How to help students connect with each other and unpack emotions using restorative practices PLUS a printable weekly planner of restorative circle scripts.
Restorative Circles are a practice of restorative discipline (or restorative justice). Restorative discipline focuses on repairing harm caused by bad behavior rather than punishing the person who exhibited said behavior. Bringing restorative practices into your classroom or group environment can help foster deep relationships by providing a controlled environment with high levels of support to work through tough stuff together.
Restorative circles themselves can be used in order to address and repair harm from specific behaviors, but also have a wider purpose than being purely reactive. Using them in a proactive way to create a safe environment where participants feel their voices are valued and others are willing to help them is also very important. An established practice of using restorative circles can help foster an environment where students feel comfortable sharing, supporting each other, and addressing challenges together.
While there are different types of restorative circles, and no end to the subjects you can use them to discuss, two main things should remain true in any restorative circle:
Participants only speak one at a time. Tip: use a “talking piece” to indicate whose turn it is to talk, while everyone else listens.
Don’t pass judgment. The goal of a circle is to achieve better understanding, rather than judge or punish.
Kikori has teamed up with Claudine Miles and Kimberlie Milton at Restore More™ to bring you more information about how to practice restorative circles with your classroom or group! Restore More was created in 2018 to help organizations build capacity with Restorative Practices, Anti-Racism, and Social-emotional health. They create curriculum and workshops for teachers, leaders, and parents. Their vision is to teach people how to unpack their emotions, giving voice to the tough stuff, to be their healthiest selves.
“If you want kids to unpack their emotions, you have to make a safe space, and be willing to share your emotions. Empathy and emotional intelligence are critical for getting students to open up. Listen deeply and offer support when appropriate.”
Here are other important things to keep in mind when planning a restorative circle:
Create a safe space. Spend time establishing the shared values and guidelines that participants will need to respect for the circle to be a safe place for sharing. Also, making a physically welcoming space, by setting up a cloth centerpiece or bringing in objects of significance to your or your students, can help set the scene for an open discussion.
Prepare your materials. Having a “talking piece” to mark whose turn it is to talk makes sure that discussions don’t get overwhelming or confusing. Use scripts like those offered by Restore More (such as “Beginning of the Year Vibes” or “Chance the Rapper and His Social Impact” and others in the planner below) to provide structure for the discussion and help you stay present in the circle as a listener.
Listen actively and practice empathy. A facilitator’s role in a restorative circle is not to control the discussion but to guide, encourage, and offer support where needed. Only interrupt if a participant is disrupting someone else, and when redirecting be sure to do so gently by reiterating the circle guidelines/norms.
Get personal and explore systemic forces. Restorative circles provide a space for exploring personal experiences and feelings, but can also be a useful format to dive into larger systemic forces that are connected to the challenges students face, such as racism, sexism, etc. Restorative circles provide a space to introduce information about oppressive societal structures, and also have students respond and relate their own experiences to those systems, leading to action, hope, and healing.
Looking for ways to navigate conversations about social-emotional health, anti-racism, and more in your classroom?
Check out these five Restorative Circle Scripts from Restore More that create a structured space for students to address topics that are culturally relevant, anti-racist, and promote community through transformative dialogue, now on the Kikori App! Plus get extra tips and tricks on how to successfully facilitate restorative circles.
Each of the activities in the Restorative Circles Planner printable below are available within the Kikori App along with 450+ more experiential activities aligned with CASEL Social Emotional Learning standards!
Wondering how to find the activities in the app? If you're a premium member, you can find them all together in a super duper easy-to-use playlist here! Otherwise, you can find the activities under Restore More's profile OR click on each activity on the downloadable PDF to be brought directly to it in the WebApp.
“Defining Restorative: 5.2 Circles.” International Institute for Restorative Practices. https://www.iirp.edu/defining-restorative/5-2-circles. Accessed August 19, 2021.
Isenberg, Angela. “What is Restorative Discipline?” Feb 24, 2019, Region 13. https://blog.esc13.net/what-is-restorative-discipline/
Restore More. Restore More. https://www.werestoremore.com/. Accessed August 19, 2021.
Van Woerkom, Marieke. “Building Community with Restorative Circles.” March 12, 2018, Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/building-community-restorative-circles.