supporting student success
I have chickens. I moved to this country when I was seven. I hiked Mt. Etna in Italy. I babysit.
The fifth graders in Geneve Patterson’s class stand in a big circle, attentive to their classmates, as the morning sun lights up the room. Patterson has asked them to greet the person on their left and share something about themselves that others might not know. She begins: “Buenos dias, Tazio. I studied Spanish in college.”
Welcome to Morning Meeting—a simple yet powerful practice that’s happening daily in each elementary class in Katonah-Lewisboro. It’s part of the district’s focus on belonging—purposefully building feelings of connection and affirmation that support student success.
Morning Meeting Always begins by greeting each other
A deliberate way to start the day
This past summer, elementary principals Ashlyn Field, Kerry Ford and Cristy Harris took a close look at Morning Meetings, a program created by the Center for Responsive Schools designed to help students feel welcomed, respected, included and supported by their teachers and each other. They collaborated on creating resources for teachers on its four sequential components:
- Greet each other by name.
- Share news and views.
- Practice a social emotional or academic skill through a group activity.
- Look forward to the day together with a written message from the teacher to the students.
“I've seen how Morning Meetings set the tone for the rest of the day,” said Harris, principal of Katonah Elementary School, describing how it reinforces the positive behaviors of following directions, taking turns and active listening. “Students also develop empathy and social awareness during Morning Meeting. They take risks and build academic confidence.”
Morning Meeting Includes a Group Activity
Merging social-emotional and academic skills
After fifth graders in Shelly Rieger’s Increase Miller Elementary class greet their assigned buddy by name and find out what their partner has planned for the weekend, Rieger shifts Morning Meeting to an all-class math game called “I Have, Who Has.”
Rieger hands each student three cards of multiplication facts. “I have 54,” she reads from her card. “Who has 8 x 9?” Students concentrate, calculating the equation; the one holding 72 reads their card. After a few rounds, Rieger turns the timer on. Beating their game time of three minutes and 23 seconds becomes the collective goal of the class. When they shave the time down by forty seconds, a celebration of what they’d achieved together erupts!
Creating community through shared fun experiences
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Fourth of July. Chanukah. Christmas. Students in Melissa DiMarco and Patricia Major’s Meadow Pond Elementary class go around the circle and share their favorite holiday. It’s the week before Halloween. When a student names that holiday, the first graders smile and use the “me to” hand motion they just learned, toggling their hands with pinkies and thumbs out.
Circle time includes games, too—after warming up their math minds, the students stretch up high and count to 20, then slowly shrink to the carpet as they count backwards together back to one.
Morning Meeting ends by reading the teachers' message on the whiteboard together; the class sounds out words with the teachers' help.
Morning Meeting includes a Message from the Teacher
Reflecting importance of belonging throughout the community
School Principals were invited to share their thinking on creating a culture of belonging at their schools at the October 20 Board of Education meeting. The elementary principals led, what else, a Morning Meeting! Watching the Board Trustees and District administrators greet each other and share “I am” statements is a joyful look at the process at work. Belonging was also the topic of the October 26 Learning Café.
Prepared for the day, prepared to learn
Before Morning Meeting ends in Geneve Patterson’s class, there is time for several students to share their silhouette—a collage of images that represents aspects of themselves. They learn more about each other and discover what they have in common—skateboarding! The conversation ranges from local elections and Korean ice-cream to helping create a local skate park, until Mrs. Patterson brings their attention to the morning message on the white board.
it includes the day's schedule, which says that music class begins in a few minutes. The circle morphs into a line and the students head off. The day is off to a great start!