What is a Restorative Circle?

Restorative Circles are a type of restorative practice that allows teachers to address conflicts or problems that occur between students that promotes healing instead of blame and resorting to discipline. Circles help to acknowledge, explore, and share ideas, offer encouragement, or address problems.

They provide regular opportunities to develop empathy, practice respect for others, encourage mindful listening, and share appreciations and feelings of acceptance or loneliness. The classroom circles’ goal is to improve child wellbeing and create a culture of kindness the classroom.

What are the benefits of using Restorative Circles?

Circles can be an important tool for nurturing relationships and feelings of community and can have a profound impact on bullying. Schools with a focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) often use circles to help build a positive and inclusive school culture which is especially important if there are incidences of bullying.

Circles work because they help all children to feel accepted and encouraged, while creating bonds between peers. They are especially important for nurturing feelings of belonging, acceptance, and stability in troubled children. Circles can be used to both discuss Social and Emotional Topics, as well as help problem solve when there are social or behavioral problems in the class or between students.

How to Start the “Practice” of Restorative Circles

The word, practice, is exactly what you need to do in order to use the circle method when problems occur down the road with your students. This means, easing your students into the regular, if not daily, practice of getting into a circle and having the students answer a question.

Questions can range from basic, such as, “Share the highlight of your weekend in 3 words or less,” and “Who’s your favorite Disney Character?” to more complex, such as “What school rule do you wish you didn’t have to follow?” By having students practice sharing their thoughts and opinions in a safe format, they become more comfortable with the process, which will make it easier for them to express their thoughts and feelings in the event of a conflict.

How to Start a Circle

•Make a large circle that goes around the entire classroom or large carpet area. Students can sit or stand.

•Use a talking piece, such as stuffed animal, small plush, special classroom item, etc. Pass the piece around to each student after the question is read.

•Remind students that holding the talking piece indicates that it is your turn to share. You may need to continually remind your students that there is no talking, unless they are holding the talking piece! This may take some practice!!!

Ask students to:

Speak honestly

Listen to others with respect (quietly, look at speaker).

Show respect for other people’s ideas and different opinions.

Try to share, but if you need to pass, try to think of something for when the stick returns to you at the end.

Here’s a ton of Questions to get you started with your Restorative Circles practice in your classroom.

If you’re thinking of starting to implement the restorative circles practice in your classroom, please check out my Restorative Circles Cards for either Tk-2nd or 3rd-5th grades for a variety of SEL topics, including social skills, anger management, and growth mindset!

Here’s 10 rapport building questions to get your class going:

1.What it your favorite vegetable?

2.Would you rather eat a worm or eat a squid?

3.Is it more fun for you to color a picture, draw a picture, or paint a picture?

4.Would you rather have no hair on your head, or no eyebrows on you face?

5.Do you prefer candy, cake, ice cream, or cookies?

6. What is the grossest pizza toping that you can think of?

7. Would you rather ride on a giraffe, cow, or a cheetah?

8. What is your favorite type of fidget?

9.What activity can make you feel happy if you are feeling sad?

10. What food always puts you in a good mood?