Providing A Sense of Normalcy Amidst Uncertainty

Morning Meeting and closing circle are the bookends of the day. These powerful strategies ensure that students start and close their days with a sense of purpose and connectedness. These time-honored routines and rituals can provide a sense of normalcy for both teachers and students. Many educators have been engaging students remotely for a few weeks now, while some are just starting to take on the task as scheduled breaks end. Here are some ideas for how you can incorporate Morning Meeting and closing circle into your efforts to connect with and support students.

Plan to Hold a Morning Meeting (30 minutes each morning at a set time)
  1. Share and review norms, then check-in as a group. Some possible prompts:
    • What’s the weather like outside your window?
    • If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?
    • Tell a six-word story about yourself.
    • What emoji represents how you are feeling today?
    • Share something you learned during your online learning yesterday.
  2. Outline a schedule for the day. Share the learning and assignments for the day.
    • Consider an outdoor learning task.
    • Remember to have realistic expectations. Academics are a way to create a sense of normalcy and continuity; be reasonable about what you and your students can achieve. Focus on building skills or reviewing key content, not on introducing new learning.
    • Don’t forget about non-core classes: assign P.E., art, or music activities that kids can do on their own.
  3. Use technology that allows you to share and connect with students.
    • Various online tools allow you to make quick videos of both yourself and images you want to share, which you can use to post a message or personally share videos with your students.
    • For example, try out Screencastify for personalized morning messages.
MM and CC LearningConnect with Students Throughout the Day
  1. Encourage students to sign up for “office hours” or 1:1 connections with a teacher. A Google Doc or online form can help facilitate this process.
  2. Celebrate the small things to help you and your students with mental health and distract from anxiety.
  3. Have some fun together. Here are some ideas for fostering the relational glue that is laughing and feeling good together:
    • Read-alouds
    • Mindful moments
    • Jokes and riddles
    • Morning announcements
    • Meme of the day
    • A class blog
  4. Above all, be gentle and let students who don’t want to engage this way also be okay. This. Is. A. Lot.
End the Day Well with a Closing Check-In (30 minutes or less at the end of the afternoon)
  1. Have students share out: How did today go?
  2. Reflect on new skills learned that can apply to both home and school.
  3. Follow up on challenges from earlier in the day (meme of the day/dance-off/etc.).
  4. Sign off in a positive way.

We are seeing a barrage of online resources coming the way of teachers, and that is great. But the most important thing right now is for kids to feel seen, loved, cared for, and supported.


Written by  Deanna Ross and Ramona McCollough, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teachers, and Educational Consultants and Coaches
Tags: Building Classroom Community, Sharing, Transitions, Virtual Learning

28 Replies to “Providing A Sense of Normalcy Amidst Uncertainty”

  • Hello!
    I appreciate these strategies and have incorporated a few myself for my middle schoolers, such as planned meeting time with my advisory and check ins throughout the day. I sometimes stress about managing different classes for each advisory student – since I am not a part of every teacher’s virtual classroom, I am not sure about the expectations or rituals set by those teachers. However my big takeaway from this is to remain positive and helpful to students, and to continue to have realistic expectations (and to help them set realistic expectations for themselves, too).

  • Hi Deanna and Ramona,

    I loved the ideas that you presented in this article. This is a very difficult time for students and teachers. I think we are all missing the connections that we had with each other. The ideas of morning meetings and closing circles will help bridge the gaps that we are feeling right now in our relationships. I like that you gave suggestions that do not have to be video chats because a lot of families cannot login at the same time. I also thought it was important to remind educators to have realistic expectations for students. As I finish the year virtually, I would like to try a closing circle. I have been posting morning check-ins, but I would like to try an end of the day reflection. Thank you for the suggestions!

  • This article’s contents are so essential at this time of uncertainty. The biggest thing that we are losing at this time is human connection and maintaining a morning meeting and closing circle gives students that outlet to connect with one another. I have not done a closing circle myself, but I really like the idea of implementing it in my own E-Learning! I think the most helpful piece is checking in with students as well. Instead of being feedback behind a screen, students need to know that we are there for them in other ways, such as video calls or voice feedback. I know this is something my team is having a hard time with so I look forward to reaching out to them about this!

  • We definitely have to work content. However, always having in mind the social-emotional wellness of our students and most important, of ourselves.

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