Linking social, academic learning
SDR incorporates new morning routine at elementaries
By Eileen Persike
It was a typical morning in Jenna Toms’ fifth grade classroom at Pelican Elementary in Rhinelander. On this day, the students sat in a circle, greeted one another by name with a handshake, eye contact and a smile, shared what they would teach if they could be teacher for the day and divided into two groups to form and untangle a “human knot.” It’s all part of the School District of Rhinelander’s Morning Meeting.
The group that completed the knot task first was asked how they did it. One student said they looked at the knot in smaller pieces.
“If you try to look at the big thing, there are so many people trying to move that everything gets tangled,” said student Lexi Beran.
Cooperation, teamwork, sense of community. Three social skills that can be learned during “Morning Meeting,” which is part of the larger Responsive Classroom approach to teaching.
“We wanted to work on building relationships with our students and this definitely supports that,” said Pelican Principal Martha Knudtson.
“It brings social and academic learning together throughout the day,” said third grade teacher Danielle Raleigh. “It’s a consistent time and place each morning to greet the students, get them ready for the day, set the tone of the day.”
There are four components to the Morning Meeting, which are greeting, sharing, activity and message. The message is an easel-sized personal note to the class from the teacher, helping students focus on what they will be doing that day.
“Sometimes we incorporate the curriculum into the meeting, other times we don’t,” said Toms. “It is also a time that teachers can use to problem solve issues in classrooms, discuss class incentive choices, teach a new activity that will be used during a lesson at some other point in the day, and deliver weekly digital citizenship lessons.”
Raleigh said she likes to coordinate activities in Morning Meeting with subjects the class is learning, such as math fluency games that use multiplication and division. Her students enjoy mornings, which she said creates a positive culture.
“I see a lot more smiles and happy faces in the morning and they’re excited to see what we’re going to do for our activity, what we’re going to share about today,” Raleigh said, adding, “A much more happy, pleasant environment in the classroom.”
Knudtson said she notices children reacting differently to negative interactions.
“What I see is if we have a disagreement or an outburst, something like that, I think they are quick to want to forgive and apologize and those kinds of things,” Knudtson said. “It’s really great to see.”
Toms said she believes Morning Meetings are meaningful and powerful for her fifth graders, and helps build community in the classroom. As the students move to the middle school next year, Toms said she hopes her students will take with them the ability to hold a conversation.
“It sounds cliché, but I think that gets lost in the shuffle of today’s world with technology,” Toms said.”Simply listening to someone and being able to respond appropriately with either questions or comments is a life skill that can be taught at an early age.”
Knudtson said more teachers will be trained on the practice of Morning Meeting over the summer. She said it is something she believes is important for students and staff, and expects that it will improve attendance and make the school a tighter community.