Dr. Felicia Durden shares methods behind having a powerful morning meeting in special education classrooms. From routine to celebrations, we talk about how to start the day well in special education classrooms.
Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.
5 Ways to Add Morning Meetings to Special Ed Classrooms
Shownotes: www.coolcatteacher.com/e170 Felicia Durden @drdrdn
Friday, October 13, 2017
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Dr. Felicia Durden @drdrdn, author of Morning Meetings for Special Ed Classrooms: 101 Fun Ideas, Creative Activities, and Adaptable Techniques.
Today we’re going to hit on five ideas.
So Felicia, give us our first idea for adding Morning Meetings to the Special Ed Classroom.
Step 1: Set up Your Room for Morning Meetings
Felicia: Hi! Well, one of the first ways that I want to begin by having the Morning Meetings in the Special Education Classroom is to set up your room. Setting up and determining what that space is going to look like is so pivotal to having a Morning Meeting.
In most classrooms, it’s a set area in the classroom – maybe on the carpet, or in an area that’s open where you can bring chairs. But the first thing to even start with the Morning Meeting is to determine where that specified place is going to be that your kids are going to meet with you.
That Morning Meeting area has to be a place where the teacher has prominence so the kids can see you. But you might also be sharing big books or having writing, so you need the space to be open enough where the kids can not only see you, but see the materials that you ‘re presenting as well.
So the first step is to really assess your classroom area and determine where you’re going to hold that Morning Meeting.
Step 2: Think About How You’ll Build Community and Set Expectations
Vicki: Awesome. What’s your second idea?
Felicia: The second thing is that when you do the Morning Meeting, one of the important things to think about is how you’re going to build community.
Morning Meeting is a really special time that you want to make sure that kids feel safe. They’re coming into the room, and you want to build that time when the kids can express themselves. So building community is your second step. Think about how you’re going to teach the rules for Morning Meeting. What are the expectations? That’s a part of community building, because it helps to make that area safe and secure – and really, I like to use the word “sacred.”
You want that Morning Meeting area to be sacred. So you need to think about, “What are my rules and expectations going to be, so that kids know exactly what the expectations are?”
Vicki: And it does make them feel safe to have routines and to know what to expect. It just does create a community of safety, and that kind of starts with structure, doesn’t it?
Felicia: It really does, especially for kids with special needs. Often, part of their IEP goals are social skills. Many have difficulties with connecting with others, and if they don’t feel safe and secure it’s really a challenge. Having that structure and routine, beginning the day that way, sets them off to a good start.
Step 3: Think about Social Development
Vicki: Excellent. OK, what’s your third?
Felicia: My third thing is that you want to think about social development. Think about ways to have the kids take turns. How are they going to alert you that they have a question? Are they going to raise their hand? What are you going to do in that Morning Meeting time to help them with their social development?
Again, this book was written for special education students, but it can be for any student. All kids need to learn how to be good listeners, how to take turns, how to ask questions.
So your third thing to think about in setting up that Morning Meeting time is what social development skills can you hone in on and really focus on during your Morning Meeting.
An example of teaching social development in morning meetings
Vicki: Could you give me one quick example, so we can all understand?
Felicia: Sure. One example would be that possibly the kids are going to have to listen to other kids share their ideas on the carpet. So one of those social skills that you’ll want to teach kids is how to listen when someone is speaking.
You can model that so perfectly during Morning Meetings. As you’re sitting there, you could have kids come up and model it. So have one child ask the question, and then you’re overdramatic and overemphasizing, but you show them what listening looks like and sounds like.
So what I like to do is in the Morning Meeting, it’s a time for kids… They’re feeling safe. It’s a welcoming time… Let’s model and show what proper behavior looks like and how we can develop social skills.
Vicki: And it’s so important when you see that listener recognize it, because sometimes we just focus on inappropriate behavior. We need to hold up the heroes who are doing the correct behavior.
Felicia: Yeah. Right.
Step 4: Think about Content Areas to Include in Morning Meetings
Vicki: OK, what’s the fourth?
