Restorative Practices in school, sometimes referred to as Restorative Justice, is a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior through authentic dialogue. Restorative Practices shift the conversation between teachers and students to be less punishment-oriented and to offer an opportunity for all people affected by an action to have dialogue about how to make things right and restore the classroom community.
Here are 5 ideas to help you bring Restorative Practices into your classroom:
- Restorative Circles
- Affective Statements
- Collaborative Class Agreements
- Problem-Solving Anchor Chart
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing. Mindfulness allows students to become more self-aware with classmates and teachers. It also increases focus, and reduces stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practice involves sitting quietly for a few minutes and focusing on your breath. It can be guided with words, assisted with calming music, or completely silent. There are many resources to encourage mindfulness for children including Mindfulness for Children by Annaka Harris and Go Noodle. There are also several apps including Smiling Mind, Headspace, Calm, and Three Good Things to help with Mindfulness in the classroom.
Restorative Circles are an excellent way to bring Restorative Practices into the classroom and establish a supportive community. Circles help to build self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills. During circle time, participants sit in the circle to discuss group issues or reflect on their feelings. There is a centerpiece and a talking piece, used to identify who is allowed to talk at a particular time. Restorative Circles can be used to check in about your day, resolve conflict, or for academic conversations. Circles have many parts and require planning to make them effective and impactful. Check out what the Center for Restorative Process has to say about conducting effective Restorative Circles.
Affective statements, or feelings statements, are personal expressions of feelings as a response to someone else’s actions. With affective statements you state your feeling, the reason for the feeling and what you need to feel better. Affective statements can be used between teachers and students or peer-to-peer. It is important for teachers to model using the statements with their students, so students see positive examples of expressing feelings and making requests.
Scenarios of affective statements in action
Scenario 1: Jason called David “stupid”, teacher response
Teacher says: “Jason I felt sad that you called David stupid because he is an excellent student and he works very hard. I need you to apologize for what you said and think of some other ways you can manage your frustration if you are mad at your friend.”
The teacher stated her feelings, without placing blame, and told the student what she needs to feel better.
Scenario 2: Jason called David “stupid”, student response
David says: “When you called me stupid I was angry because I thought we were friends. I need an apology and a high five.”
David stated his feelings and told Jason what he needed to feel better.
Consider placing a “Feelings Script” in your classroom to model for students how to use affective statements if they have to solve a conflict on their own. Affective statements help build social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Role play with students how to give feedback to classmates respectfully and how to receive feedback if they are the person who has done something to hurt someone’s feelings.
Example Feelings Script
I feel/am _________________(emotion) when/that you______________(behavior)
because__________________ (reason). I need________________ (request).
Collaborative Class Agreements
Instead of making your classroom rules before the students get to your classroom in the fall, consider making your rules together as a class. When students are given the opportunity to contribute to the rules that will govern their class they develop a sense of ownership for their classroom. Teachers and students can collaborate to make rules that will create a great classroom environment.
Problem-Solving Anchor Chart
Brainstorm scenarios with students that require teacher help and scenarios that students can try to problem-solve independently. In my own classroom I have used the phrase, “Big Deal and No Big Deal”. Together my students and I discuss things that could happen in the school day that are a “Big Deal”, and you must tell a teacher immediately, i.e. fighting, someone is hurt, theft. Then we discussed things that can happen in the school day that could be considered “No Big Deal” i.e. that’s my spot, you stepped on my foot, you have something I want.
After categorizing the events, we discuss possible solutions to the problem. If it was a “Big Deal” the solution was always tell the teacher or an adult. If it was “No Big Deal” the solutions might be use the feelings script, find another spot/item, wait, or ignore. The solutions are based on your class and what your community feels is an appropriate solution to the problem. This anchor chart stays up all year and can be amended as needed. The goal is to empower students to solve their own problems in constructive ways. This type of exercise helps to build self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Here at Kickboard we have seen school culture transform because of effective implementations of Restorative Practices. We also have the tools and resources to support your school team as they begin to implement Restorative Practices as a way to promote positive school culture. Click here to learn more about how Kickboard can support Restorative Practices in your school.