Holding a Class Meeting and Setting Weekly Behavioral Goals
Melinda works with students in grades 2-5 who have emotional and behavioral disabilities. In this video you will observe Melinda leading a class meeting with her students. She uses class meetings to help build a positive classroom community and also to assist students in setting weekly behavioral goals. Through class meetings students chose one behavioral goal that they would like to work on for the week.
Questions to consider as you watch the video:
1. How can class meetings affect the overall climate of the classroom in a positive manner?
2. What is the benefit of students choosing their own weekly behavioral goals?
3. How can you create a safe environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with peers?
Melinda’s Commentary on Class Meetings
We have a social skills time set aside each day. The students work as a group to discuss real world topics, play social skills games and they have time to express their feelings. It’s basically a time for the students to work together and get to know each other while learning and practicing social skills. We usually have class meetings 2-3 times a week. Ideally, I like to have us participate in this activity Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but that doesn’t always happen due to scheduling, behaviors, etc.
During the regular education (MCEA) program at UWM, I took an Urban Schooling class. Our professor had us learn and practice circle time throughout the year, first to get to know one another and feel comfortable in the classroom, but then for us to discuss “hot topics” in education and to practice enough that we felt comfortable teaching it to our students. I adapted the circle time process for our class meetings.
We all sit in a circle at the carpet. There are rules that we all have to follow. First, only the person with the talking piece is allowed to speak. Everyone else must show respect to the speaker by making eye contact and listening.
There are a series of questions we go through and share our answers before the daily question or topic is given. The first question is “how do you feel today?” Next we share what we ate last night for dinner. If it’s a Monday, we will share what we did over the weekend. The third question has each of us share what our daily behavior goal is. For a lot of the students, this goal stays the same until they are able to achieve it multiple times. They set their own goal for the day and hold themselves accountable. At the end of the day, they write a quick 3-5 sentence about whether they achieved their goal and why or why not/ what they could have done differently.
After those three questions, I pose a question, problem, or topic that is relevant to the students. This could be related to an incident that happened in the classroom (maybe a physical fight), school (vandalism), or something the students may have heard on the news (shooting, robbery, etc.). I like to pick up topics from the news, and by listening to my students’ conversations. In this video, I ask the students to tell about a time that they felt bullied. They take a moment to think about it, and then we take turns sharing. This is a time that students can share more than once.
Students are allowed to pass on their turn if they do not feel comfortable answering a question or discussing a certain topic. The only question that they cannot pass on is “What is your behavior goal for today?”
Based on the mood in the classroom during circle time, sometimes questions are taken out or replaced. Sometimes we spend the 20 minutes completing circle time, and other days we extend this time to almost 45 minutes if there’s great discussion and teachable moments.
Impact of Class Meetings on Students
Overall, the students enjoyed the class meetings. They learned a lot about good listening, how to participate in a discussion, and various other social skills. The practice helped build a positive classroom climate. There was an enormous difference from our first time doing class meetings to the last day. The students showed more comfort, and participated a lot more.
Class meetings take a lot of patience and effort. There are days when everyone participates, shares, and gets along; and there are days when no one wants to share at all or there may be a lot of conflict between a couple of students. Every classroom could benefit from using this promising practice. Not only do the students gain a lot from it, but the teacher can as well. I learned a lot about my students. It also helped me gain respect from them and we were able to form positive relationships.