Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Class Meetings Tips and Tricks

Are you holding class meetings in your elementary classroom?  Class meetings are a great way to build rapport with your students and improve classroom management.    From new teachers to seasoned professionals, this blog post has a little bit for everyone!

Building a classroom community is one of the most important things you can do at the beginning of the school year.  A great way to do this is to add class meetings to your weekly routine.  Here are some guidelines I follow in my fourth grade classroom:

1.  SIT IN A CIRCLE.  There are a lot of reasons why sitting in a circle is beneficial.  In a circle, no one is in front, in back, first or last.  There is nowhere to hide and everyone in the circle is on equal ground.  Everyone should be able to see everyone else's face.  Have this clear line of sight makes it easier to attend to what other people are saying.  Students are more apt to participate when they are in a circle, because they feel like they are part of the group.    Because my class size is so large, my students sit in two concentric circles.  One group sits around the edge of the carpet and the other group sits in chairs on the outside of the carpet.  When I taught fifth grade, one of my teammates didn't have a carpeted area.  Instead, she had her students move their chairs to create a circle in the room.  

2.  SET UP MEETING RULES OR AGREEMENTS.  The agreements we have are:
  1. Everyone has the right to pass.
  2. No side conversations.
  3. Listen actively.
  4. Accept and Respect each other's comments.  If we disagree, we respectfully disagree.  
  5. Wait your turn to talk. 

Before each meeting, I remind students of the rules/agreements.  It's a good idea to make a little sign with the rules on it (or download the one below).  Number the agreements and when someone is not following them, all you need to do is point at the sign and hold up the number of the agreement.  These silent signals are less disruptive to the person speaking.

Are you holding class meetings in your elementary classroom?  Class meetings are a great way to build rapport with your students and improve classroom management.    From new teachers to seasoned professionals, this blog post has a little bit for everyone!
Grab your FREE download HERE

3.  USE A "TALKING STICK".  Pass around an object to indicate who's turn it is to speak.  You could have the same item that you pass around each time, for example a "talking stick", or it could be something different.  I have a lot of  fun items that I pass around.  The student who has the item is the speaker for that moment and everyone else should be focused on that person.

4.  EXPECT EVERYONE TO PARTICIPATE. This includes you, the teacher!  I expect everyone to participate, but I don't force them to.  The first meeting agreement is "Everyone has the right to pass." This means that if a member is unable to think of something to say, he/she can pass so they have more time to think of a response.  When everyone else has participated, I always check back in with the "passers" to see if they have thought of anything they want to add to the conversation.  I usually get 100% participation this way.  What is really magical is when those students who don't talk much...  You know the ones, the super shy ones or students who struggle with language, start sharing!  It is a wonderful thing.  

4.  SET AN AGENDA.  I write the agenda for the class meeting on the white board before the class meeting starts.  I always start our class meeting with a check in and end it with a quick closing activity.  Here is a generic example of our agenda:
  • Weekend Check-In
  • Announcements
  • Friendship Lesson
  • FTGOTO - For the Good of the Order
  • Student Stars
  • Closing Activity
Times are approximate.  

During the weekend check in, I ask the students to share ONE memorable thing about their weekend. This could be good memorable or bad memorable.  Students share all sorts of life events: birthdays, new pets, family vacations.  This is also a time when students might share some sad news like illnesses in the family, the loss of a pet, or personal illnesses.  There is a lot you can learn about your students from this short sharing time.  Tip for success:  Because of the limited amount of time for your meeting, tell students to share 1 thing in 1 sentence.  My students got good at using run on sentences to share everything they did and it took a lot of time to get through the entire class of 34 kids.  The 1 and 1 Rule should help with that.  

If you don't want to do a weekend check-in or your meeting isn't on Monday, you could use sentence starters such as:
  • Something I'm looking forward to is...
  • Today I feel...
  • If I was a color I'd be ...
  • One word to describe me is...
  • My favorite__________ is...

While you have your students all together and their attention is on you, its a good time to quickly share any announcements.  

