Accessibility & Equity: Part 2
Practices for the Virtual Teaching & Learning Environment
Well-Being of Emergent Bilinguals and Students of Color
An Advocate in Uncharted Waters: Providing a Safety Net
Restorative Circles (sometimes referred to as Connection Circles or Dialogue Circles) proactively build the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face, especially in these uncertain times.
When built into the classroom culture, Restorative Circles have the potential to build whole class relationships and improve group cohesiveness, giving students the opportunity to discuss themes that are familiar and relevant. Restorative circle themes are as varied as the students that create them. Some examples include:
Are students having trouble showing up to the online format?
Do students feel engaged with their class assignments?
What are the areas that bring students discomfort or a feeling of anxiety?
What do they hope to achieve during the academic year before them?
While typically conducted in face-to-face classrooms, Restorative Circles can be adapted for the virtual teaching & learning environment. Keeping in mind a Restorative Circle is meant to build relationships, it is important to protect students’ social and emotional well-being. We can do this by decreasing anxiety and uncertainty during circle time. Some suggested practices are:
In lieu of a “talking piece,” circle facilitators could have students bring something they cherish to the virtual class meeting. Facilitators should instruct students to set the item down until it is their turn to share. When a student is sharing, they hold their cherished item so the other students know they are to remain quiet.
Don’t force students to share. Instead, have student volunteers share their responses to the question.
Allow students to type their responses into the chat box.
Split the class into two smaller groups. The cooperating teacher (CT) can lead one circle in a breakout room, while the teacher candidate (TC) leads the other circle in a separate breakout room.
If it is your goal to have all students share, consider using the previous practices first to build confidence. Eventually, you can give the class a sequenced list of student names so they know when their turn is approaching.
If you have emergent bilinguals in your class, you can accommodate students with a buddy system, support translanguaging, and focus on meaning-based communication.
As students share-out, Restorative Circles provide you, as the circle facilitator, the opportunity to collect valuable information about your students’ well-being and hone in on their personal interests and “funds of knowledge” to enrich curriculum instruction.
The following web resources feature strategies that are easy to implement, build trust among members in the class, and gradually move students toward self-confidence:
Community Circle How to Run a VIRTUAL Circle | Teacher Training Webinar | Part 3 of 7: Webinar (video) on transitioning a Restorative or Community Circle to the Virtual Teaching & Learning Environment
Building Community with Restorative Circles: Online article with seven (7) steps for facilitating meaningful circles
Connection Circles: How to Establish a Restorative Circles Practice: Online article highlighting the management aspects of Restorative Circles
Using Dialogue Circles to Support Classroom Management: Video showcasing Glenview Elementary School’s use of Restorative Circles in a traditional classroom setting
What is Translanguaging?: Video seminar given by Ofelia Garcia, a leading researcher in Translanguaging.