Many schools are using the Responsive Classroom Morning Meetings format. This means that for the first 25 minutes of every day, every student is in a circle with their peers and teacher greeting one another and working on social-emotional skills.
Not only does this meeting help all students feel welcome and included, but it sets the tone for the day by reviewing expectations and warming up with team building activities. Many teachers say that this has quickly become one of their favorite parts of the day.
A Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting consists of four parts:
During the greeting, every child is greeted by name.
2. GROUP ACTIVITY
This activity can be a review of something academic to bring it back to the surface, a preview of something to come or a team challenge. It should be a quick, active activity designed for students to practice working together.
Each child has an opportunity to share something about their life. Other students practice listening and offer empathy or share excitement while learning how to respond appropriately to one another.
4. MORNING MESSAGE
The message is a letter posted from the teacher to the students. The students read it together to help everyone understand the focus of the day.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to incorporate creative methods into Greetings and Group Activities of your Morning Meetings. These ideas will help keep students fully engaged and active in their learning, right from the start.
Creative Morning Meeting Greetings
During a basic greeting, we go around the circle with a handshake. When each student shakes his or her neighbor’s hand, he says, “Good morning, ________.”
The neighbor responds with, “Good morning, __________.” After learning how to do this with eye contact, a loud voice, and a firm handshake, we change it up to a different greeting, such as a fist bump, a pinky link.
Greeting through Music
Call and response is a PERFECT fit for a greeting. A call and response isn’t an echo, but instead, the leader sings one thing and the student(s) answer with something different in response.
A simple start to trying a call and response could be the teacher singing, “You hoo, Michael.” And Michael would respond, “You hoo, I’m here.” (The tune sounds like a 2 tone doorbell – ding, dong, ding, dong.)
Once the class knows the process, they can sing with the teacher to greet each child around the circle.
If you are uncomfortable singing, invite your music teacher or a musical guest to lead this greeting until the students know it, and then it won’t be you singing alone. In the case of the “You hoo” greeting, the pitches were the same, but the words were different.
Collaborate with your music teacher, and he or will give you ideas for good singing posture, tips for projecting voice, and how to match pitch and rhythm. You could change the rhythm one day, and the pitches another.
You can also share some history of call and response in music, and branch out to other call and responses to welcome students.
Here’s a Few More Resources for These:
Tip: Several teachers in our community recommend repeating the same greeting for a whole week. That way, students get very comfortable with it and you don’t have to spend as much time explaining the greeting.
Greeting through Dance
For these greetings, students are asked to create a movement to share. Prior to introducing them, share background information on the elements of dance and then incorporate them into the greeting somehow.
Using the Elements of Dance
Students may feel more comfortable moving in front of the class if they have to concentrate on creating a movement with a certain parameter based on an element.
For example: “Create a movement that uses a slow action” or “Show a movement that demonstrates multiple levels” or “All movements need to show energy.”
Once the classroom climate is established, have some “freestyle” days. After the greeting is over, recap by asking students to point out an element of dance that they saw in action. You can find a great Elements of Dance poster here.
“Match the pose” greeting
One at a time, students stand and say, “Hi, I’m _(name)__.” When the student says his or her name, they do a movement at the same time. The rest of the class responds with, “Good morning, _(name)__,” and mimics the motion. Variation: Have students go around the circle to say, “Good morning, _____,” and the person each student is greeting repeats the motion. This way it is not the whole class repeating the motion, it is just the neighbor with the other students tracking the greetings with their eyes. Or, a team leader can choose the “pose of the day”, and as students pass “good morning” around the circle, they each do the same pose instead of a handshake.
Hit the Floor Greeting
In the Hit the Floor Greeting, you’ll say “1-2-3-4! Come on, __________, and hit the floor! We’re so glad you’re here today, Hooray, hooray, hooray!”
Once a student’s name is called, he/she jumps out into the middle of the circle and dances during the end of the chant.
Once you get started, and through collaboration with your specialists, you’ll find that the possibilities are endless for morning meeting greetings. All morning meetings touch upon the ELA standards for speaking and listening. Greetings can be designed with the arts standards in mind.
Regardless of subject areas, the Morning Meeting’s purpose is to prepare students for the day. It helps them feel welcome, included, and equipped to focus their brainpower on learning throughout the remainder of the day.
The Group Activity
After students have participated in a greeting, we transition into the group activity. This activity acts as an academic review, a preview to build background knowledge or a team building challenge. It should be active and students should interact with each other.
