Coupled with stimulating academic instruction, teachers are expected to guide students in developing fundamental social and emotional proficiencies and strong cognitive abilities. One classroom model created to assist teachers is the Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting was developed by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis (2014) to assist teachers in creating a classroom community where students succeed academically and develop healthy emotional relationships and social skills. The action research was conducted to determine if Morning Meeting promoted positive communication abilities in a second grade classroom in which many students exhibited inadequate social communication skills, resulting in social misunderstandings. To assess model effectiveness, the classroom was observed for a four-week period to record student self-perceived communication abilities with and without Morning Meeting. Anecdotal teacher notes,student surveys, and interviews tracked progress in students’ communication skills during the action research. The implementation of the Morning Meeting resulted in an increase in students’ positive self-perceived social communication abilities.
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A holistic approach to teaching requires that educators draw attention to, and nurture, emotional, social, and academic proficiencies. In a classroom where students’ social and emotional domains are regarded with importance, students feel that their voices are heard and that their opinions and ideas are taken into consideration (Halaby, 2000). In such environments, students have freedom to participate in engaging communication with classmates who support their learning within that academic community. Lacking opportunities to voice their concerns or ideas to classmates and teachers, students become disengaged with the subject matter and disconnected from the classroom community (Allen-Huges, 2013).
Bruce, Fasy, Gulick, Jones, and Pike (2006) and Allen-Huges (2013) have conducted studies on the development of students’ social skills and the creation of a sense of community in the student-centered classroom in the elementary grade levels. These studies focus on students’ affective development. When students are exposed to effective modeling of social skills by an educator, and provided opportunities in the classroom to practice those modeled fundamental communication skills, social skills improve. Allen-Huges (2013) revealed the importance and benefits gained by students when teachers deliberately set aside time for students to converse about themselves. Allen-Huges (2013) and Halaby (2000) shed light on the social and academic gains made by students when elementary teachers consciously designate classroom time, plan and continuously carry out exercises that focus on building students’ social skills and nurturing a sense of community in the classroom.
No two classrooms are the same; two classrooms in the same grade level at the same school would not be identical because of teachers’ and students’ dynamics and differing classroom needs and environments; therefore, some elementary educators may set time aside at the end of the school day once a week for students to share personal stories or news; other educators might strategically embed sharing or speaking exercises and activities into the days’ lessons. While not every classroom will have access to, or need, the same student social-skills building activities, a variety of program models exist that motivate students to feel significant, that create empathy, and that encourage collaboration within the classroom. Those models offer elementary teachers multiple ways to incorporate social skills and classroom community development into classroom schedules.
Observations of limited personal-communication time in a 2nd grade classroom’s daily schedule prompted the use of the Morning Meeting model as a daily exercise for this action research project. The Morning Meeting model is designed to set the tone for respectful learning, establish a climate of trust, motivate students to feel significant, create empathy and encourage collaboration, and, above all, support social, emotional, and academic learning. The Morning Meeting is a daily classroom practice that occurs in the mornings for 15-30 minutes (Kriete & Davis, 2014). Morning Meeting can be adapted several ways to meet the needs of varying classrooms; however, the authors recommend the following components, and in the order listed: Greeting, Sharing, Group Activity, and Announcements. Each component of the Morning Meeting is integral and would detract from model’s effectiveness and significance were it not included or covered.
The second grade classroom exhibited a teacher-directed environment where students could not freely communicate with other students to support their learning or develop a sense of community.
Students in the second-grade classroom did not have ample opportunities to communicate and build a sense of classroom community.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of using Morning Meeting as an approach to building community in the classroom and increasing student communication.
How do students perceive their communication abilities and sense of classroom community before and after Morning Meeting experiences?
Students will perceive a sense of community and a change in communication abilities from Morning Meeting experiences.
Allen-Huges (2013) posits that the work accomplished during Morning Meeting positively supports both academic and social settings in the classroom, because students were able to practice skills that helped support work during classroom periods. In addition, more academics could be covered in the classroom due to the community, environment, and skills that Morning Meetings created. She further notes how there is a readily noticeable negative effect on students in the observed classrooms that did not use Morning Meeting. The findings of Allen-Huges, coupled with Rashid’s (2010), highlight the importance of integrating social skills through direct instruction into the curriculum, based on observations of students who are not successfully learning or developing important social skills at home, communities, or school. According to Webster-Stratton and Reid (2004), because children do not automatically develop important social skills though implicit observations, a program that explicitly and intentionally teaches social education, such as Morning Meeting, is warranted for students to develop essential communication abilities.
