Date of Award


Degree Name

Leadership Studies


College of Education and Professional Development

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Nicholson, Committee Chairperson

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald Childress

Third Advisor

Dr. Yvonne Skoretz


Rituals have proven effective in the elementary classroom. One ritualistic practice, the morning meeting, is rooted in social and emotional learning (SEL), an approach that integrates traditional academic pursuits with an understanding of emotional regulation, self-actualization and interpersonal relationships. Ethical literacy, a facility with ethical concepts empowering individuals to act as autonomous ethical beings, may be cultivated through SEL. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate the morning meeting for evidence of foundational experiences leading to ethical literacy in student participants, along with an analysis of the effectiveness of these experiences. Data were collected through nonparticipant observation of a sample of primary grade classrooms from a single district, alongside semi-structured interviews with each participating teacher. Ritualistic practices within the morning meeting promote ethical literacy by allowing students to feel seen and see others. A unique classroom sociology is created by navigating relationships and practicing ethical acts as the teacher decodes students and helps regulate emotions. Leadership opportunities encourage growth, autonomy, and responsibility. Right and wrong are placed in context as unethical acts are recognized and confronted. Stories serve as pathways toward the emergence of ethical literacy, connecting narrative and illustration to experience. Kindness and empathy are often the first connections made in an emergent ethical literacy. Tools are supplied to dismantle the egocentric barrier including an age-appropriate vocabulary, semi-scripted SEL lessons, and student social interactions, including role play. The emergence of ethical literacy is evident within the practice of the morning meeting, but varies in the depth and richness of the student experience. The egocentric barrier must be dismantled to allow the realization of ethical literacy in primary aged students. Seeing and connecting with others, storytelling, and the power of ritual all serve this purpose. Students experience ethical absorption through constant exposure to ethical concepts and interactions, eventually developing a reflexive reaction to ethical dilemmas. A common, shared language would prove invaluable to the teaching of ethics to young children. Teachers are placed on a parental continuum, responsible for each student’s ethical development, regardless of home support or opposition.


Social learning.

Education -- Social aspects.

Emotions -- Study and teaching.

Teaching -- Ethics.

Education, Elementary.

Ethics -- Leadership.

Ritual -- Education.