Monday, October 16, 2017

Mind Shift Monday: Restorative Practices- Circle Keeping

Happy Monday! This blog focuses on the elements of a circle that keep it peaceful and organized. These components are extremely important in setting up a risk-free environment where discussions based out of trust can take place. 

The center of the circle is used to focus the group and remind them to be present in the conversation. I like using a circular rug in the middle of my circles to help my students stay in a circle instead of a "squircle" (square circle :)). I actually found these two towels on for about $9 each. 

Some other teachers at my school went on and found their own circle rugs. 
One of our third grade teachers found this fun one...
And one of our Kinder teachers uses something like this and calls it Purple Circle Time. So catchy and fun! 

You can decorate the center of the circle in any way you want. These are some images I found online...

I like to take a more student-centered approach by having students choose the items...

Check out this video of a student explaining her selections to the group...

The guidelines are basic rules to keep peace and order in the circle. This is the copy that most people use and you can find it by Google searching "circle guidelines".
I love the idea behind these guidelines but wanted to simplify this for our Kinder-2nd students, so I created this poster... 
I really like the guidelines as a starting point for creating agreements on respect and appropriate behaviors, because it really covers so much with just a few words.  

If you saw this video...
Then you can see why students think the Talking Piece is so important. It really keeps order within the circle. You can use anything as a talking piece. Last year, Kimmie and I let each of her students choose a ribbon to represent them and then tied it on a stick they found outside...
I know, the stick kind of looks like a hot mess, but they really loved it! 

I have also used all of these items as the talking piece...

Circles can start in many different ways (short stories, quotes, proverbs, anecdotes, etc.), but I like to start off by posing a question. Because my time is limited, I usually skip the fun/silly questions and jump right into something that connects with my lesson that week. The questions are usually pretty broad, but they allow for creativity and thought in the student's responses. I know it is often difficult to think of questions that are interesting and yet fun to answer, so I created a resource to help my staff come up with some good questions for starting circles. There are 9 categories and it includes 180 questions. Each category has a list of the questions but also has a set of matching question cards that can be put on a flip ring and used all year long.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What's Up Wednesday: Kelso & "I" Messages

Kelso's Choices and Building I-Messages

For the past two weeks, I have been teaching Kelso's Choices. If you don't know about Kelso, he is a friendly green frog that helps students solve small problems by using a variety of strategies.
In K-2 the focus is on learning the 9 strategies and knowing when and how to use them. For grades 3-5, we dig a little deeper. They have been hearing about Kelso for years and it is time to really practice using some of the most important strategies. 

For my 3rd grade classes, we focused in on the strategy of "Tell Them to Stop" and "Talk it Out". I teach them how to construct I-Messages (no, not Apple's text messages). An "I" message is a communication tool that focuses on the beliefs or feelings of the speaker, rather than the thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener.

Our circle starter question was simply, "What is a problem?". I was impressed with their responses. They said things like...
"Something that needs a solution."
"When something is going wrong, but you're really not sure what to do."
"A mixed-up feeling that usually doesn't involve happiness."

Then I introduced the idea of how to construct an I-Message with a four part statement. 
1. Say their name to make sure you have their attentions.
2. Tell them how you feel and make sure you use a feeling word that really helps them understand how you are feeling. Usually sad and mad don't explain our feelings really well. We brainstormed some replacement feelings...
3. Explain what happened to make you feel this way. (Tell them the problem)
4. Tell them what you need from now on.

Next we used fairy tales and nursery rhymes to practice I-Messages because characters like The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and Little Miss Muffett need some serious help.
They had a lot of fun making up I-Messages from the viewpoints of the characters. Although, some of them were not familiar with the nursery rhyme characters. One of them asked who Little Miss Muffet was and they had never heard of the dish running away with the spoon. 

I have tweaked this lesson over the past 2 years and finally feel like I have cut it down to make sure there is enough time for them to truly understand the concept and to practice. I used to show a Kelso Rap in 3rd grade, but have moved it to 2nd this year. However, Kimmie and I have big plans to create our own Kelso video in the future. I just purchased this...

The I Message Construction Worker
Fairy Tales
Sentence Frames (I use a paper that says, "I feel ______, when you ______. Can you please_______?

That's What's Up this Wednesday! Make it a great one! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mind Shift Monday: Restorative Practices Overview

We have some new & exciting things going on at our school! I'd like to introduce you to...

Restorative Practices

Check out this video to get a little overview of Restorative Practices and to hear our students tell you why they love classroom circles so much! 

 If you are feeling up for it, read on to see my thoughts and how we got started with this awesome practice. There are a lot of components to Restorative Practices, so for right now, I will answer some frequently asked questions...

How did this get started at Beverly?

I started my journey into Restorative Practices a year ago when I attended an 8 week after school PLC (Professional Learning Community) led by another Plano ISD Counselor. I had been looking for a way to integrate more social-emotional learning into our classrooms and this was the perfect fit. I raved about it so much, my principal signed us up for a two-day workshop led by someone from the Restorative Practices Institute. When I came back to school, I asked Kimmie if she would let me experiment using classroom circles & Restorative Practices in her class. She is a rock star, so of course, she said yes!! I cannot even begin to explain how amazed we both were with the results. I couldn't wait to roll it out to the entire staff in the fall. 

After much thinking, planning, and stressing,  I condensed my 30 plus hours of training & experimenting into a 3-hour presentation for the staff. My point in telling you about the training is that the results were overwhelmingly POSITIVE! SO many staff members immediately jumped right on board and are experimenting with ways to make community circles and Restorative Practices work in their classrooms.  

What are Restorative Practices?

They are a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior
through authentic dialogue, coming to understanding, and making things right. Visit their website for more information

What are Classroom Circles? 

Circles are the foundation of Restorative Practices. They encourage all members of the group to maintain responsibility for the welfare of the group.
There are several goals established to build classroom community, but these are my top three:
1. The classroom community will identify specific issues to address and will have honest, authentic
discussions about these issues.
2. Procedures will be established for engaging in restorative dialogues around issues and conflicts.
3. It will be emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe for students to share concerns about
conflicts, issues, and behaviors that are affecting them.

Why do we sit in a circle?

When we sit in a circle we experience a stronger sense of community. Every person in the circle shares responsibility for its functioning. Decisions are made by consensus of the whole group,
and sometimes this means decisions come slowly or take unexpected forms. Sitting in a circle is a fundamentally different experience than sitting in rows, or meeting across a
desk. When we are in rows there is generally someone standing in front, commanding attention.
Clearly, this is the person who is in charge, who has the answers, and to whom the group is

Ok, I'll be back in two weeks with information about Talking Pieces, Circle Guidelines, Circle Starters, and Circle Agreements. Until then...