My students and I start our day by sitting in a circle with the specific purpose designed to connect, learn from other, and develop a sense of community. Sometimes, we meet in ‘circle’ for close to an hour and I think it’s where the most powerful learning happens. The inspiration for my morning routines is firmly fixed in the mindset of restorative practices. For many years now I have been an admirer of restorative practices in schools. In fact, I’ve tried to implement restorative practices in every school and classroom I have worked in because I believe they honour the building, maintaining, and rebuilding of relationships, and in schools relationships are the currency in which we all prosper. Each morning, I try to include a different activity. This year I’ve been working on refining the activities detailed below, and I wanted to share them with you. Please feel free to let me know what you think, or if you’d like more information on a particular activity.
Image courtesy of Apple iTunes Store
Developing strong oral language skills is an important part of improving students’ social-emotional skills. The Daily Wonder app, is an affirmation app that provides a precept (quote) for each day of the year celebrating goodness and strength. It’s based on the book 365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I have a split class so one week I ask my grade 5’s to tell me what the quote means to them. By using the language ‘means to them’ it takes away any pressure that there is one correct answer. The next time we display a quote in the circle the grade 6 students have an opportunity to share. At the end of each sharing session, I open it up to anyone that is keen to share. Some of the thinking and connections students have made to the quote has been deep-thinking indeed.
Eyes On Math
Image courtesy of Amazon Canada
We often get caught in the cycle of computation in math, but there should be so much more to our math curriculum; math is visual, math is about noticing and identifying patterns, and finding reasons and rules to patterns. One way I have tried to open up my math curriculum is to start the day looking at @marian_small’s book, Eyes on Math. This is a great way to stimulate mathematical teaching conversations around key K–8 concepts. Each picture comes with recommended guided questions. This activity is also graet for building mathematical thinking and vocabulary.
Image courtesy of The Learning Network by The New York Times
We use the New York Times’ What’s Going On resources, which involves a series of intriguing weekly Times images stripped of their captions. We invite students to look at the picture for one minute without discussing with a partner, then give them another minute to discuss the following questions with an elbow partner. What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you think this way? What more can you find? The last step involves sharing with the rest of the group. This resource fosters an environment for critical and creative thinking, and provides an opportunity to develop students’ curiosity about news, current events, and cultures around the world. Each Monday, a new image is released without the explanation and every Thursday the details of what actually happening in the picture are shared.
Holding small casual debates in class helps to develop powerful listening and speaking skills. They also develop empathy, understanding, and introduce students to a variety of worldviews. Perhaps the most powerful part of class debates has been the way in which students have developed the ability to maintain different ideas/opinions without feeling judged or personally attacked.
Circle time, especially at the beginning of the school year, needs to be fun and lighthearted. Students who don’t feel safe taking risks or being vulnerable with their learning tend to go through the motions in the circle. It’s like they are viewing the events of the circle through a window but don’t have the social-emotional skills to step through and activity participate. One way to combat this is to make students feel safe. I do this in a variety of ways including dance, sharing of jokes, practicing rhythms, stimulating students’ imaginations, and playing games.
These links may be useful:
Circle games we play – http://bit.ly/circle-games
Dance playlist – http://bit.ly/dance-videos
Circle questions – http://bit.ly/circle-questions
Rhythm games – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sibO2k0JVxI