Prats' Coaching Corner

Carroll Peak Elementary - Vol 3

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Week Topics

  • Building Circles, Part 2
  • Strong Vocabulary, Stronger Literacy
  • University Interscholastic League (UIL)
  • Shout-Outs
  • Bibliography
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Building Circles, Part 2

In the past newsletter, we introduced what are CIRCLES within the realm of Restorative Practices. We saw what is a CIRCLE, why we CIRCLE, and what a CIRCLE is NOT. In this issue, I want to introduce how to conduct a CONNECTION CIRCLE in your classroom, as part of the underlying framework of RESTORATIVE PRACTICES.

It has been defined that "the essence of a restorative philosophy is that relationships are affected by rule-breaking, wrongdoing, or conflict and can be healed by a respectful process that offers students the opportunity to take responsibility for how their choices have affected the person(s) most directly harmed, the school community, and themselves", (Rasmussen, E., 2016).

So, what are CONNECTION CIRCLES? Rasmussen (2016) defines them as a "relationship building process used to promote understanding, share experiences, build relationships, and establish a circle practice".

HOW to start:

  • Sit in a circle (in the floor or chairs facing inward) with your students, without desks or tables. "This physical arrangement primes students to expect a high level of interaction, including listening", (Smith, D.,Fisher, D., Frey, N., 2015, p.93).
  • Introduce what is a connection circle by stating its purpose
  • Establish the ground rules that are going to be strictly followed in the circle
  • Introduce and explain the importance of the talking piece
  • Start the circle with a question
  • Practice daily, if possible

Rules in a circle:

  • Listen and speak with respect to your peers
  • Respect each other's privacy
  • Time should be shared fairly
  • The speaker is the one holding the talking piece
  • The facilitator may speak to move the conversation
  • You may pass your turn, but you will have to talk at some point

What is the talking piece?

  • Is an object of significance that is passed around, as an invitation to speak, while the others in the circle listen and support the speaker.
  • It can be related to the questions
  • Is tangible and physical
  • Signifies equality and respect, as everybody will have the opportunity to share equally

As we are in the process of becoming a Restorative Practices School, I invite all of you to start trying this practice. I am more than willing to help you out in this discovery process, so feel free to reach out to me.

Remember that "the underlying premise of restorative practices rests with the belief that people will make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them rather than to them or for them", (Rasmussen, E. 2016).

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Strong Vocabulary, Stronger Literacy

Let us start by considering the following facts:
  • Vocabulary is a strong indicator of student success (Baker, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 1997)
  • The number of words students learn varies greatly
2 vs 8 words per day 750 vs 3,000 per year
  • Printed school English, as represented by materials in grades 3 to 9, contains 88,533 distinct word families (Nagy & Anderson, 1984)
  • 88,533 word families result in total volumes of nearly 500,000 graphically distinct word types, including proper names. Roughly half of 500,000 words occur once or less in a billion words of text (Nagy & Anderson, 1984)
  • In grades 3 through 12, an average student is likely to learn approximately 3,000 new vocabulary words each year, if he or she reads between 500,000 and a million running words of text a school year (Nagy & Anderson, 1984).
  • Between grades 1 and 3, it is expected that economically disadvantaged students' vocabularies increase by about 3,000 words per year, while middle-class students' vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year.
  • Children's vocabulary size approximately doubles between grades 3 and 7.

What does this mean to our students?

As teachers, we just don't teach our students skills, but we are building emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities by creating intellectual environments that will produce caring, secure, and actively literate human beings. We can accomplish this with the use of the most powerful teaching tool: LANGUAGE!

Robert Marzano identifies 2,845 terms that he considers "absolutely necessary for all students to master if they are to be successful navigating their way through a society that relies on the English language as the primary medium of communication." (Marzano, R. 2010). Moreover, he states that ELL and students of poverty "do not necessarily enter school with a thorough grounding in basic terms."

What strategies we should follow to help them achieve a stronger literacy?

  • Direct instruction
  • Building background knowledge
  • Modeling the correct use of words
  • "Recoding": students putting the information in their own words
  • Drawing a picture or graphic representation of the new words
  • Provide several engagements with the term and have students write them in a notebook
  • Engage students in conversations using the new words
  • Play games with the words
  • Provide a print-rich environment where students have easy access to words learned
  • Use a systematic approach to teaching academic vocabulary
  • Comparing and contrasting similarities and differences between words
  • Use of vocabulary notebooks or journals
  • Small group guided reading
  • Independent reading

The time to start building strong literacy in our students is NOW!!!

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University Interscholastic League

On September 21, 2018, I sent out an email about our intentions to have our school represented at the University Interscholastic League competition next year. In order to achieve that and give our students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills at a competitive level, we need volunteer teachers or any person interested, to select an event and help prepare our students to give their best.

We need coaches to start assembling their teams and start practicing. This is on a strict voluntary basis. If you are interested, please let me know. During the day of the competition, coaches can be called to serve as Room Monitors, Script Readers, Graders, Timekeepers, Storytellers, Verifiers, Pronouncers, and/or Judges.

I include the events below. If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.


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  • Johnston, P.H., (2004). Choice Words. Portland, Maine. Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Marzano, R. (2010).Teaching Basic and Advanced Vocabulary. Boston, MA. Heinle.
  • Rasmussen, E. (2016). Connection Circles: How to establish a restorative practice circle. Retrieved from
  • Restorative Discipline Coordinators Training IRJRD (2017).
  • Smith, D., Fisher, D., Frey, N. (2015).Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
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