Grant and Davis (2012) conducted a study in Grant’s first-grade classroom about the effects of daily classroom meetings on student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships. Students in the classroom noticeably did not know how to interact appropriately with others and needed to be taught how to get along. With the use of a similar framework to the Morning Meeting, the researchers sought to determine if daily classroom meetings could create community in the classroom, and if they could thereby teach students how to interact with each other in positive ways. The authors discovered there are many positive benefits that occurred inside and outside of the classroom when daily meetings in the classroom were implemented. The benefits included improved conflict-solving strategies, positive interactions among students, and a more peaceful classroom. The students became better communicators and developed kinder demeanors toward students and adults. The daily meetings created a sense of community in the classroom, helping to build mutual respect and improved relationships among the students and the teacher. Researchers found that it was imperative to support students’ development of effective social skills and positive relationships in the classroom.
Much of the research on Morning Meetings focus on the social and emotional development of students as a result of the program intervention; however, there is also research that describes student academic enrichment attributed to the structuring of the Morning Meeting. Boyd and Smyntek-Gworek (2012) explored how teachers can support critical thinking by personalizing instruction during Morning Meeting. They discovered, by planning engaging and challenging instruction, and by responding to students’ cues, elementary teachers could employ literacy events in their Morning Meetings that require their students to read, think, listen and speak, and use standard English in real conversations. These opportunities for real talk can be joyful, insightful, and educational when there is an immediacy, recursiveness, and value to these classroom conversations (Boyd and Galda, 2011).
According to Riley (2007) student social, affective, and academic development has exclusively focused on students being instructed in a traditional classroom or small group setting, possibly because students may have spent much time in these setting that they now find themselves accustomed to their prescribed environments and begin to attain a sense of calm, assurance, and familiarity. Boyd and Kneller (2009 and Christohph and Nystrand (2001) claim that, regardless of the setting in which students are being instructed, students need an awareness and comfort with the routines of their everyday classroom lives if they are to be prepared to learn and function. This familiarity and assurance with routines is especially important when students are asked to take risks in the Morning Meeting and share information about themselves that some of them may find personal, resulting in students feeling safe and valued enough to willingly engage, lead, and take other risks.
Halaby (2000) describes, with multiple examples, the importance of leading community-building meetings in an elementary classroom. The meetings in her classroom focused on building a safe and comfortable community in the classroom where every student is heard and held responsible for his/her actions. Because of this community work, the students’ investment in the classroom and their fellow students grew and positively affected all aspects of the classroom. She noted that the meetings supported students’ efforts at problem solving as a community, building respect, empathy, and social skills that are just as important as such academic concerns as Science, Mathematics, Reading, and Writing. According to Halaby, effective Morning Meeting occurs in a good, familiar meeting spot, follows the same set of rules and expectations every day, and focuses on solving problems together as a community.
Bruce, Fasy, Gulick, Jones, and Pike (2006) note that Morning Meeting is a platform for building effective student communication and community in the classroom that can be modified or adapted to fit the needs of diverse students in elementary classrooms. The move toward the least restrictive environment for learners with disabilities resulted in adjustments in classrooms that accommodated students’ IEPs to provide an inclusive learning setting. Morning Meeting can be tailored to those students by embedding the instruction of IEP objectives, differentiating instruction, encouraging the active physical involvement of students, and creating opportunities for communication support.
Further research (Gray and Richards, 1992) on Morning Meeting in elementary grade levels showed how students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds benefited from Morning Meeting, particularly from turn-taking organization and the contact of diverse voices. The inclusion of students with disabilities and English Language Learners in the Morning Meeting contributed to a greater sense of community in the classroom and enabled all students to communicate within a diverse classroom population.
