21 Jan 2015

Restorative Practice- Monday’s class in review

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“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” MLK

Another week passes and yet I wonder how it is that I can feel pressed for time in a 3 and 1/2 hour block (I am pretty sure this is not echoed by the students who find this an incredibly long day!).  Clearly- I need to work on my timing.

Today’s class was the first of our now established structure.  Each week, a different group is responsible for the opening & closing circle and our class energizer.  This week, the group set a very high bar with their impressive selection, implementation and facilitation.

Like always, I want to begin with my learning intentions and success criteria:

Learning Intention: Students will explore the principles of Restorative Practice…So that we can build an understanding of the framework.

Success Criteria: Literature circles.  You will know you understand when you can highlight the key elements and apply to various situations.


Opening Circle:  Student-led – SNOWBALL activity.

Description:  Each participant has 2 pieces of paper.  They are asked a question- in this case, to write one word that describes you. Once finished, they crumple the ball into a tiny snowball and toss it into the bucket (at a target).  Each student will then choose one of the ‘snowballs’ to share with the class.  These were anonymous. The second question aimed to get a little more personal and we were asked to share something others may not know about us.  Again, from the group of snowballs we would share what was written and could acknowledge our own paper by raising our hands if we wanted to.  Powerful.

Milling to Music: Strategy

Description:  While music plays, students meander (dance?) around a space until the music stops.  They find a partner/triad and discuss a question (posted by the teacher).  Once the time is up, they thank their partners and continue to circulate as the music plays.  Once all questions have been discussed, the teacher can ask for key points from the discussion.  This is a great way to get students thinking about the upcoming content of the lesson or review key points from the last lesson.  I like to start my questions with something less personal and build on their responses.  Today I used the following questions:

1. What do you need when you have been harmed?

2. What do you need when you have done the harm?

3. What do the parents of a child who has been harmed need?

4. What do the parents of the child who has done the harm need?

Literature Circles: Each member of our community has been assigned to a group and a task within their group for the lit. circles.  Although our groups are 5 or 6, I am interested to see how this goes since I usually prefer groups of 4/5, but had more students than expected and no more extra days!  The roles in the groups are facilitator (responsible for the process and the questions), resources (extra resources), note-taker, presenter (key points), reflection (about the process) and submission (to me).

Readings were based on Chapter 1 & 2 of “The Restorative Practice Handbook”  (

little book of restorative practice

The level of engagement was great.  It is hard to refrain from eavesdropping- but I know my presence would change the dynamic.  What was shared was also indicative of the level of conversation.  It is a great way to have students discuss the required readings- I am hoping this way everyone can contribute their thoughts/opinions.

Energizer:  Student-led. I like my neighbour

Students sit in a circle.  There is one less chair than participant.  The person without a chair has to stand in the centre of the circle and state, “I like my neighbour who…” and complete the sentence.  The emphasis was on getting to know each other a bit better so it was about something they like to do (hobby, sport, etc).  If you agree with the statement, you must leave your seat to find another (across the room is preferable).  It is a great way for students to get comfortable, get back some energy, challenge personal space, and mix up a circle (who is sitting beside whom) to do a different activity.

Guest Presenter:  Ellie Wilkinson (consultant)

My friend, colleague and mentor, Ellie Wilkinson graciously came into the class to share her journey with Restorative Practice.  She shared her journey- her involvement with Peaceful Schools International, developing a peaceful schools initiative, and how she came to restorative practices.  This is a philosophy or a framework for working with students/peers/family, etc that she comes to naturally, however, stressed that it is not only about the discipline aspect- but about authentic dialogue and proactive relationship building.  Ellie reviewed some of the key elements of the readings such as the social discipline window,  the restorative practice continuum and the compass of shame.

socialdiscipline continuumcompass of shame

Ellie stressed the importance of relationships with students, how we need to move from the minds to the hearts of youth and shared her successes and challenges.  Ellie’s work has truly made a difference in the school we worked in and it goes to show how one person really can make a difference in the lives of children/youth.  She certainly made a difference in my life and I credit her with so much learning and inspiration.

For more detail on restorative practice- see my page on restorative practice (tabs above).

Closing Circle: student-led reflection in partners

Using paper plates with happy words on them, we each found a partner that had the same word- and shared our reflections based on 6 questions provided by the group.  I found this a really great chance to dissect/pull out key elements of the lesson and presentation.  I enjoyed sharing with my partner a lot.  Of course, we ran short on time and the reflection time was cut down- but the group handled it with grace and expertise.  Being unflappable and flexible are key attributes for any teacher.  Well done!



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