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Morning Classroom Conversations

Morning Classroom Conversations
Build Your Students' Social-Emotional, Character, and Communication Skills Every Day

Foreword by Joshua Freedman

September 2021 | 208 pages | Corwin

Get students thinking and learning by getting them talking!

Transitioning from home to school can be chaotic—but it doesn’t have to be. When you make Morning Classroom Conversations (MCCs) a regular part of your homeroom or advisory period, you give students a safe space to practice critical and creative thinking, build active listening skills, learn to respectfully disagree with others, and strengthen peer relationships… all while improving overall classroom climate. 

Written by expert practitioners in the area of SEL, this book provides teachers, school counselors, and other conversation leaders with a wealth of tools to guide successful MCCs from start to finish—in just 10-15 minutes! Features include:

  • Three calendar years’ worth of thought-provoking prompts and themes
  • An overview of the underlying structure and goals of MCCs
  • Sample scripts
  • Vignettes and student and teacher voices

Adolescents need to feel heard and understood—by adults and by their peers. MCCs teach them to channel scattered thoughts and strong feelings into dynamic discussions while also strengthening social, emotional, and character development and building the skills they will need to achieve their goals as they transition to adult life.

About the Authors
Chapter 1: The Art of Conversation: Building and Reinforcing SEL Skills and Civil Discourse
Chapter 2: Morning Classroom Conversations Instructional Framework
Chapter 3: Preparation and Introduction of Morning Classroom Conversations
Chapter 4: Setting the Foundation for Morning Classroom Conversations Through Practice
Chapter 5: Guiding a Successful Group Discussion From Start to Finish
Chapter 6: Alternative Implementation Options
Chapter 7: Individualizing Your Morning Classroom Conversations
Chapter 8: Three-Year Developmental Progression
Chapter 9: Implementation Considerations for Lead Teachers and/or Administrators

"Morning Classroom Conversations are ready to blast off! Teachers can launch an exciting and structured means to introduce critical connections into classrooms, which are focused on teaching social and emotional skills and abilities while building rich communication skills at the same time."

Laura Schaffer Metcalfe, Ed.D.
Education Faculty, Grand Canyon University, AZ

"Morning Classroom Conversations provides a framework for how to begin having conversations that help students develop a stronger sense of self and develop awareness of those around them. This book provides students, as well as other members of our communities, with ways to develop skills for having a discussion with another person who may hold a differing view in a rational, productive manner."

Elizabeth Crane
Adjunct Professor University of Cumberlands Lexington, KY

"Morning Classroom Conversations provide educators an authentic way to develop meaningful communication in the classroom. Their Better Me, Better School, Better World developmental framework addresses all of the essential Social Emotional components required in today’s classroom environment."

Patricia Dowd
Director of Special Services, Irvington Public Schools, NJ

"Morning Classroom Conversations will truly enhance the art of teaching. From its concise layout to forward thinking content, expectations and examples are clear. With the environment educators will foster, students will surely feel safe, accepted, confident and ready to learn. Teaching through this specific lens will help create problem solvers equipped with empowerment tools for years to come."

Michele SantaMaria
Supervisor of Special Education, Crossroads Middle School and District SEL Team Leader, South Brunswick School District

"There’s no doubt the pandemic, racial injustice and political divisiveness have resulted in tumultuous times for everyone! Teachers and students will return to school to re-connect with colleagues and classmates with many unresolved issues and challenges. We know that student voice is essential to understanding their needs, perspectives and interests. Morning Conversations is a well-designed, thoughtful resource for teachers and other school staff interested in supporting ongoing conversations with their learners.   The authors have worked with hundreds of teachers and school staff to design and implement conversations in diverse school settings.   They know the limitations of “cookie cutter” approaches to supporting teachers and students. This book includes many examples of Morning Conversations that practitioners can use or adapt to align with the realities of their school/classroom context."

Dr. Larry Leverett
Managing Director, Leverett Education Consulting

"In our current reality and within the strange world of ‘pandemic teaching,' educators realize the need to provide even more supports for students in the areas of social and emotional learning. This book makes the critical connection between SEL and the ‘lost art’ of conversations. Teachers can use this book to teach and model for students how to engage in meaningful, relevant, and enriching conversations. Students grow in their understanding of themselves and their place in the larger community and world."

Marianne L. Lescher
School Principal, Kyrene Traditional Academy, AZ

"The authors of Morning Classroom Conversations demonstrate the value of using daily conversation to not only build meaningful relationships but also to immerse a school community into explicit SEL instruction one classroom at a time. This text has the power to change an individual teacher’s practice and transform the lives of every learner. Explicit SEL instruction allows students to develop the necessary skills that will allow them to have agency and intentionality over their lives. SEL skills are not just for the classroom; these are vital life skills."

Johanna Josaphat
Educator/Teacher Leader, The Urban Assembly Unison School, Brooklyn, NY

"This is a timely book. With many school systems now implementing SEL programs in order to help students, Morning Classroom Conversations discusses both the theory and practice of the strategies presented. Particularly helpful is that each section and process is broken down, with possible obstacle and roadblock scenarios addressed. Samples of the protocol are provided and the entire framework can be printed for easy access."

Jessica Baldwin
High School Teacher, Claxton High School, GA

Maurice J. Elias

Maurice J. Elias, PhD, is Professor, Psychology Department, Rutgers University, Director, Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (, Co-Director of the Rutgers-based Academy for SEL in Schools, which offers online certificates in SEL Instruction and School Leadership (, and a member of the Leadership Team for SEL4NJ and SEL4US ( He received the Joseph E. Zins Memorial Senior Scholar Award for Social-Emotional Learning from CASEL , the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education, and the Jane Bostrum Service to School Psychology Award. Dr. Elias is a past... More About Author

Nina A. Murphy

Nina A. Murphy, PsyD, is a practicing school psychologist in Three Village Central School District, adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s College, and Senior Consulting and Field Expert at the Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) Lab at Rutgers University. Dr. Murphy has had a commitment to supporting positive youth development since she can remember but learned, during her graduate work at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology and in the SECD Lab that this passion was targeted in helping youth develop positive character and purpose. She worked as a consultant in an urban school, opening her eyes to the... More About Author

Kellie A. McClain

Kellie A. McClain, PsyD, is a practicing school psychologist for the River Edge School District and a Senior Consulting and Field Expert at the Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) Lab at Rutgers University. She earned her doctoral and master’s degrees in School Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a Bachelor’s degree with a dual major in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Rutgers University. It was through these years of study that Dr. McClain developed a passion for helping at-risk youth through preventive measures. This passion is what led her to become a curriculum writer and consultant for the MOSAIC... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781071839362

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