The Morning Meeting Book (Kriete & Davis, 2014) guides teachers as they implement the Morning Meeting model. The book integrates upper grades and English Language Learner information into each of the Morning Meeting components: Greeting, Sharing, Group Activity, and Morning Message. Also, the text emphasizes the connections between social-emotional skills and academic learning. The book further explains how Morning Meeting supports mastery of Common Core State Standards, 21st century skills. Finally, the resource discusses the core competencies highlighted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, CASEL.
The participants in this study were 22 second-grade students in a Title I school in a north central Texas school district. There were eleven female students and eleven male students. Of the 22 students, four were Hispanic, with one English Language Learner, one African American, two bi-racial students, and fourteen Caucasian students. Six students were part of the Talented and Gifted program and five daily received 504 pull-out, small group services. At the time the study was conducted, no participants were receiving Special Education. The students’ family economic statuses and home lives greatly varied: five of the students’ families lived at or below the federal poverty line, some students lived with working grandparents, and the remaining students’ family incomes were in the middle class bracket. Prior to the study, none of the students had participated in a Morning Meeting; a few of the students, in Kindergarten or First grade, had encountered Morning Circles, a simplified and often shorter version of the Morning Meeting. The Morning Circles were employed as a medium to share weather and pattern observations, analysis, and predictions, but those circles precluded the group activity and daily message components inherent in the Morning Meeting.
The action research took place in a second-grade classroom over a four-week period. The second-grade classroom was slightly bigger than most classrooms in the school. The classroom was large enough for the 22 students to have desks in groups with five, to house a snake cage and a tarantula cage and two classroom library shelves. The classroom also featured a couch for students to do their reading.
The designated gathering spot for the Morning Meeting was the carpet located at the front of the room near the library. Students selected the meeting area based on the following factors: familiarity, location, ample amount of space to sit in a circle, and the availability of self-space within the general space. The large carpet allowed students to sit comfortably on the ground in a circle without bumping each other’s knees. Students on the opposite ends of the circle were an appropriate distance from each other, so they could speak to and hear one another and ask questions without having to shout. The large carpet area also allowed students to move freely in a safe environment during interactive, collaborative activities. There was a dry erase board positioned directly behind the carpet so students did not have to move to another part of the classroom for daily messages. The classroom space where the Morning Meeting were held suited the students’ needs and did not restrict movement, enabling them to experience Morning Meetings in a welcoming environment.
Weeks 1-2. Two forms of baseline data were collected during the first two weeks of the Action Research. First, students completed a student-friendly survey that measured their initial self-perceived communication skill. The student-friendly survey contained two questions that gauged the students’ perception of their ability effectively to use words to verbalize and share their thinking and perception of their and others’ conversational communication skills—such as turn-taking and staying on topic. The first question of the survey asked students what they felt about their ability to use their words to describe with accuracy their thoughts and questions. The second question of the survey asked the students if they believed they needed help and practice with their conversational communicating skills or if they felt they exhibited mastery-level communication... Initial data also consisted of lead teacher’s anecdotal notes of students’ inadequate communication skills demonstrated while the facilitator was teaching.
Second, an observer collected anecdotal notes that tracked students’ communication tendencies during instructional time. The notes included: identification of students who verbally interrupted while other students were speaking; students who verbally interrupted when the facilitator was teaching (but not probing for student input); frequency of interruptions by students; and, if interrupted while speaking, students’ ability to conclude thoughts or ideas. Lead teacher’s anecdotal notes contained lists of students who daily interrupted, along with a record of frequency of those interruptions.
Weeks 3-4. Morning Meetings were implemented for thirty minutes each morning in lieu of the classroom’s traditional morning work (Daily Geography and English Language Arts worksheets) for weeks 3 and 4. Each Morning Meeting occurred directly after Calendar and directly before Mathematics instruction. Week 3 of Morning Meetings was planned with recourse to initial data that revealed the identities of students, particularly a few key students, who often interrupted others while speaking. Those data included how, once interrupted, a few students were unable to elaborate or conclude initial thoughts and ideas.