Felicia: The fourth thing is to think about content areas that you want to emphasize when you’re in your Morning Meeting.
I think it’s one of the best ways to pre-teach reading skills, mathematical skills, that you’re going to be touching on.
I always used my Morning Meetings when I was a teacher as a way to do read-alouds with kids. Let’s say we’re focusing on character development. I would use my Morning Meeting to pre-teach something that we’re going to teach later on in the day.
Again, we’re writing this book for kids with special needs, and many of them need that pre-teaching so that they’re successful once you get to the lesson itself.
So, my fourth tip is to think about what academic skills you want to hone in on and pre-teach during a Morning Meeting.
Vicki: That’s great advice for all of us. We call it “frontloading” now in some of the techniques I’ve seen. That’s great!
Step 5: Think About Ways to Celebrate During Morning Meetings
What’s our fifth?
Felicia: Our fifth, I think, is my favorite. Think about ways to celebrate during your Morning Meeting.
We have kids who come in with so many cultural experiences, from so many different areas. And we really want to celebrate that difference, and what we have in common.
So think about, “What little gimmicks am I going to have during my Morning Meetings to celebrate?”
We know we’re going to celebrate birthdays.
But how about using the Morning Meetings to celebrate academic success? Let’s say someone is really doing well with a skill that you’ve taught. Using that Morning Meeting as a way as a community as a way to celebrate really helps make this Morning Meeting special.
And it really just ties into one of my first tips – building community. When you build that community, you celebrate together, you talk together about next steps.
So that’s an important part of the Morning Meetings.
Making celebrations appropriate to student preferences
Vicki: Now let’s say you have some kids on the autism spectrum in that Morning Meeting.
You know, some children really struggle with being the center of attention. Are there ways to celebrate without putting the spotlight on them?
Felicia: Absolutely. Sometimes you have to talk to those children and find out, “Can I celebrate you aloud?” Sometimes they don’t want you to, and maybe you can just talk about it in general.
I’ve also seen that maybe they want a buddy to share for them. But that’s a great point. You want to be respectful to the kids and how comfortable they are with that.
We have a lot of students at our campus who are on the autism spectrum. One of the things we work on with them is getting that socialization out there. What we find is that maybe at first they don’t want to celebrate, but as they begin to feel more comfortable and you have that respect and rapport that you’ve built in there with that social development that you’ve taught, they’re going to be more apt to want to be celebrated.
Vicki: That’s true. Every child is precious and different. You’re not recommending cookie cutter responses. You’re recommending customizing to the individual child as you have these Morning Meetings, aren’t you?
Felicia: Right. You have to differentiate.
That’s really one of the key things in the book. There’s not one way.
I have things in there also for gifted students. We have them as well, and sometimes they have difficulty with socialization and being celebrated.
So this is all about differentiation, There is not a cookie cutter, one-way-fits-all, but making it work for that classroom and each individual student in there.
Vicki: So, teachers… Here’s another remarkable idea.
Let’s take a look at Morning Meetings for Special Ed Classrooms – but really all classrooms.
This could be a technique or a strategy that you could use.
We’ll include a link in the Shownotes.
Thanks for being with us, Felicia!
Felicia: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
Bio as submitted
Dr. Felicia Durden is an accomplished Educator with over twenty years experience in Education. She holds her Doctorate of Education degree in Educational Leadership, Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature. Dr. Durden has taught grades K-12, served as an Assistant Director of Reading and Writing and currently serves as Principal in a large Urban School District in Arizona.
She has taught English Composition at the College level as an adjunct instructor for over 5 years. Dr. Durden has a passion for assisting student growth in reading and writing. Dr. Durden is the author of “Morning Meetings for Special Ed Classrooms: 101 Fun Ideas, Creative Activities, and Adaptable Techniques“, “The everything parent’s guide to Common Core ELA, grades K-5 : understand the new English standards to help your child learn and succeed” and the upcoming “Visible Learning Day by Day: Hands-On Teaching Tools Proven to Increase Student Achievement” which will be released in February 2018.
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