One of my best parts of my job is visiting classrooms to see the amazing work our teachers and students are doing. In the month of December, I was able observe in seventeen different classrooms and what struck me was how I could see our Rochester Public Schools (RPS) graduate profile, our vision for what skills we want our students to possess when they leave us, exemplified in our schools.
My visits to classrooms in Rochester Public Schools affirmed my beliefs that we are moving in the right direction and that our students are engaging in opportunities that will allow them to be success-ready individuals. The Graduate Profile is not just a piece of paper that defines where we want our students to be, it is lived out in our classrooms every day.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, POSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum, Instructional Coaching, & Staff Development
When we share stories with one another we become bound together in powerful ways. Stories provide hope: they have the potential to shine a light into the darkness and challenge us to change our thinking. Stories matter. Stories are powerful. Each month, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction partners with the RPS equity specialists and American Indian Liaison to share the stories of those in our own backyard who are often silenced.
This month, our focus is on restorative circles. Each member of our equity team shares their experiences and insight.
From Dawn Bjoraker…
Everything we do is in a circle. We are born, we turn into youth, we turn into elders, and then we pass. Spring, summer, winter, and fall. Usually, around mid to late February we begin to wonder if the snow will ever stop and if spring will ever arrive. Without fail, it always does.
We have four parts of our being: spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical. Mind, heart, body, and spirit, it is all connected. We are all connected. Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all related / all my relatives). One cannot function properly without the other. Much like a circle where there is no beginning and no end, it is a process. Instead of top-down, it goes around and around. We are responsible for and to each other.
In south Minneapolis, I coordinated an after-school group. All of the exercises and activities were conducted in the shape of a circle. There was no teacher and no student. We mutually taught and supported each other. We were able to see faces instead of the back of someone's head. Our sessions always began with an icebreaker. One of our most engaging activities involved The Medicine Wheel, also referred to as the Four Directions.
The Medicine Wheel (or Four Directions):
For more details about The Medicine Wheel, click here.
Dr. Martin Brokenleg is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who holds a graduate degree in psychology and is also a graduate of Anglican Divinity School. He is known for the Circle of Courage model which is a model of positive youth development. The Circle of Courage utilizes Indigenous ways of life and child rearing based on four universal growth needs of all children: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. All of these areas are dependent upon each other.
"In this materialistic, fast-paced culture, many children have broken circles, and the fault line usually starts with damaged relationships. Having no bonds to significant adults, they chase counterfeit belongings through gangs, cults, and promiscuous relationships. Some are so alienated that they have abandoned the pursuit of human attachment. Guarded, lonely, and distrustful, they live in despair or strike out in rage. Families, schools, and youth organizations are being challenged to form new "tribes" for all of our children so there will be no "psychological orphans." -- Dr. Martin Brokenleg
From Willie Tipton…
Group Norms or Guidelines are based on the values identified by circle participants. Guidelines are not rigid constraints, but supportive reminders of the behavioral expectations the participants in the circle share. Typical norms or guidelines are as follows:
An environment of trust and safety allows group members to share more deeply with others. In our circles, the teacher cannot guarantee students will protect each other’s privacy, but can explain and discuss the issue with students and work toward establishing norms that specify the importance of privacy, while defining the expectations we have about confidentiality (keeping in mind that educators are mandatory reporters).
From Martine Haglund…
I have brought restorative practices using circles at my feeder schools following two themes. The first one is relationship-building where students and teachers practice forming positive connections with each other. This theme creates the space where participants come as they are so to receive from one another kindness and support around authentic dialogue regarding conflicts or classroom issues. The second theme uses specific questions to engage participants in discussing and processing a challenging situation so they arrive at making things right. In either theme, as a facilitator, I remain consistent in the sequence of events and outline the steps. I open and close with the bell. I do a check-in rounds to establish connections. Then, I dive into the restorative content. Each circle step is intentional, yet is presented as effortless to participants.
There are various types of circles that teachers can use in their classrooms to connect relationships with high-quality learning consistently. Brief description are listed below:
From Toby Taylor…
I have used Restorative Circles for the last eight years. They have become part of any group work I’ve done since my training here in Rochester. I have found that through Restorative Circles students and staff have found a sense of community through commonalities and vulnerability. I have heard stories of depression and others of hope, which has often propelled me to action or simply allowed me to appreciate my own life a lot more. Students have talked about topics of handling school, mental illness, mass shootings and the state of our country. I have learned a lot by listening as others have given their viewpoints about these touchy subjects.
Last year, I had the opportunity to do some Restorative Circles at ALC that had a great turnout and response. These Restorative Circles were centered on three simple questions, those I call the “Big Three”:
No matter the type, teachers should maintain classroom circles as an activity to acknowledge the unique voices of students, focusing in on the quality of the process and not immediate results.
If you have a question about the resources available for students or staff or if you wish to discuss any of these ideas further, please consider reaching out to our team.
For more information in the ideas touched above, consider the following:
This post brought to you by Dawn Bjoraker, American Indian Liaison for the Rochester Public Schools;
and Martine Haglund, Willie Tipton & Toby Taylor, Equity Specialists for the Rochester Public Schools.
Feel free to connect with them here.
Sam* an eighth grade student in Tammy’s* class, looks forward to her class each day. He knows that he will have time to talk with other students to process what he’s learning which helps him clarify his thinking. Tammy has a rule that she needs to get the students talking within the first five minutes of her class period. This takes different forms: sometimes Tammy writes one or two words from the previous class period on the board and students pair up and talk about what they remember; other days, students generate questions that they have related to their reading and discuss their impressions.