LESSONS (15 min.)
During this time I usually have a quick character education, conflict resolution, or friendship lesson.  I also do group bonding activities during this time.  Throughout the year the theme of the lessons change.  At the beginning of the year, there are a lot of get-to-know-you activities, classroom routines and procedures lessons, and class expectation lessons.  As the year goes on, I incorporate lessons on topics such as tattling, bullying, or anything that is going on in class at that time that needs addressed.  

FTGOTO (10 min.)
For the Good of the Order - This is the time when students share any issues or problems they are having with the running of the class, peer issues (no names), concerns about class routines, organization, etc.  Students bring up a lot of different problems during this time.  Students might have a concern about other kids not pushing in their chairs, clean-up jobs not being done, or questions about an assignment.

I love this part of the meeting because, throughout the week, when I have students come to me with a class issue (non-urgent), I say, "That would be a great topic to bring up during our class meeting."  This puts the problem in the hands of the students. 

When a problem is brought up during the meeting, I don't give the students the solution.  I ask the group to come up with their ideas for how we should handle it.  Once again, I am putting the responsibility of problem solving back on them and letting them take ownership of situation.  Students share possible solutions and one is decided on.  We usually agree as a class that we will try the solution for a week and see how it goes.  We can bring it up at the next meeting to discuss if the solution wasn't successful.  

In my class I have blank star die cut shapes available and throughout the week, students can anonymously dedicate a star to a classmate who has done something positive like help another student, work hard on an assignment, or shown lifeskill that we are working on.    On the stars, they write the names of the recipients and what they are receiving the star for.  Toward the end of the meeting, I always read and hand out the stars.   You don't have to do stars in your class, but some positive peer interaction or recognition is a wonderful way to build community in your classroom.  Instead of stars you could do a compliment circle or appreciations.  
Are you holding class meetings in your elementary classroom?  Class meetings are a great way to build rapport with your students and improve classroom management.    From new teachers to seasoned professionals, this blog post has a little bit for everyone!

I usually end the meeting with a quick closing activity.  This is usually a once around the circle with an open ended question.

We like to play "This isn't a __________."  To play, you pass around an object like a Kleenex.  The first person says, "This isn't a Kleenex, it is a ____________."   Maybe they say it is a hat and put it on their head.  They then pass it to the next person.  That person says, "This isn't a hat.  It's a _____________."  and then they pass it on to the next person.  Play continues around the circle.  This is a fun game that get kids using their creativity and imagination.  And it is fun to see who your "out of the box" thinkers are.  

Some other quick closing activities are:
  • a name game
  • morning stretch
  • on a scale of 1-10 I'm a ...
  • Agree/Disagree
  • My goal for the week is... 
The possibilities are almost endless!  

As you can see, class meetings are a positive, fun time for you to build a rapport with your students and help them connect to each other.  I can't stress enough how important it is that students are respectful of one another and support each other during this time.  A lot of sharing happens during a meeting and we want students to feel safe and supported as they share with you and their classmates.

Tips for Success:

  • Model by example - Be Positive.  Be involved.  Show interest.  Encourage participation.  
  • If a student is struggling with being a positive member of the meeting, talk with him/her privately at another time.
  • Don't let your meeting run too long.  Mine last about 30-40 minutes depending on the lesson for the day.  
  • Keep the meetings fun and engaging.  If needed, schedule in a movement activity.  
  • Be consistent.  Have the meeting the same day every week.  Same place, same routine.  
  • Save the community circle for your important meetings.  The weekly meeting is important.  If something else comes up in class and I ask students to meet me in the community circle, they know we are meeting to talk about something important.  
I hope that this blog post has given you some ideas to help you start your own weekly Class Meeting. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things you can do to build a respectful, supportive community of learners in your classroom!

If you have any questions or have more ideas or suggestions for creating a successful class meeting, please share in the comment section!  I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Are you following me on Bloglovin' yet?  


  1. Great suggestions - you've really covered all the bases.

    1. Thank you. It is my favorite time of the week.