As we know, this next school year is going to be so up in the air and a classroom community is going to be needed more than ever before. I love my classroom meetings and wanted to discuss how they look like in person or virtually.
I wanted to first say that I got the way I run my meetings from Brtittany Root or Miss 5th. I loved how she held them, so I model mine after the way she does hers. In a typical school week, we have one day that is minimum schedule for teacher professional development, so I always feel like I don't have enough time during each day to hold a class meeting. If you are interested in that, I highly suggest you follow sparkles_and_pompoms (Megan Sinclaire) as she has so many amazing morning meeting techniques and games to play with the kids.
Long story short, we have our meetings every Friday as I don't like teaching new content and there is more wiggle room to our day. It starts off by the kids each getting a sticky note on their desk. They now have the opportunity to write a Question, Concerns, Suggestion, or Kudos. I project an image on my whiteboard, and the kids stick it in the category that it belongs in. I then call two students to lead our meeting. I tell my students that these kids were the ones who showed extreme leadership this week. I like to pick one girl and one boy to lead the meeting as it makes it fair for everyone. They then take turns reading aloud the things written as students use agreeing and disagreeing hand signals. If they have something to add, they stand to speak and all students are expected to have eye contact. You as the teacher are simply just a mediator to make sure the meeting stays moving along. (Of course, I always lead the very first meeting to model how they are supposed to run).
For the questions category, students simply ask questions about our class, upcoming events, or even content questions. I have even had a few kids ask questions about me (i.e. fave drink etc. which I don't mind but I don't want it to overrun the meeting). Concerns, and I always get teachers that make their remarks on this category, are sometimes my favorite category. I am going to say usually there aren't any, but it always feels good to know students have a space to share when they feel uncomfortable, or they dislike something. I find it makes them feel like they have a voice, and when you act on it, that you the teacher are indeed looking out for them. I explain that they are not allowed to use student names in their concerns, and if needed they are more than welcome to be anonymous. Things they have had concerns about in the past have really been anything from it's too cold in here, to the kids in band are touching my things in my desk. (We rotate for band, so I don't always have my students in my room). Suggestions is a place where students can suggest anything from class rules, room transformation ideas, or fun lessons they would like to see. I am not lying when I say I have gotten so many brilliant ideas from past students so this is another of my favorite categories. Lastly, Kudos is a tricky one to teach because this is the category where they basically complement another student or share something amazing that another student has done. I say it cannot be "Thank you, Lily, for letting me borrow your pencil when I needed one." Yes, it's a kind gesture, but not worthy of a kudos. These need to be really amazing things that deserve to be celebrated by the class. I love doing a little round of applause after each one to make them feel special about their good choices.
I say your meeting should take more than 15 minutes, if it is lasting longer, save the unread ones for the next week. All in all, I must say my students love this part of the week, and it is a good way to end on a high note and even reflect on how this week has gone. Now, I sure you are thinking this is all fine and dandy but how can I do this virtually, and I am here to tell you don't stress, I have plenty of ideas.
I don't know about you guys, but next year I see my class going one of two ways: Hybrid or Distance Learning. Both of these models mean there is going to be some type of online component. The way our hybrid will go is AA/v/BB, meaning we get an A group, a B group and Wednesday will be a cleaning or all virtual day. This is the day that I am planning to hold our meetings, as I want to be able to mesh the two groups together. What I am going to do is make a Jamboard or Google Slide of my board that I usually project on my whiteboard. I say Jamboard because they actually have little sticky notes to add. Each "slide" will be one of the 4 categories mentioned above, and students will add their sticky to the slide their topic falls under. I will be posting this on Google classroom, or whatever LCM our district goes with, and make sure all students are on the same document. (You can just as easily have them fill out a google form, but I like the interactive aspect to this). When it is time to run the meeting, I'll simply start my zoom, or whatever application you use and start our meeting. You can even still have student leaders that run the meeting. You can have kids use the emoji features in zoom to agree or disagree (or show their hand signals) and even have kids speak, or type in the chat their responses (whatever you're comfortable with). If you are restricted to google meet I would suggest having kids download the joypixals extension, which allows them to use emojis.
I feel like it is more important than ever that we have a community during this time. We need to take things slower and build that foundation. At the end of the day, you are going to want a connection with your students rather than checking off the list that you "taught" them all the things. Building this online community is going to take longer than building it in person, and that is going to take trust, and the time well spent. I for one am going to take the first two weeks to instill community, teach them about digital citizenship, and even digital community (like how to comment and help one another online). Also, don't worry, as usual I will make sure to include all my steps along the way!