Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Being in my early 20s, I have just recently begun my trek through my adult life. I have taken the many skills that my mentors have given me over the years, and have finally stepped out beneath the enormous sky. As an adult, I have already picked up on the fact that structuring your own routines that you do daily (or close enough to it) is essential to staying motivated in your life. When I think of success, it's hard to paint a picture in my mind, but even in times when my future seems cloudy, and I can’t pinpoint exactly where I am headed, my morning and evening rituals remind me of who I am, and what is important to me in the present moment.
So when are we supposed to learn this in our lives? I was lucky enough to gain this sort of knowledge at a younger age, but many out there have never, and will never experience the benefits of routines and rituals in their lifetime. It makes sense that we should implement this idea of routines and rituals into schools starting from a young age, and the perfect way to do so? Morning Meetings! This blog will discuss the importance of morning meetings/ advisory meetings, and routine in the classroom, while also providing you with some excellent links and research papers if you're interested in finding out more!
Importance of Keeping Routine
So of course I started looking into the actual science behind this… why are rituals and routines good for you?
This article from Northwestern Medicine explains some unhealthy phenomena you can avoid by establishing routines;
Those who don’t have a routine are more likely to suffer from:
Poor Physical Condition
Poor Use of Time
If you are interested in reading more in-depth about each of these points, I would suggest clicking the link above! A key point they touch on here is the idea that each of us have completely different routines that work for us; so what works for me might not work for you. In this way it is a huge learning experience for someone to learn how to assimilate their likes and needs into a routine built around inevitable things we all need to partake in, like school or work. It is also important to note that as your life and priorities change so will your routine. So it really comes down to what you truly need to do everyday, for yourself, in order to stay grounded in times of hardship or change.
The Benefits of Morning Meetings for All Ages
After reading up on the importance of routines, I ran back to Google Scholar to find some research on the benefits of implementing morning meetings into the school day, and instantly found an in-depth master's thesis written by a high school teacher, Summer Anguiano. She discusses her students' perceptions of SEL through morning meetings in a 12th-grade economics class. I liked this one off the bat, mainly because I feel we often find this sort of observational research done with younger students and not high schoolers. Especially with something like “circle time” that may seem elementary to older kids, I was interested to see how high school students responded to it, and if it would still benefit them as students and people.
“The need for a safe space for communication does not start and stop at a certain age or grade; all students need to be aware that their educators care for them in more ways than academics.” -Summer Anguiano
Anguiano’s research often references The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis, which in the introduction sheds light on the 4 most important components of a morning meeting, listed;
Something as simple as greeting each student as they walk in can do wonders for opening up the conversation, and showing that you as a teacher care about what they have to say. Anguiano notes that she quickly realized after starting to have small conversations with individual students before class started, that she had much more insight as to what was going on internally with them.
Inquiring about her students' well-being individually through greeting them, opens the conversation for morning meetings, where the students feel they can openly express themselves and share in any way the teachers structure it (or don’t structure it). It opens up the opportunity for self-reflection and freely expressing ideas. Anguiano touches on this when she writes, “by taking time to let your learners take over the class time, you will learn some valuable information about your learners that can greatly impact how you view and understand the hearts that are sitting in your room.” The feeling of being heard by one's peers and teachers while sharing out loud, makes them feel like someone cares that they are in school, doing wonders for students' self-esteem, and ability to be vulnerable. It sounds like SEL heaven!!
A group activity during morning meetings promotes group cognition and cooperation in the classroom. Over time, as students acquaint themselves with one another, working on activities together can only strengthen the conversations they have with one another, inside and outside the classroom! This short paper on the Benefits of Collaborative Learning explains this in detail. Kikori App has a variety of the different SEL activity styles to choose from!
Including a morning message for your students with an open-ended question, related to their curriculum for the day, gives them a chance to start thinking about their school work critically and gives them a headstart on “the point” of the lesson. I say “the point” because in my experience in school, my peers and I sometimes struggled to see the ‘bigger picture’ or the ‘take-aways’ from our lesson. Making the goal(s) as clear as possible in the beginning of class makes it easier for students to stay engaged. Watch the video below for morning message ideas, and morning meeting structure;
Anguiano explains how morning meetings promote a more “student-centered” approach to learning, which doesn’t mean throwing away your school curriculum altogether; she emphasizes that she “learned that shifting [her] focus from being content-driven to student-driven had more of an impact on the willingness of [her] learners to engage with the classroom content.” Which in turn, presents the classroom as a more meaningful place for the learners themselves. Her findings based on student interviews and focus groups supported this idea, and the students had positive feelings towards the morning meetings and saw a difference in their own as well as their peers' attitudes towards being in the classroom.
Advisory Meetings in Middle Schools
While working as a summer camp counselor for middle school aged students, I learned a tremendous amount about this age group and what makes them special. It is a particularly potent time for them; physical , mental, and emotional changes are happening at every minute. not to mention everyone around them is also undergoing these changes. So, needless to say, there is a reason these 3-4 years of one's life are known to be pretty charged. This is why having a predictable routine built into the school day is so important to ground middle school aged students (as well as all students!).
For new middle schoolers, consistency is key. While navigating a new building, adjusting to a different schedule, and mastering that right of the passage that is the locker, students find comfort and consistency in Advisory.
I remember having advisory meetings in my middle school homeroom once a week. This advisory time started with an interactive prompt that was displayed on the board, that we would share our answers to later on with our peers. After that, there were group activities for the whole class to participate in together, as well as advisory books with SEL themed topics, that we would all have to ‘popcorn read’ together. It totally reminds me of the example provided in this article from Responsive Classroom, entitled What is Responsive Advisory Meeting?.
They describe the core elements of advisory time as;
Arrival Welcome- An easy and effective way to welcome students is by focusing on names! Tip: Have your students go around and introduce themselves instead of reading names off of a roster.
Announcements- Tip: Now that a lot of schools provide laptops for students, it could be a good idea to provide a warm up prompt through an email they can all view on their screen, but otherwise… the board works great too!
Acknowledgements- Tip: A good way to acknowledge each student for their individual responses to the announcement portion, is by having them share their responses with their designated groups.
Activity- There is a lot of versatility here, but it is important to note that it should be content focused. Now that we’ve gotten the students mingling and comfortable, it's a good time to provide some rich content for them to take with them after the meeting is over!
I have provided a video example of a middle school advisory meeting below!
A morning meeting or advisory meeting that students partake in every week, every day or every few days is a perfect way to establish a routine within the classroom, which:
Provides a grounding element for students’ lives. Structuring this sort of time to engage the students in something other than the curriculum itself (hopefully with some SEL content!)
Gives them something predictable that they can expect upon walking into class, as well as boosting the camaraderie in your classroom and school.
For middle school or highschool students who have larger course loads, is a manageable way to introduce a routine that will only benefit them in the future. Not to mention, breaking up the monotony of the day!
We're here to give you an outline! Check out our Morning Meeting and Advisory Meeting Planners here:
Francesca Barucci, Content Blogger for Kikori App