Restorative Circles Lesson 5: Fishbowl Circle Discussions
Purpose and Objectives
This circle will directly engage students in using restorative questions and working in circles to discuss and begin to resolve conflicts and problems. Note: it is helpful to repeat this kind of circle for two or three (or more) circles, so that all students have an opportunity to participate and several issues can be discussed. Some classes return to it again and again as a core tool for maintaining a positive class.
Preparation and Materials
Guidelines and agreements.
Ask students for suggestions for a check-in question. Choose one (or combine a couple). Use the talking piece.
Having our circles really helped the class gain trust in one another, and now we can share and work through problems...I have learned a lot about other people.
Read from the posted list of issues (identified by the class in the previous circle), asking about each issue, “How many students are bothered by this?” Invite the class to notice along with you which issues have the most response.
Choose one of the issues and ask students to think of a specific event or circumstance that illustrates how they have been affected by this issue. Ask them to raise their hands when they have thought of something.
Ask for three volunteers who are willing to tell their stories of when and how t they were affected by the selected issue, without using names or identifying the people who were involved.
Move into Fishbowl
When you have three volunteers, move your chair into the circle and have the volunteers also move their chairs in, so together you form a small circle of four people inside the larger circle of students (see diagram below). You will not need to use a talking piece in these fishbowl circles.
(to volunteers) “Each one of you will get to answer the restorative questions that you see on the posters, to tell about the incident or situation you have in mind. You will have the opportunity to ask the class for ideas if you wish.”
(to class) “This type of circle is called ‘fishbowl.’ The students who are not in the circle have an important role. Not only will you help hold a positive space for problem-solving, because of the distance you have from the circle you will likely see things differently, and may have ideas that are not obvious to the people in the circle. It’s important for each of you to listen carefully. If you have something you would like to contribute, you can raise your hand. The student who is the focus will decide if he or she wants to call on you.”
Ask who wants to go first. Ask this student the restorative questions, in the same order they appear on the poster. Important: be obvious about looking at the poster and reading the questions exactly as they appear. It is very important to model simply asking the questions (and perhaps a few prompts) so students don’t get the idea that the person asking the questions is trying to act as a counselor, mediator, or problem solver.
Watch for opportunities to involve the other students in the center fishbowl. Include students in the outer circle, particularly if the volunteer seems stuck. Let them ask for ideas and call on people who have their hands raised.
When their sharing seems complete, ask volunteer 1, “Do you feel complete for now?” If their answer is no, ask, “What do you need to feel complete?” This creates an opportunity to resolve anything that still needs attention.
Volunteer 1 Leads
Determine who will be the next student to answer the questions (volunteer 2). Turning to volunteer 1, say “You will ask the questions now.” Your focus will be on coaching the student who is asking the questions, while volunteer 1 will focus on the student who is responding (volunteer 2).
You will coach and encourage volunteer 1 as necessary to ask volunteer 2 the restorative questions, in the same order they appear on the poster. Important: encourage volunteer 1 to read the questions from the poster, exactly as they appear. If necessary, you can add prompts. Continue to watch for opportunities to involve the other students in the fishbowl, and the students in the outer circle, particularly if the student who is sharing seems stuck. Let volunteer 2 ask for ideas and call on people who have their hands raised.
After volunteer 2 has responded to all the questions ask, “Do you feel complete for now?” If their answer is no ask, “What do you need to feel complete?”
Volunteer 2 Leads
Say to volunteer 2, “You will ask the questions now.”
Coach volunteer 2 as necessary to ask volunteer 3 the restorative questions, in the same order they appear on the poster. Continue to watch for opportunities to involve the other students in the fishbowl, and the students in the outer circle, particularly if the student who is sharing seems stuck.
After volunteer 3 has responded to all the questions ask, “Do you feel complete for now?” If their answer is no ask, “What do you need to feel complete?”
Ask the three volunteers the “secret” sixth question: “What was it like for you to participate in this circle?”
If time permits, ask for more volunteers and go another round with those who agree to come into the center. You have two options:
Ask for ideas about what procedures to adopt to request a restorative circle when there is an issue that is affecting the class (e.g. “Circle Suggestion Box”). If you don’t have time, remember to come back to this later.
Using the talking piece, ask students to share what today’s circle was like for them.