Research shows connection is an important part of the classroom experience. Connection builds trust, which allows children to feel safe enough to learn. Class meetings are a great way to build connections. The start of a new school year is a great time to make them part of the schedule. Connection, building relationships, and creating a safe environment is going to be especially important this year as it’s ascary time for many students. Class meetings are also a great time to go over social distancing rules, reinforce the importance of hand washing, and hear how students are feeling about returning to school.
What are class meetings?
Class meetings provide an opportunity to come together as a community. They are a prevention and intervention tool for strengthening social and emotional development. The goal is to provide a safe and open environment for students to share concerns, explore their feelings, and support each other. They work well from pre-k through high school.
What are the benefits of class meetings?
Class meetings help students feel more connected to their school, teacher, and each other. Teachers also feel a greater sense of connection to students and the school community.
Students develop stronger emotional, social, problem solving, and communication skills. Meetings provide students opportunities to develop empathy, responsibility, and self-motivation through open discussions with their peers.
What is the teacher’s role in class meetings?
Teachers act as facilitators during class meetings. They guide conversations about important issues, such as bullying, diversity, class rules, respect, and other issues students are facing. Teachers make sure boundaries are maintained and all students are heard.
How to use class meetings
Encourage students to get to know each other by taking turns sharing about their lives. Facilitate activities that help students work together. Talk about emotions, behavior, appropriate interaction, and more without lecturing through storytelling, roleplaying, problem-solving, imagining, and brainstorming. When problems or issues arise, tell students you’ll discuss it at the next class meeting. Allow students to request items be added to the agenda.
How long should class meetings be? How often should you meet?
Length and frequency will depend on what works best for your class. Some teachers have a short morning meeting every day. Others set aside 30 – 60 minutes once a week. Experiment to see what works best for your group. You can always add in extra meetings if issues arise that need addressed.
Sample class meeting agenda:
Welcome your students to the class meeting. Go over the rules for the meeting (such as no interrupting when someone else is speaking) and the agenda. Start with a few minutes of guided mindfulness (try one of these mindfulness apps) or a couple of deep breaths as a group to get everyone calm and centered.
Have everyone check in.
Go around and give everyone a chance to share how they’re doing. You can have a color system: green is good, yellow is okay, and red is not so great. A number system also works well with 10 being great and 1 representing a difficult time. Students can elaborate if they want (“I’m a one because my cat died last night” or “I’m green because I got a 100% on my spelling test and I’m having pizza for lunch!”) or just stick with the number or color. The check in scale is something to discuss in one of your first class meetings, so students understand and become comfortable with it.
Go around and take turns sharing things everyone is thankful for. For example: I’m thankful for homework passes. I’m thankful for YouTube. I’m thankful for my parents.
Hype up the good stuff.
Talk about the good things that happened in the week and what everyone is looking forward to. Encourage students to compliment each other for hard work or kind acts they’ve observed each other do. Make sure to check out this list of classroom jobs that promote kindness and responsibility..
Is there an issue that needs to be addressed? Maybe a student has a problem and would like peer feedback. This is the time to work through conflicts and frustrations. Don’t forget to tackle the things you told students you’d add to the agenda throughout the week.
Tack on some social-emotional learning.
Discuss topics such as friendship, emotions, self-regulation tools, diversity, kindness, respect, manners, etc. in an age-appropriate way. This is also a great time to talk about current events happening in your community or the world.
Ask if there’s anything students would like to discuss at the next meeting.
Some students might not work up the courage to share until the meeting is closing. Or maybe time simply ran out. Starting a list for what to come back to next time helps everyone feel heard and valued.
10 things to discuss in class meetings:
There are so many possibilities! Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
- Proper ways to wear masks
- Classroom expectations (including Zoom etiquette)
- How to use new classroom materials, such as dice
- Concerns students have about COVID-19
- Classroom jobs (yes, even if distance learning!)
- Play some ice breakersto get to know each other
- Try out some brain breaks
- Practice mindfulness
- Dive into book discussions
- What students want to learn more about
And so much more!
Class meetings can be held both in person and remotely. Most students look forward to coming together as a group. They’re a great tool to promote a sense of community during a strange and stressful school year.