characters’ names. At the end of the week, have students remove their name tags and see if they can remember one another’s character names.
- Multi-Ball Toss: Student A greets Student B across the circle and tosses a ball to them. Student B returns the greeting and then greets Student C, tossing the ball to them, and so on. After a while add a second ball, and then a third, challenging the class to send the balls around in the original greeting pattern three times without dropping them or skipping anyone.
Foster engagement by mixing up the formats (around-the-circle, partner or small-group chats, dialogue sharing). Some good topics for older students:
- Favorite music and movies
- Weekend events
- Possible career interests
- Special talent or skill
- Progress on science or social studies projects
Keep these relaxed and noncompetitive; some examples from The Morning Meeting Book, 3rd edition. If students could use a fun break:
- Zoom: The student who begins the activity says “Zoom!” and quickly turns his head quickly to face a classmate on either her right or left. That student passes the Zoom to the next person, and so on around the circle. You can challenge the group to go faster and use a stopwatch to time them.
- Zip Zap Pop: A volunteer starts by placing either hand on top of his head so his fingers are pointing to the student on his left or right and saying, “Zip!” The student who receives the Zip either passes it on to the next student in the circle or place a hand under her chin, pointing her fingers back toward the student who passed her the Zip, and says, “Zap!” or she points at someone across the circle and says, “Pop!” Continue until everyone has been zipped, zapped, or popped.
When the class mood is more focused and mature:
- Mental Math Push-ups: Write a series of math expressions on a whiteboard. Students work with a partner to find the answer to each expression in their head—no pencil or paper. On your signal, all students give their answer at the same time. To help students focus, cover all expressions but the first one. Then uncover one expression at a time as the rounds continue.
- Scientific Pros and Cons: Students find (or you assign) a partner. Give a pencil and sheet of paper to each pair. Name a scientific venture they’ve been studying (bioengineering crops, introducing wolves to control deer, using alternative energy sources). Give everyone a minute to think; then give partners one minute to list pros of the venture, followed by one minute to list cons. Circle up again and invite partners to share one pro and one con with the class.
(an example from a 6th grade class learning about interviewing; adapt to fit any academic content your class is working on)
October 15, 20__
Good Morning, Journalists!
During our writing period today, we need to complete the preparation for our interviews so we will all be ready to record soon. I know many of you are looking forward to doing this final phase. We will talk about the following questions in our meeting today. Bring your thoughts.
What is the purpose of our interview?
How can we prepare for an interview?
Write an interesting, useful, and appropriate interview question below:
- The Morning Meeting Book, 3rd edition. (to learn more about Morning Meetings)
- What Every 5th Grade Teacher Needs to Know About Setting Up and Running a Classroom, Chapter 3, “Building Community” (ideas adaptable for grades 6–8)
- 80 Morning Meetings Ideas for Grades 3–6 (ideas adaptable for grades 7–8)
- Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4–14 (information on the developmental characteristics and needs of older students)