Morning Meetings & Structured Play

As Plato once said, ‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ In the first moments of a school day, the structured dance of morning meetings reveals these layers of discovery. Play is often underestimated as mere child’s play, but it forms the foundation of a child’s developmental years. Serving as a universal language for children, it allows them to explore, express, and understand complex concepts, all while enhancing their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills. Whether spontaneous or structured, play is not only a source of joy but also an essential tool for learning and growth.

Play involves activities undertaken purely for enjoyment, without a specific purpose. Yet, paradoxically, its impact on cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development is profound. While children play, they are not just having fun; they are shaping their brains, forming relationships, comprehending intricate emotions, and establishing the groundwork for lifelong learning (Zosh et al., 2017). Each play moment offers valuable lessons in creativity, problem-solving, resilience, and more.

Unlike free play, structured play is organized, and goal driven. It can be thought of as play with a purpose. For example, a child participating in a game with rules, a craft project with a clear end-goal, or a guided musical activity is engaged in structured play (Zosh et al., 2017). Click here to download 16 group activities to use during morning meeting.

Morning meetings provide an ideal setting for structured play, offering children a safe and controlled environment to learn and grow. Through these activities, children can explore their world, express their emotions, and understand complex interactions, all within the framework of structured play. While spontaneous play has its benefits, incorporating structured play into morning meetings can facilitate intentional learning and skill development, emphasizing its essential role in nurturing a child’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and social abilities.

Students cultivate the following essential skills through morning meeting group activities:

  1. Risk-Taking: Encouraging the courage to experiment, even in the face of potential mistakes.
  2. Choice-Making: Empowering young minds with decision-making and preference selection.
  3. Problem-Solving: Cultivating critical thinking abilities to overcome challenges.
  4. Self-Control: Teaching behavior and impulse regulation.
  5. Active Participation: Fostering full engagement in discussions and activities.
  6. Assertion: Building the confidence to express thoughts and feelings confidently.
  7. Cooperation: Nurturing collaborative skills in working towards common goals.

Kriete and Davis (2014) express that in the responsive classroom, play and games are not mere sources of enjoyment; they are strategic tools that, when used effectively, shape kindergarteners into confident, collaborative, and critical thinkers. By integrating such activities into the curriculum, educators not only make learning enjoyable but also lay the foundation for a future generation of proactive, empathetic, and skilled individuals.

Literature on morning meetings highlights its multifaceted purposes, such as::

  • Enhancing a sense of community culture through songs, games, chants, and poems.
  • Encouraging lively and wholehearted participation.
  • Strengthening the collective identity of the classroom.
  • Promoting cooperation and inclusive behavior.

The regular engagement in these songs and games transforms them into cornerstones of the educational environment. All students in the class share memories of morning meetings and these collective activities foster a sense of belonging, acceptance, and comfort. Within such a setting, every student feels a natural connection, not only with the place but also with their peers.

Initiating the school day with the morning meeting serves as an effective “wake-up call,” capturing the collective attention of students. Recognizing that each student begins their day uniquely, these synchronized activities help them find a harmonious rhythm for the upcoming lessons. The ultimate goal of these activities is not just collective involvement; it is the integration of individual efforts in a non-competitive environment. As students become more comfortable with morning meeting, their confidence in participating in academic discussions also grows. The aim is not to foster rivalry but to ensure the entire class thrives in an environment that values cooperation above all else.

Kriete, R., & Davis, C. (2014). The Morning Meeting Book. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc.

Zosh, J. M., Hopkins, E. J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Solis, S. L., & Whitebread, D. (2017). Learning through play: A review of the evidence (White Paper). The LEGO Foundation.