The Morning Meetings conducted in the third week incorporated basic greeting protocols, such as having students look one another in the eye as each individual says, “Good morning, [student’s name]” and shake hands. Those sessions then focused primarily on students’ sharing topics that prompted them to speak, ask questions, and listen in an engaged manner to others’ activities outside of school. The Morning Meetings that occurred in the latter days of week 3 added a balanced focus to kinesthetic group activities in which students had opportunities to practice moving their bodies while adhering to classmates’ self-space. The class worked in groups to problem-solve as a community. Each day during this week messages that reviewed the day’s agenda were embedded with vocabulary words.
The Morning Meetings implemented in the fourth week were designed and created from student input: following Friday’s Morning Meeting during the third week, students were asked what they would prefer to share about themselves, and what they would like to discover with their classmates. In addition, group activities were devised around attentive listening skills, greetings around the reinforcement of mathematical skip counting, and the daily messages around interactive prompts or riddles that pertained to vocabulary and Mathematical or Social Studies concepts. The same routine was practiced in week 4 as had been implemented in week 3.
Weeks 1-2. The first two weeks were used to collect baseline data. The two question survey was given orally to five students who received 504 accommodations, The Dyslexia services these five students received required that any assessments or open-ended responses be read to them to ensure student comprehension. Because of this service, these students’ verbal responses for the survey was transcribed for them. The other seventeen students wrote responses on the survey form. The other students also verbally read what they wrote to accurately inform researchers of the students’ responses.
Anecdotal notes tracked which students spoke while other students were speaking and while the facilitator was teaching. Those notes did not, however, probe for student input. The teacher’s anecdotal notes also listed which students tended to interrupt verbally, the frequency of interruption, and a tally of the number of students who, if interrupted while speaking, were unable to carry out and finish their thoughts or ideas. Data from weeks 1 and 2 were analyzed to determine the best approach to the Morning Meeting.
Weeks 3-4. The first week (week 3) of Morning Meetings was based on initial data that revealed the identities of students, particularly a few key students, who often interrupted others and how, once interrupted, students were unable to elaborate or conclude initial thoughts and ideas. Following the fourth week of the study, students were interviewed and asked questions that pertained to their feelings and experiences during Morning Meetings and any noticed changes in their communication skills and classroom community.
The student interviews were conducted by the facilitator in the school’s library and occurred during the time slots allocated for the class’ computer lab and library visits. All twenty-two students who participated in the study were asked the same questions:
- Whether or not they like Morning Meetings, and why?
- If they felt they had many opportunities to practice their communication skills with their classmates during the Morning Meetings.
- Recall how they felt when they shared about themselves, i.e. if they felt nervous, comfortable, happy, proud, or a mixture of different feelings.
- Want Morning Meetings in the future classrooms based on their experiences.
- What they learned from the Morning Meetings, if anything at all, helped them in school.
- Describe how they felt and what they thought about when classmates were sharing.
- Did they notice any changes in their communication abilities because of their experiences during the Morning Meetings?
All student responses were hand recorded by the facilitator as the students verbally responded...
Week 1-2. Students’ responses to the two questions in the pre-intervention survey were grouped together to identify any possible trends in both questions. The lead teacher’s anecdotal notes from Weeks 1 and 2 were reviewed closely to determine: which students tended to speak out of turn each day and, if the same group of students tended to do so, how many times did each student speak out each day while the facilitator was teaching. Also measured were the total number of times each student interrupted other students. These data sums in each category were divided by 10 (number of school days in two-week period), resulting in each student’s average of communication interruptions.
Interview data were analyzed via a color-coded method. Each question served as a category, and was color-coded accordingly. Interview data were laid out on a table and each student response was circled with a colored pencil. For example, all of the students’ responses to question 1 were circled with a red colored pencil. Then, all student responses to question 2 were circled with a blue colored pencil. This process was repeated until each question had its own assigned color. Following the initial identification of data within codes, responses within each category were further reduced to patterns within each category. If a pattern was observed in a category, it was noted. Patterns were re-examined and reduced to themes and applied to conclusions.
Results Baseline data
Student surveys. Eight of the eleven female students stated they could appropriately and effectively use their words to share their thinking; the remaining three female students said they admittedly found it hard at times to find the right words to articulate their ideas; seven of the eleven male students said they felt they could effectively verbalize their thoughts; and the remaining four male students felt they needed to practice putting their thoughts into words and conversing with their peers.