This step is a perfect time to pull in an Arts Integration Strategy! These are quick and effective ways to integrate the arts while connecting to an academic review or preview.
Some of us have used Arts Integration Strategies during lessons, but they are sporadic. By including them as part of a Morning Meeting, they can become a regular part of your day.
In addition, the group activity in Morning Meeting is a great time to teach the strategies. That way, when you use them during a lesson, students already know how to do them.
Here are a few examples of arts integration strategies that work well with morning meetings:
Dance Group Activity
Mirroring: Have students stand face to face with a partner. Partner A silently starts a movement, and Partner B has to mirror the movement. After a short time, partners should switch roles.
After students understand the idea, provide mirroring challenges by bringing in elements of drama or dance and/or combining with content standards.
You can challenge students to use a certain type of energy, such as a powerful movement, gentle movement, sharp movement or smooth movement. This is a fantastic way to teach shades of meaning with descriptive vocabulary words.
You could also bring in science standards. For example, you could use this as a review for forces and motion. Students are challenged to move without gravity, with a lot of friction, with no friction, transferring energy, and to demonstrate push and pull.
Visual Art Group Activity
Have you ever used the Stepping into the Painting strategy? It’s even better as a morning meeting activity.
The strategy is exactly as it sounds- have students complete a “close read” of the painting. Then, students choose one item within the painting to imitate with their body.
By following the steps on the linked strategy card, the class essentially builds a live version of the painting.
This can be done as an activity with any work of art. However, to make it an effective integration tool, spend some time searching for a masterpiece that relates to content you are introducing or reviewing. For example:
As part of the social studies curriculum, you might teach the terms rural, suburban, and urban. Complete the Stepping into the Painting strategy for three consecutive days as you introduce the words.
Each day, use a painting that represents this type of community. If used as a review, students could provide evidence for why the artwork represents the type of community.
Tip: Google Arts and Culture is our “go-to” for finding artwork – the search function allows you to search keywords and many categories.
Rural: “Rural Landscape” by Nikolay A. Klodt
Suburban: “Houses at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet
Urban: “Rainy Night Downtown”, by Georgia Mills Jessup
Theater Group Activity
Try using Tableau “totem poles” as a way to practice narratives. A Tableau is defined as a frozen picture which actors create with their bodies.
We often emphasize beginning, middle and end across all forms of literacy in the primary years. Having students Tableau the beginning, middle, and end of a story which they’ve read or written is a great way to ensure they’re clearly identifying the elements of a story. Here’s how:
- After determining what narrative the activity will be based upon, group students into trios. Student trios stand single file.
- The student in the front sits criss-cross on the floor, the student behind kneels, and the person in the back stands.
- The line of students should stand together as tightly as possible to make it appear as a totem pole with three heads stacked upon one another.
- The student on the top should tableau the beginning of the story, the middle student tableaux the middle, and the student on the bottom tableaux the end of the story.
- Students can perform their tableaux for each other, deciding if they want to share their beginning, middle, and end, or if the class can guess it.
These are just three possibilities out of many Arts Integration Strategies. These strategies are powerful within a lesson but also lend themselves perfectly to your morning meeting activities toolbox.
We should strive to find as many opportunities as possible to help students create meaningful connections. Using an Arts Integration Strategy as a warm up in the morning gives you something to refer back to later in the day when teaching the concept.
It helps give students a frame of reference, helps them with retention and allows them to develop confidence.
Timesaving Resources to Plan Daily Meetings
Here are two timesaving planning resources for Morning Meeting Activities. However, they don’t directly incorporate the arts. Both resources are editable to help you do it yourself!
How to Make Morning Meeting the Best Part of Your Day from Brooke Brown
A Year of Morning Meetings by Leanne Prince – Editable watercolor Google Slides for each day of the year. They follow the Morning Meeting format.
Morning Meeting Masterpieces Weekly Activities
Now that you have some creative Morning Meeting Activities to try, let’s put it all together in a practical sequence. One way to do this is through Morning Meeting Masterpieces. Here’s how it works:
- Each week, you’ll choose a masterpiece of visual art, music, writing, dance, or theater.
- Each day of the week, the class will explore it in a different way. Not only does this give students structure and routine to rely on, but it provides you with a venue for integration: highlighting the connections (and blurring the lines) between subject areas, and teaching traveling vocabulary words that apply to multiple subjects.
- You can use this in the activity portion of your morning meeting, but the masterpieces can be used as a stand-alone activity or warm up each day.
