Families are the first teachers of our students. They learn communication and language skills, components of identity, how to laugh, play, be together, and more. When we strengthen the relationship between families and educators, we are effectively supporting student learning and the whole child. One of the guiding principles of Responsive Classroom is that partnering with families, knowing them and valuing their contributions, is as important as knowing the
children we teach. With this principle in mind, reimagining how a Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting can include families communicates a positive message to families that we recognize, appreciate, and value their role in their child’s learning experiences and education.
Opportunities for Connection With Families in Morning Meeting
Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting provides a daily opportunity for students to build community and authentically practice academic and social-emotional skills through four components: greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message. What follows are some suggestions to include families in Morning Meetings. (Note that many of these suggestions can be adopted to a virtual setting.)
Birthday Shares. Invite families into the classroom for their child’s birthday celebration. Encourage them to share a story about the child with the class. For example, “Once when Chris was younger, he snuck out of bed and ate a whole jar of chocolate chip cookies!” Another idea is having classmates share a friendly birthday wish for that student based on their interests. For example, “Happy birthday, Lua! I hope you have a great birthday and get to eat cake because it is your favorite food!” or “Happy birthday, Coco! I hope you get to paint with your family since you like art so much!”
Cultural Shares. Have families share with the class aspects of their culture, such as language, history, art, music, or traditions, to help students build cultural competencies. Families can teach a song, practice a holiday tradition, or provide a timeline of historical events to develop an appreciation of differences. Prepare students for these shares by teaching them to ask generative follow-up questions, such as “What are some things you love most about__________?” or “What brings you pride when it comes to _________?”
Guest Readers. Encourage family members to sign up to be a surprise “guest reader,” giving them an opportunity to read a favorite book to the class.
Dance Parties. Dancing together is a way to build community while also having fun. Have family members join in and play Freeze Dance, for example, where you dance while the music plays but stop and “freeze” when the music is paused. You could also try Opposite World Freeze Dance, where you dance when the music is paused and freeze when the music plays.
Visiting or New Family Members. Students often want to invite visiting or new family members to meet their classmates. For example, if a grandparent is visiting from out of town or they have a new sibling, have them sit in and enjoy a meeting.
Consider Adopting an “Open Door Policy.” Let families know that they are always welcomed to enjoy a Morning Meeting. This can be especially restorative for families experiencing stress.
Setting Students and Families Up for Success
When introducing the idea of welcoming families into Morning Meetings, host a classroom discussion regarding expectations. Ask students, “What will make this go well?” Also share the expectations and roles with families prior to their visits. Proactively setting expectations will help ensure success for all parties and minimize redirections and misbehaviors. Here are some suggestions.
The Role of the Student
- Practice inclusivity and welcoming guests. Use a greeting such as “Welcome!” or “We are happy you are here with us!”
- Offer help and kindness. Ask, “Can I show you where to sit?” or say, “Let me know if you have any questions while you are here.”
- Convey gratitude. For spending time with the class, say, “Thank you for joining us today!” or “We are so glad you came.” or “We learned a lot from you!”
The Role of the Family Member(s)
- Participate. If the class is singing and dancing, sing and dance along.
- Physically join the class in the circle. Join the students when they sit on the floor (unless, of course, the family member is physically unable to do so).
- Follow classroom rules. Respect others, convey kindness, and follow other classroom rules.
- Convey gratitude. Thank the class for the opportunity to share in their Morning Meeting.
Benefits of Partnering With Families
Forming a bond between school and home will help families feel safe and connected, and more likely to share information. By having more knowledge of students and their life outside of the classroom, teachers will be able to better support their growth and meet their needs. Inviting families into the classroom and sharing Morning Meetings with them sends a message that they are important and their input into the classroom is valuable and welcomed. When we strengthen our relationship with students’ families, we become more effective teachers, and families experience joy when they see their child being cared for
by the school community.
Welcome families to your Morning Meeting with this family-friendly plan. Download an English/Spanish invitation to share with families.