Out of the twenty-two students surveyed, one-third (four male and three female students) believed they exhibited less-than-adequate conversational communication skills, such as turn-taking while speaking and staying on topic when speaking. They also felt this was a prime factor in the breakdown of communication when working in pairs or groups. The remaining two-thirds (seven male and eight female students) believed they possessed effective communication skills and could engage in meaningful conversations with fellow students.
Observations. The data revealed that while the entire class of twenty-two students would interrupt one another or the instructor a minimum of twice a day, an average that was accepted in this classroom of second-graders, five male students and three female students tended to interrupt other students between eight and eleven times in a span of two hours each day for a two-week period. Four of the five male students and all three female students who tended to interrupt were the same students who reported feeling having difficulty with their conversational communication skills in the student surveys. During this same period, these same students tended to speak disruptively, causing the instructor to redirect these students and refocus the entire class at times. Anecdotal observations also underscored how, if interrupted by other classmates, 28% (six students, two male and four female) of the students tended to be unable to complete their initial discourse and would simply state, “I forgot what I was saying” or “I can’t remember what I was going to say.”
All students reported having enjoyed and possessed a relatively happy outlook about the Morning Meetings. Thirteen of the twenty-one students (61%) echoed the same shared reasons: we talked with our friends about things outside of school; we shared things about ourselves some of our friends did not know about; and practicing new greetings was exciting, and the activities made us feel happy. When asked if they felt they had many chances to practice their speaking and conversational turn-taking skills, sixteen students agreed they had ample opportunity to practice those communication skills, especially during the greeting and sharing components of the Moring Meetings. The five remaining students felt they did not experience sufficient chances to share or speak during the Morning Meetings. Notably, these five students were the same students who would be pulled out early in the school day for 504 services, resulting in less time for their participation in the Morning Meetings when they returned to the classroom.
All twenty-one participants reported feeling happy, and five participants felt proud when they actively participated in the sharing activities. Four students (three male and one female) remarked how they felt nervous and so would practice saying their words and sentences in their heads before their turn or would rehearse at home; two of these students were ESL students (the lone female and one male student). All students said they would want their future teachers to employ the Moring Meeting model because it helps everyone with their words and to speak nicely, and it’s a way for people to talk and let out their feelings and feel comfortable in the classroom.
When asked if what they learned and practiced in the Moring Meetings helped them in school, sixteen students exclaimed, “Yes, since we practiced ways to break down (decode) vocabulary words and [it] helped us read better.” The remaining five students, who coincidentally were all in the Talented and Gifted program, remarked that they had already either known or practiced the subject matter or communication skills covered in the Morning Meetings. When posed with the question about how they felt when others shared about themselves during the Morning Meetings, all twenty-one students said they were glad others in the classroom could share about themselves because it presented them with opportunities to discover all the interests, commonalities, and differences of their classmates, and that they would specifically look forward to the sharing component of each day’s morning meeting.
Students were asked how they felt about their communication abilities following the implementation of the Morning Meetings: sixteen students perceived that their communication skills had increased due to their participation in the Morning Meetings; two students felt that their communication skills were at the same level as before the Morning Meetings; and three students were not sure if their communication skills had increased or decreased. Pre-intervention data from weeks 1 and 2 gleaned that before the Morning Meetings, two-thirds (fourteen students) of the second-graders believed they possessed effective communication skills and could engage in meaningful conversations with fellow students. The interview results from week 4 demonstrate that now, after two weeks of Morning Meetings implementation, the number of second-grade students who believed they could effectively communicate increased by ten percent (from fourteen to sixteen students). Moreover, those students who already believed they possessed appropriate communication skills—that is, before the intervention—perceived increased communication abilities that they attributed to their experiences in the Morning Meetings.
Students reported that the unique greetings and collaborative activities were engaging and let them feel happy while they communicated with their partners. In addition, because of their positive experiences in the Morning Meetings, all students in the study wished their future classrooms might incorporate some version of Morning Meeting. Sixteen of the twenty-two students felt they had many opportunities to practice communicating with their classmates, particularly during the greeting and sharing components of the Morning Meetings. The five students who did not feel that they experienced many chances to communicate with their classmates during the Morning Meetings were students who were pulled out of the classroom for 504 services; therefore, these participants would miss the daily greeting and sharing sections of the Morning Meetings. However, these students would often return in time to join the rest of the class during the group activities and daily messages. The sixteen students who believed they had ample opportunities to communicate during the Morning Meetings coincidentally were the same sixteen students who stated that they transferred what they practiced and learned in the collaborative group activities and during the daily messages to their academics, specifically building and decoding vocabulary words, and analyzing and classifying geometric shapes. Conversely, the five students who did not experience many opportunities communicating with their peers reported not perceiving any changes in their communication abilities after the Morning Meetings.
