We all have routines. I definitely have one. Before I even get into the classroom, I have a routine of things I do to get my day running right (read: grab a Coke, skip breakfast, and pretend to get through my lingering to-do list)… but I walk into classrooms all the time where students are sitting doing nothing as class starts. They are waiting in a permanent limbo for their teacher to start class. Imagine if you got to your class earlier than usual- would you sit there waiting till ‘time’? Never. You would start your morning routine!
Do You Need a Morning Meeting?
Some classrooms have a morning meeting, some have circle time, and yet others have calendar time. No matter what you call it, the outcome is the same. You want to take a moment before the day or class begins to front-load what will be happening and hit on some basic skills including social skills.
Students with Autism, in fact most students, operate better with a set routine. Knowing the predictable rhythm of the day makes transitions easier, task completion more likely, and gives a great opportunity to work on the social skills needed to succeed in class.
So, when it comes to morning routines in Autism classrooms, you might be asking yourself if you really need a morning meeting, the answer is YES!
I Don’t Have the Time to Meet
Yup, that is the number one objection I get. Some teachers only have a 45-55 minute class period to start with and the idea of ‘meeting’ seems like a waste of valuable minutes. If isn’t. Even if you are only working with a single short class period, you should still do the morning meeting essentials listed below, just in a shorter time span.
Morning Meeting Essentials
There are a few things you need to include when you have your morning meeting.
It should look something like this:
- Greeting– Say hello to each student and have them respond in tow. Be sure to ask a question that a student will have to process and respond to (like a would you rather or simple are these the same or different).
- Warm-Up– Have an activity that students can do independently until it is time to start the next step. The warm up should be something your students can do independently (like a folder game, grooming checklist, classroom chores, or other solo task).
- Do a quick Share– Have students share something about their weekend, their evening, or their morning.
- Group Activity– Do something together and include some socialization. It’s best to link it to the lesson of the day or theme of the unit you’re working on. Not all of your students may finish this at the same time, and that is okay. Surprise, your students are all operating with a different set of skills so no wonder. The important part is they are engaged, working with an end in mind, and operating with a sense of purpose and independence. You may try a math activity, journal entry, or vocabulary word work here. If you’re in a class with more functional goals, like vocational training or health, you may do a functional shopping scavenger hunt, class chore, or task boxes. Either way, the activity with be predictable, part of the schedule, and rooted in independence.
- Review the Schedule and cover the news or upcoming events
- Close the Meeting by stating where students will transition next and what will be learned today- the perfect segue into your station rotations, work system, or centers.
Be sure that you also have the following embedded in the activities you choose and the way you work through your morning routine:
- Have a Schedule
- Offer Choices
- Offer Student Voice
- Use Visuals
- Include Functional Skills
Starting YOUR Morning Routine
You have all the essentials for YOUR morning routine. Now, the objection lingering in your head is “How do I get this started?”
To start, you have to commit. You have to decide it WILL be a part of your classroom routine… even it you don’t have all the parts figured out. Start getting into the rhythm and then flush out the details as you go along. Lots of times you will figure out what you need in the moment when you need it (and possibly not even think of it when you’re trying to preplan). Grab whatever classroom activity you already feel comfortable with and stick it in step 2 or 4 above… then flush out the rest as you go. You can do this!