- To make this low-prep, create a Google Slideshow to project each day (we’ve provided this in the resources below already). To prepare the template, you’ll just need to change the masterpiece and links each week.
Morning Meeting Ideas: Week-at-a-Glance Format
Each Monday, project a famous (or curriculum connected) piece of visual art, famous architecture, writing, music, or video clip from a famous dance or theater performance.
There are so many that it can be overwhelming, so below, you’ll find resources to help focus your search.
Of course, your first step should be your school’s art and music teacher. They may be able to provide you with everything you need to get started. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert on the masterpiece, you simply need to help the students explore it.
As a follow-up, share background information about the artist in the form of a thumbnail sketch. If possible, discuss how they (or their creation) made a difference in the world, and see if students can identify character traits that the artist possesses that they can connect to.
On Tuesdays, highlight one of the technical aspects of the masterpiece. We analyze a specific technique that an artist, musician, writer, etc. has done through their work.
If you have a specific pacing guide, strategically choose a Monday Masterpiece that demonstrates a skill, technique, or element you need to teach. This can be extended by allowing students to experiment with the technique found in the masterpiece.
To help with your background information, use resources such as MetKids or Composers for Kids.
Wednesdays are an opportunity to reach outside the walls of the classroom. If it is important to the work, use technology and maps to explore the location where the masterpiece took place or where it was created. Google Earth is a fantastic resource for this, as well as Google Expeditions and Google 360.
Alternatively, this day could be a chance to connect to others around the world. You can do this through Seesaw Connected Blogs, which are quick and easy to set up if you use Seesaw.
Through the blog, classes can connect to an interested class of the same grade level in another state or country. Students could share what they are learning, see what the other class is learning, and interact with other students’ posts by commenting.
Or, students can simply communicate with one another to learn more about life in a different community or culture. This same type of outreach can be completed through an educational Skype.
Thursdays are a chance for your students to express themselves. In turn, they are interacting with the masterpiece more deeply. Students can act out the scene in a painting, or interact with it using a strategy such as Step Into the Painting. Students can also create a soundscape.
Additionally, students could role-play, create a reader’s theater based on the masterpiece, or even participate in interpretive dance to enhance their interaction with the piece.
Fridays are a culmination day to help students stop, reflect, and retain new knowledge. There are many options for a cumulative review. Choose what works best for your students and the amount of time you have.
Flashback Friday Activity Choices:
- Quick Write: Have students complete a quick write (10 minutes or less where you write as fast as you can) that shares everything they remember about the artwork and historical event. Allow students to look back at notes, maps, or the painting to help jog their memory if they’d like. You’re not trying to “catch them” not remembering, you’re trying to see what stuck with them. Sometimes a visual sparks a memory. Remind students that the goal is not to copy directly, but to free-write, kind of like a brain dump.
- Vlog it: Have students record a video of everything they remember. They can do this on Flipgrid or Seesaw and interact with each other’s posts.
- Draw it: Have students draw a narrative picture, using this as a mentor piece, to depict a memorable event at school. Then, have them write a brief artist’s statement to explain what aspects of this painting (similar composition, dramatic effects, etc.) they used in their own work.
- Carousel: Have students sit in groups of 4 – 6. Give each person a piece of paper. Have them write one fact they remember from this week’s exploration. After writing the fact, pass the paper clockwise. Next, they should write a new fact on the new paper, however, it can’t be the same as the one they already wrote, and it can’t be the same as the one that is already written. Continue this process until the group runs out of things to write about.
- “Yes, And…” Try the “Yes, and…” strategy. Have the class sit in a circle. Have one student make a statement about something they remember. Another student should say, “Yes, and…” and add a new fact. Continue this process until the whole class runs out of ideas. Find this strategy on page 3 of our Arts Integration Strategies Quickbook.
Ready to Try These Morning Meeting Activities?
To get started, use the morning meeting powerpoint slides shared above with accompanying teacher directions and links. These were created based on the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. The slide deck is designed for a social studies class, but depending on the activities you choose, it could be more personalized for your specific content area. In the presenter notes, we have included the mini-lesson that accompanies each day.
Ready to customize your own? Here is a free Google Slides template that you can customize with masterpieces that match your content. It does take a little time each week to strategically choose a masterpiece, but if you revise and save a new slide deck each week, you will soon have a library that lasts for the whole year.
Set your students up for success by using these creative Morning Meeting Activities as a solid routine they can count on.