I've been teaching for 20 years now and there has never been a year when class meetings did not play a central roll in my classroom environment. Yes, it takes time out of our week, but it is extremely valuable time that sets the tone for how we work and play together.
Each morning the kids bring their chairs to the circle. We usually start with compliments. Right now, most of the kids say, "I'd like to compliment x,y, and z for being my friend. As the year goes on, we try to focus on the actions those friends do that make us want to be their friend.
Class meeting time is also a time to discuss problems in a safe way. We roll play different scenarios and try to help our friends find ways to solve problems. A few years ago I had a kindergarten student who was having trouble with another boy at recess. The student went home and told his mom about the problem. The mom told him that she would give me a call and talk to me to see if I could fix things. The little boy responded, "No, mom, that's ok. We have class meetings and I can bring it up and talk about it with my class." That, right there, is the whole reason we do class meetings. Kids are learning how to take ownership, understand when they can solve a problem and when they need help, and learning to have the confidence to ask their peers for support. It's absolutely fabulous!
Class meetings are also great for introducing vocabulary words like respect, responsibility, persistence, patience, and gratitude. We learn these words through books, role play, conversation, and music. My hope is that by building a better foundation for education in the classroom, I am also improving our character education.
Have a great weekend!