CV students preparing for the shoe greeting as part of morning meeting time

In Brooke Esselman’s classroom every Friday morning, you’ll find a group of energetic and barefoot first graders in a circle around an assortment of shoes. As part of their Morning Meeting, the class is preparing for the shoe greeting. They put one of their shoes in the center of the circle and hide the other behind their back. The goal? Take turns guessing whose shoe belongs to who as they greet another member of the class.

“The kids find this greeting hilarious,” laughs Brooke. “It’s such a popular greeting that we’ve had to limit it to Fridays only. They like to joke we have smelly feet in our classroom but really, it’s a detective-like game where they get to have some fun, interact with their classmates and get some pep in their step for the rest of the day.”

A greeting is one part of the four-part Morning Meeting that takes place daily in every preK-6 classroom. After the greeting, come sharing time, then an activity and a morning message to close.

Students in grades preK-6 start each day with a morning meeting to create community in the classroom. Students greet each other, spend time sharing and often discuss a specific topic like kindness, teamwork, or empathy. This time each day helps create a sense of belonging and sets the tone for the day of learning.

Through intentional planning, teachers create a climate of trust, community, respect and engagement, allowing students to feel valued and supported while honing essential life skills. Teachers tailor each meeting specific to the needs and interests within their classroom.

Morning Meetings are designed to set a positive tone of what students can expect for the day as well as establish or re-establish a sense of community within the classroom to propel both the academic and the social skills they’ll use throughout the day. Rachel Adamek, Learning & Innovation Coordinator for Behavior Supports and Services.

The routine

In Lauren Hughes’ 3rd grade classroom, Morning Meetings last 25-30 minutes. The meetings look a little different every day, but the structure remains the same: a greeting, a sharing opportunity, an activity and a morning message.

Northpoint students participating in a "pick 3" activity and smiling

A small group of students in Laura Cole's classroom participating in the "Find 3" activity as part of the day's morning meeting. The goal is to find three things in common while practicing cooperation. 

“We start with a greeting so each student gets greeted by name,” says Lauren. “Next is a time for sharing – could be what they did over the weekend or their favorite book. It’s a great opportunity for students to have their voice heard and build community in our classroom.”

The daily activity varies the most in classrooms and is a time to reinforce learning or practice a skill such as cooperation or sharing while also building social connections between class peers.

Laura Cole noticed her grades 1-2 multiage classroom seemed to be struggling with cooperation. At the next Morning Meeting, the activity was a “Find 3” cooperation activity where students split into small groups and were tasked to find three things each student had in common.

“Morning Meetings progress throughout the year as we establish routines and expectations,” says Laura. “The activities are a great opportunity to tie back into some of our initial expectations. Seeing my students needed a reminder about cooperation, I was able to focus the next day’s activity to help get students back on track.”

During the message part of the meeting, Brooke goes over the high-level information for the day. This time always finishes with having students chant the same daily affirmation – I am SMART, I am KIND, I am BRAVE, I am BEAUTIFUL, I am SO LOVED, I can do HARD THINGS, Today is a GREAT DAY.

“We always end with the affirmation which is really about empowering ourselves and getting ourselves ready for the rest of the day,” says Brooke.

The progression

Morning Meetings have been a part of Spring Lake Park Schools for more than 20 years. Over the past few years, based on responsive classroom training, Morning Meetings have become more structured and intentional. A Morning Meeting Toolkit was developed to support staff in effectively implementing the four-part meeting structure and includes ideas to help them tailor their Morning Meeting based on specific grade-level and class needs.

“This 30-minute chunk of the day can have a lot of influence on how kids are retaining information, how they’re receiving information and how we can help prime their brains for a productive day ahead,” says Lauren.

After establishing routines, expectations and getting to know each other better early on, Lauren notices her class now enjoys more challenging and skill-based activities over the fun activities that started the year.

5th graders participating in a morning meeting activity

Rock, Paper, Scissors was the daily morning meeting activity in Kim Berroa's 5th grade class. The remaining students played an elimination game with silent football. The goal is teamwork and building connections. 

“Because they are more comfortable around each other and because they are further along academically, they start selecting activities that rely on trust, teamwork and problem-solving skills which is really great to see,” says Lauren.

In Kim Berroa’s 5th grade classroom, Morning Meetings allow for a stronger classroom environment which happens progressively as students forge connections.

“In order to do anything together as a class, you actually have to connect with another person,” says Kim. “It’s one of the times of the
day that they have to look each other in the eye and greet another classmate. It’s about building some of those social skills. Some kids don’t feel comfortable with it right away. They are more shy and look away. But it’s about getting outside comfort zones and building those skills.”

At the beginning of the school year, Brooke had a few students who took a long time at breakfast or who were shy during the sharing portion of the meeting.

“Now, those same students rush to eat breakfast. They don’t want to miss out, and my quieter students are starting to raise their voice a little more,” says Brooke. “You can just tell that they are getting more comfortable, understand the meeting is a safe spot and are seeing similarities that makes them want to connect.”

The benefits

Just as Morning Meetings allow students to grow connections with each other, it also allows teachers to gain a better understanding of their students.

Preparing for winter conferencing, Laura asked her students to share “If you could do one thing all day in school, what would it be?” The goal behind this question was see where their current interests lie and bring the prompt up to their family during conferences.

“With every Morning Meeting, I get a deeper sense of who each student is,” says Laura. “Now that we are far into the school year, I wanted to hear what they enjoy about school and use it as an opportunity to open the dialogue with their families. It’s good insight for all of us.”

Woodcrest students sitting in a circle for morning meeting

Students in Lauren Hughes’ 3rd grade classroom share their plans for an upcoming long weekend. Sharing is a big part of building community in her classroom. 

Building a sense of community is the biggest benefit in Lauren’s eyes.

“My main goal is to always build community,” says Lauren. “This time is my favorite part of my day. The kids are building connections which leads to them taking more risk and feeling more comfortable during the day. I often hear them discussing Morning Meeting topics at other times during the day, so I truly get to see community building happen in real time.”

In Kim’s classroom, Morning Meetings lead to memorable moments.

“A big one that I see frequently is students stepping out of their comfort zone to share things that are very personal to them,” says Kim. “They start to feel safe in this Morning Meeting environment and build a sense of pride in what they share with classmates.”

At the end of the day, Brooke appreciates how Morning Meetings focus on who students are as people without the element of academic pressure.

Avery returns to her seat after morning meeting having found her shoe. She has a huge smile on her face. She is ready to start the rest of her day.

“I love sharing and hearing from my friends,” says Avery. “The shoe greeting is my favorite!”