In this article you will learn how to use the Responsive Classroom practice of morning meetings in the primary years programme class.
Our IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) school has been implementing Responsive Classroom practices for the last two years, including holding Morning Meetings at the start of each day. I currently teach an early years class (5 year olds) and my meetings consist of four elements: a greeting, individual student sharing, a group activity and a written message.
Morning meetings have several functions, including creating a respectful learning environment based on trust and to support each student to feel significant within the group. My reflection working with my students in morning meetings is that there are many aspects of the PYP which these meetings can enhance.
I discovered very quickly that meetings could form the basis for international-mindedness and provide a global perspective, both crucial aspects of the IB. The initial greeting section establishes shared classroom respect, for example students use and pronounce each other’s names properly, an important aspect of identity particularly for EAL (English as additional language) students. Students use different languages to greet each other thereby learning we all come from different places in the world and yet have the commonality of polite communication using welcome receptions.
By creating a classroom environment rich in different languages, students begin to get a sense of their place in the world as global citizens. These young learners are more mindful of their international colleagues, their first steps towards learning ‘intercultural understanding and respect’ (IB mission statement).
Second is a sharing activity. Students build stories and histories about their friends, make connections with their own lives and also see ‘that other people, with their differences, can also be right’ (IB mission statement). Here students develop the learner profile attributes as communicators and being open minded. Students are better able to extend their inquiry through asking questions. By practicing this in our safe circle students demonstrate agency and confidence as they create and ask meaningful questions. Students also demonstrate risk-taking by asking questions publicly in the circle and then later students are better able to verbalize their questions, something that can be difficult at times for the younger and particularly EAL children.
Third, a group activity in which everybody participates. Here we focus on pre-academic skills such as rhythm and rhyme in preparation for reading, counting games to enhance number work, and songs and poems to develop rich vocabulary. Many of these games require students to focus on social skills such as cooperation and negotiation and, on occasion, conflict resolution.
The meeting closes with a written message which has been visible during the entire meeting. We use it to develop shared reading skills with messages about the day ahead, extraordinary activities in school, birthday announcements and even problems to encourage critical thinking skills.
Morning meetings have instilled a sense of family in our classroom, creating a safe arena for students to express themselves; I have seen even the most introverted students become willing participants. By the end of the school year students can use their self-management skills to independently run our meetings as they know the sequence of actions. I had never considered that students would have agency in what initially seemed to me like a teacher-driven endeavor. Considering the focus on student agency in the enhanced PYP, I will certainly be fostering more choice, voice and ownership with the students as to the content of their morning meetings in the future.
IB mission statement: http://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/
Responsive classroom: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/
Davis, C, Kriete, R. (2002). The morning meeting book. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
Vanessa Keenan has taught at Raha International School for 8 years in the Early Years. Vanessa is currently grade level leader for EY2 and has recently completed an MA in International Education and the IB advanced educators certificate in teaching and learning research from University of Bath, UK.