How do you make a morning meeting work at a distance? I know when I think of morning meetings I still think about circles of kids cozied up together on a carpet. That is definitely still not okay in my school, and I’m sure it’s not okay in many others. We are spending morning meetings at our desks in our own space, but we are trying to build community still! It may not even be okay next fall quite yet, or perhaps some teachers will just be more uncomfortable with physical closeness due to other personal factors. So what do we do? Here are some things that have been working for me mostly during the activity component of a morning meeting (Morning Meetings typically have a greeting, share, activity, and message). I also write about 20 morning meeting ideas for staying at your desk here and 17 games for social distancing here. I would love to hear more ideas!
I love the youtube channel Art for Kids Hub which has tons and tons of videos for how to draw all kinds of things. There are cartoon and emoji style images as well as realistic photos. They are accessible for a variety of abilities and definitely a variety of ages. My class loves them, so we do a drawing typically once a week. Kids also love to do more drawings during their quiet time breaks. They love to color throughout the day and then they will often share during our closing meeting. I’ll also take pictures of them and post them on my school twitter @aestohs.
2. Show and Tell/Kid of the Day
Virtually, we did a lot of show and tell in the mornings. On our “snow days” where we still had school, we spend a solid 15 minutes + sharing what it looked like outside our window and estimating how much snow would fall throughout the day. We shared lots of pets and crafts we were making at home. Concurrently or with hybrid teaching, this worked well, too. I would have kids share things in person using my document camera to project to those at home or project the student camera to the class on my smart board. We made Kid of the Day slides (link to google slides template) virtually, and I think this also would have been great in person. I could project a kid’s slides and then they would share out about themselves. Many elementary classrooms have Star Student or other
3. Flipgrid Asynchronously
I used Flipgrid a good bit this year for all sorts of projects and community building. One of my favorite ways I used it this year was for a Talent Show. Students recorded themselves performing some kind of skill or talent asynchronously and then shared that out whole class during morning meeting time. One thing I think I’ll miss about virtual teaching is the window into the home lives of students on a consistent basis. I am definitely going to encourage Flipgrid videos done asynchronously at home and then shared whole class in person next year. Students can record scavenger hunt pieces, a flower they saw growing, what their snow day was like, the best part of their house, talking about their favorite tv show, etc. These don’t even have to be watched whole class; they could be browsed on their own with students just chatting as they watched.
4. Turn and Talk in response to videos
I know that watching videos may not always be the best use of time, especially during a morning meeting when we want to build connections, but some videos can be really fun and create a shared connection. My school does Positivity Project (read here about my thoughts earlier on or here for their website) and they do a great job of curating resources related to character strengths such as kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, humor, leadership, and so on. Kid President videos, for instance, typically have a great message and are fun. Read alouds of short picture books are in abundance now. These videos can be worthwhile moments. Sometimes I see videos even on social media that wow me and make me want to share such as monarchs swarming outside someone’s home or wild animals in a person’s backyard. These create little wonder moments that often engage kids and get them talking animatedly. If the videos and/or questions related are thought provoking and engaging, this is a great way to build a shared connection and create joy.
5. Zip around the room
In morning meetings on my carpet, I did a lot of “around the circle” greetings and sharing. Instead of that, now we zip around the room. One of my favorite requests for students is to share about their weekend in 8 words – exactly 8 words. They don’t have to form a sentence and they could be repeats. A student could say “eat, sleep, eat, sleep, eat, sleep, watch tv” or “I had a soccer championship and we won!”. Either is acceptable and gives me a window into their world or at least their perception of their world.
6. Reflection Journals
My goal in the past has been to have a dedicated reflection journal for students to think about their learning and document their understanding over the course of a year. There are of course many ways to document learning, but I have really enjoyed using thinking routines in reflection journals to do this. Here are some prompts that I have used in the past for their reflection journals. While I often prefer calmer shares and energized activities, sometimes I like to have calmer activities. Reflection journals can be a great way to respond to the day or week in a meditative moment. Taking the opportunity to draw or write or use a structured response is helpful to give students time to absorb their information. I like doing reflection journals one day a week.
7. Simon Says
Simon Says still works at a distance really well. What I love about this game is it can be just 3 minutes and then you can move onto something else. In fact, I find it’s better when we only do games like this for a short period of time and then move on. It means we can play it again next week and there’s still joy about it. What can be extra nice about Simon Says is how you can assign specific movements. I talk about how I did this with astronomy terminology (day, night, tilt, seasons) in this post about Educational and Active Games.
Here is another game that works really well at a distance! If you can have a set of ideas for student fishbowl style, that is probably even better. Sometimes students pick something that only a few of their friends will know or that is a niche topic. Animals are a great starting point and fun for everyone. I remember teaching almost half of my 6th grade class charades because they had never played before. Like Simon Says, this is another game that can be played for just a few minutes then played again next week because we didn’t play it to death. Short and sweet is great! You want to stop while they still want to play.
9. 20 questions or mystery bags
Let students take charge of the morning meeting and have them bring in some sort of object in a mystery bag. Other students can guess what is inside with the official 20 questions game or you don’t have to set a limit if you don’t want to. Even without preparation, students can guess a classmate’s favorite movie with 20 questions or their favorite summer activity or their favorite sport. It’s a fun way to get to know one another if the sharing is personal but it’s also a great way to get kids talking in a structured format.
10. Show me “…”
I have liked this activity that’s basically a charades without guessing. For instance, I can ask kids to show me a rollercoaster and they pretend they’re going down a rollercoaster (careful of the noise with this one!). I can ask kids to show me a lazy Saturday or their mom when they’re mad or a dog excited that someone is coming home or a tornado coming through town or butterfly coming out of its chrysalis. Again, this can be a quick activity that allows you to do it again and again sporadically.
Bonus: Going Outside!
Especially in the fall and spring, we go outside for morning meeting a lot. There are several games I love to play outside. I list some of them in this post. Often just going for a quick scavenger hunt or challenge to take scientific observations or talk with a partner about your weekend in a different space is the change of pace we need.