All the students in the study said that they enjoyed hearing others share about themselves because they would learn interesting new things about their classmates and, in turn, they could share previously unknown things about themselves. This daily sharing led students to discover that they had more in common with one another than they had previously thought. Many students would smile and exclaim how they, too, shared the same hobbies or activities. At the end of each morning meeting, students would remark the things they now knew they had in common.
There were some limitations to the study. Five students who were pulled out of the classroom for 504 services for a time period of 20 minutes on a daily basis, were not afforded the same opportunities to fully experience all the Morning Meeting components as were the other sixteen students. On Thursdays, six students were pulled out for the school’s Talented and Gifted program. These six students would, too, miss the entire Morning Meetings, except for the Daily Messages, each Thursday. On two Thursdays in the study, Week 3 and 4, only ten students were present and participated in the Morning Meetings, since six students were in the Talented and Gifted program and five other students were receiving 504 services. Furthermore, the Action Research Study was originally designed to span a five-week period, with the first two weeks for initial data collection and the following three weeks for intervention; however, due to school cancellations as a results of three inclement weather school days in week five, the study time was curtailed.
The use of Morning Meetings in this second-grade classroom was effective for a variety of reasons. Not only did the second-graders in this study enjoy sharing about themselves, but more importantly, they began to realize that, by communicating with their classmates, many connections among them existed, leading to a sense of community in the classroom. Also, because participants wished to share with the class during Morning Meetings, the students—even those students who continually interrupted their classmates during the baseline data collection—were motivated and practiced listening attentively and acted respectfully to classmates, resulting in enough time for everyone to share. As a result of their successful experiences in the Morning Meeting, the second-grade students in this study wished to have Morning Meetings in future elementary classrooms as a way to connect meaningfully with classmates, explore novel and interesting ways to communicate ideas and information coherently, and collaboratively problem-solve.
In addition to increasing the participants’ perception of their communication abilities and aiding in creating a starting sense of community in this second-grade classroom, the intervention could possibly exemplify how imbedding targeted vocabulary and subject matter into Morning Meetings can enable students to transfer the skills and strategies gleaned from the morning meeting activities to their academics. However, an instrument for measuring academic change would need be incorporated into future studies.
Morning Meetings increased cordial student communication and created a sense of community in this second-grade classroom; however, the Morning Meetings also became an avenue used by the facilitator to get to know the second grade students and, in return, for the students to get to know him. For students to effectively learn and participate in the Morning Meetings, the facilitator explicitly modeled how to greet and share with one another, often using himself as an example for each day’s sharing topic. By sharing, the second-grade students and the facilitator established a relationship that made him a part of the classroom community, and not just a teacher intern.
The results of this action research study supported the assumption that, by implementing the Morning Meeting model in this second-grade classroom, students would perceive a sense of community and an increase in communication abilities from their Morning Meeting experiences. Morning Meetings is just one of the many ways to merge academic, social, and emotional learning, and for elementary students to feel a sense of significance and belonging in the classroom.
This study occurred in a four-week period. Based on the positive results of this brief trial, it can be concluded that students would potentially gain greater benefits over an extended period of time. Further studies need to be conducted to discern which curriculum intertwines academic, social, and emotional learning is most beneficial to students. The results of this study, a four-week trial, nonetheless demonstrate improvements in students’ perceived communication proficiencies and an increase in classroom community in merely two weeks of Morning Meetings. It would be valuable to determine if these results would follow if other students who are generally pulled out of class fully participated in Morning Meetings. In addition, it would be valuable to study how the Morning Meeting effects could translate to student academic progress, particularly in small-group problem-solving work in content areas such as mathematics and science, which require continuous problem-solving.
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