Are you dreaming of a peaceful classroom this Christmas? The week before holiday break can sometimes be a difficult time for classroom management. With the semester coming to an end and the holidays approaching, it's not a surprise to find students bursting with energy and pent-up feelings.
At Restorative Process, we find that the best classroom processes are those that are real and relevant to the kids. So whether your students are bouncing off the walls with anticipation (or hyped up on candy canes), feeling sad about being away from friends, or perhaps even stressed about home and family challenges, this is a classroom circle for exactly the season.
Many of our 4th and 6th graders said that this was their favorite circle we've done all semester and we noticed that even some of our more self-conscious students were engaged and sharing in this high-energy circle.
Try it out and let us know how it goes!
What you'll need:
Step 1) Prepare the Circle
Prior to beginning, set up the chairs in a circle formation and obtain an item you will use as a talking piece.
Step 2) Introduce (or Refresh on) Circle Guidelines
If your class is new to circles, you'll want to begin with a more complete introduction to the four circle guidelines and basic agreements (quick walk-through available Here or download the training manual for the full circle curriculum Here). If your class is experienced, a brief reminder about the talking piece and "listening from the heart" will usually suffice.
Step 3) Ice-Breaker Game, "The Wind Blows"
Step 4) "Rose and Thorn" Discussion About Holiday Break
Now that the class is warmed up, we'll begin a round with the talking piece. For this two-part prompt, students will each share both a "rose" and a "thorn." Ask the students to close their eyes and think about the following questions:
When everyone has shared, do a second round only for the students who "passed," asking if anything has come to them now that they'd like to contribute (if they still wish to pass that is okay, but many students will participate when given a second chance).
OPTIONAL: To further the sense of community in the discussion (and also create a neat visual), today we talked about the image of a rose garden full of many different types of roses. We all brought unique "roses" to the circles and some were even similar. Ask the students what common themes they noticed in some of our "roses."
Student (raised hand): Lots of us are excited about time with family.
Facilitator: Good point. So maybe we have some roses for the theme of "family" here, let's say red ones. What other themes?
Student (raised hand): 4 of us shared that we have birthdays over the break.
Facilitator: Great observation. So let's pretend we have 4 yellow roses in our garden for the theme of "birthdays."
Do the same thing for "thorns" letting the students point out some common themes they noticed among everyone's challenges (i.e., "a lot of us miss our friends," or "we get in fights with our siblings," or "some of us don't like buying presents," or "we get sad if we don't get what our friends got."). You may wish to also make a comment that some students shared things uniquely their own, which is a wonderful contribution, too.
Step 5) Full Circle Check-In
With the talking piece, ask each student to share how they think that went using 3-5 words.
OPTIONAL: If students share challenges (i.e., people were talking while I talked), you can ask the circle "how many people noticed that or felt that way?"
If this is a more experienced circle and you have extra time, you can explore a bit: "what ideas do you guys have for ways we might make that better next time?" or "what agreements might we want to put in place?" (i.e., "the only person who can talk is the one with the talking piece.") Depending on time, you may or may not wish to actually vote on a new agreement. (See Handbook Chapter on Agreement-Setting) The comments alone are a great way to get students thinking about how their behavior affects others and practice expressing those concerns honestly.
When everyone has had a chance to share, be sure to reiterate the positives you and the class noticed.
Step 8) Close with Pass-the-Clap
For a fun, quick closing activity, ask the students to hover their hands slightly to the side with their left palm facing up and their right hand facing down. Put your left hand underneath the person to your left's and your right hand directly over the person to your right's. You will start by clapping your right hand down on the person to your right's. On that cue, the person to your right will do the same, "passing the clap" one at a time counter-clockwise. Each time someone's left hand gets clapped, they simply clap hands once with the person to the right.
When the clap makes it all the way around the circle, the entire circle will do one big final clap together at once. Thank the class for their participation.
Step 9) Passing Leadership Back to the Teacher
If you are a facilitator, this is an important time to formally pass the leadership back to the teacher so they can direct the class to their next activity. If you are the teacher, you can simply transition the class using whatever classroom management routines you normally use.
+Optional) Integrating Assignment
Over break, ask the students to draw a picture of a rose that represents their experience over the holiday -- with both its positives and negatives. They may wish to write a few sentences explaining the positives and negatives. If you'd like, you can even hang the roses on the wall as a "community garden."
If you'd like to learn more about bringing restorative practices into your classroom or school, our introductory training is coming up! We'd love to see you in January in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.
Hope you and your students enjoyed this circle and wishing you a wonderful break.
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.