Using Restorative Circles for Social/Emotional Growth
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 class?
- Do students feel engaged with their class assignments?
- What are the areas that bring students discomfort or a feeling of anxiety?
- What do students hope to achieve during the academic year before them?
Keeping in mind a Restorative Circle is meant to build relationships, it is important to protect students’ social and emotional well-being, while at the same time adhering to district policies regarding Covid safety. We can do this by decreasing anxiety and uncertainty during circle time. Some suggested practices are:
- In lieu of a “talking piece” that is passed around, circle facilitators could have students bring something they cherish to the 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.
- Split the class into two smaller groups. The cooperating teacher (CT) can lead one circle, while the teacher candidate (TC) leads the other circle. Some students feel more comfortable opening up and sharing in a smaller group setting.
- 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.