- Select a name for your class meeting. This will identify your class meeting(s) as a specific activity with guidelines, rules, and expectations.
- Set a specific time for your meeting and be consistent. Our students thrive on routine.
- What will your seating arrangement be? On the floor, at desks, at tables? Assess the structural needs of your group.
- Tell the students the purpose of class meetings, such as getting along with others, building a sense of community, problem solving, and sharing their feelings and information about themselves. They should know that this is one way they will learn to express themselves appropriately, communicate, and develop social skills.
- Decide who will be the leader or facilitator of your meetings. I recommend that you, the teacher, fill this role until you observe that your students are ready to take on the responsibility. A class meetings leader is a great job to add to a rotation list of class jobs.
- Include instruction and positive practice in using nice, helpful words; appropriate language; and positive interactions. Share stories that celebrate success and conflict resolution.
- Include instruction and positive practice in listening skills and what it looks/sounds like to be a good participant/member of the audience while someone else is talking.
- Include instruction and positive practice regarding sharing. This will be difficult for some children in the beginning. Start off with prepared topics or begin with compliments, thanks, and apologies. You model, they volunteer. Go slowly and give them a chance to get comfortable sharing and speaking in front of a group and expressing themselves. This takes time — don’t rush it!
- Watch out for the children who want to share too much or all the time. Devise a structure that will address the variety of behaviors your children exhibit. For example, one person passes a talking wand, bean bag, stuffed animal, etc., to the next person, and only the person with the object talks. The higher your structure, the more successful your meetings will be.
- Compliments, thanks, and apologies are an excellent way to end the day. It’s a friendly reminder that a new day starts in the morning and we leave behind any problems we had the day before. (Wouldn’t this be a great activity for adults, too?)
- As with any activity, monitor your class meetings to see if they are meeting your expectations and achieving your goals. Tweak your structure, teach your expectations, and share your observations and reflections with your students.
- Most of all — have fun! This is a great strategy for establishing rapport, building and maintaining relationships, decreasing misbehavior in your classroom, and increasing instructional time.
Thanks also to my friend Jackie Boston, Reading Support Coach at Rosemont Elementary, Orange County Public Schools, for co-training classroom meeting presentations, creating handouts and power points, and, most of all, for sharing her awesome second-grade students and their class meetings!
Finally, a great article on the topic of class meetings is “Creating a Moral Community in the Classroom” from the book Educating for Character: How Our Schools Teach Respect and Responsibility, by Thomas Lickona, Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Double Day Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1991.
Thanks for joining CEC’s blog this February!
All the best,