When asked why this works for him Sam says, “When I have to talk about what I was thinking it helps me to understand it better. I also like hearing what other people think about things that I might not have thought about.”
We’ve all heard the adage, “More student talk, less teacher talk,” but why is this so critical in learning? Vygotsky (1962) suggested that thinking develops into words in a number of phases moving from images to inner speech to inner speaking to speech. Following this theory, talk is really the representation of thinking. We want our classrooms to be filled with talking because this means they are filled with thinking.
So, how can we build purposeful talk into the classroom and ensure that it really is deepening thinking and not just a recap of Friday’s football game?
| 1 |
- Every student is engaged – even the shy ones. It is easier to read and discuss what someone else has written.
- It provides the opportunity to think, write, and discuss open-ended questions. The instructional dialogue that ensues leads to higher levels of analysis and inquiry.
- It validates and affirms sociocentric, cooperative, and relational cultural behaviors.
- Finally, it is very versatile. You can have each group grapple with the same question or prompt for 10 minutes and move on with another aspect of the lesson. Several teachers have assigned each group a different question or prompt, and then had groups get up and move to a new campfire. This adds the element of movement as well as diverse perspectives.
Stop and Scribble
- Every student is engaged in answering the questions.
- Students can choose to answer the questions they feel confident about.
- The anonymity of the answers on a student’s sheet makes it easier to discuss and pose questions about whether or not it is correct.
- This activity addresses multiple cultural behaviors: (1) sense of immediacy, (2) spontaneity, (3) dynamic attention span, (4) musicality, (5) sociocentric, and (6) communalism.
As always, if you want to try one of these, or any new activity, just ask an Instructional Coach or an Implementation Associate to come and help. Together you can make it work for your students’ benefit.
Connect with Ellen via email or by calling 507.328.5376
Hollie, Sharroky. Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning. Shell Education. 2015.
The following process was used:
- Each student was assigned a color and a number (i.e. "Blue 1").
- Students joined groups by color, and each group was assigned a skill.
- Each student's number was used to assign their rotation (i.e. "Blue 1" was assigned as a "CNA" for "Skill A").
- As the "CNA" performed the task on the "Patient" the third student acted as the "Tester". The "Tester" then used a checklist/rubric to track the steps needed for "Skill A".
- The "Tester" and "Patient" then gave formative feedback to the "CNA" and the students jotted down notes on their performance.
- They rotated. The student who played the "CNA" moves into the "Tester" role for the next round while the other two stray (or move on) to the "Skill B" and perform a new role.
- In the end, each student had the opportunity to perform each role and was given an opportunity to be formatively assessed as a "CNA".
If you are wondering why she did not apply an actual grade to the assessment, you may wish to read the previous blog post "Grading for Learning". By using peer assessment, the teacher reduced her own workload while still providing quality feedback for the students. There are many ways to give feedback to students while helping them review at the end of the semester; for more ideas see the blog post "Quality Feedback Structures that Save Teachers Time and Keep Students Learning".
The power in this classroom is that everyone in class is expected to do everything. All students write, all students share, and all students give feedback to each other. No one is able to opt out and all are engaged.
In many classrooms, this same scenario often happens but with one change. After students write or respond, one or two students are chosen to share. Typically, these end up being the same students each day, while the same students remain silent. This silence turns into apathy. Eventually, disengagement.
In 2014, Alexis Wiggins, a fifteen year teaching veteran and daughter of Grant Wiggins wrote a blog post about what she experienced after shadowing two students before beginning as an instructional coach. This is a summary of her first two key takeaways:
Key Takeaway #1:
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.
Key Takeaway #2:
High school students are sitting passively and listening
during approximately 90 percent of their classes.
- Ask all students to answer any question you pose. You may want to first give them a bit of time to write and then ask them to share their answer with a partner or in a group.
- Use Hold Up Cards. Make a set of cards that say ‘agree’, ‘disagree’, ‘agree with reservations’, and ‘disagree with reservations’. Create statements that students have to respond to; then, after they’ve chosen their response, have them discuss and defend their answers.
- Use Triads. One of my favorite strategies comes from Rick Wormeli’s book Summarization in Any Subject. Begin by asking a question in the typical fashion. The person who answers becomes the first person in the triad. After they’ve responded stay silent as a teacher and ask another student to refute or support what the first person said. The third person in the trio is now called upon to discuss the merits of the second person’s argument. Finally, the first person gets the last word and can add anything they want to their original answer. (Want more details—find them here by clicking on “Instructional Dialogue”.)
- Use Numbered Heads. Place students in table groups and have them number off 1-6. Ask students to discuss any questions you would have normally asked but after they’ve had time to discuss roll a virtual die and ask the student with that number to share from their group. This keeps all students engaged in the discussion but they have the support of their group members before they answer. (Want more details—find them here by clicking on “Instructional Dialogue”.)
- Don’t Let Students Opt Out. If you’ve asked a question and a student doesn’t know the answer be sure to come back to them and have them summarize what they’ve learned or heard from other classmates.
If you’d like to explore more on this topic, some great books to read include Total Participation Techniques by Himmele and Summarization in Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. Also, if you’d like help implementing any of these ideas, please reach out to your Instructional Coach, an Implementation Associate, or me.
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Instructional Learning Formats
Planning For A Sub
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective