Restorative Circles

A guide to describe what Restorative Circles are and how they work

What Happens in the Circle?

Circles help build connection and relationships through discussions, games, activities and reflective responses.  A circle can begin with a think-pair share, then grow to four, then expand to a large group discussion.  The circle is designed to actively engage all members and ensure every voice is heard.  Most circles are carefully planned beforehand, and consist of the following components:

  • The facilitator begins by providing an overview of what will take place during the class/session.   This can be written on the board before participants arrive.
  • The opening activity signals the start or the beginning of the circle.  Examples of an opening activity could be deep breathing, a meditation, listening to a song or a poem, an affirmation, or clapping.
  • The facilitator then uses a warm-up activity designed to engage each participant.   This is a question that does not have a right or wrong answer, but easily elicits a response.   Examples of warm-up activities include the following: 
    • “Today, the strength I bring to the circle is…..”
    • “My highest point of today has been….”
    • “What I liked best about last night’s assignment was….”
    • “Today, I got here by …. (state mode of transportation)
    • “Today, I most look forward to….”
    • “My favorite part of last night’s assignment was . . .”
    • “The color that best reflects my mood today is…..”
  • A game or ice breaker can be used in the event that participants do not know each other.  It is designed to help participants feel more comfortable with the group.  An example of an ice breaker could be to have participants state their first name and an adjective that describes them that also begins with the same letter of their first name.  Ex:  Angelic Andrea
  • After the warm-up and/or ice breaker, the facilitator introduces an activity that addresses the primary issue.  This part of the circle requires the longest time and is well thought-out and prepared ahead of time.  I have prepared examples of circles that address ten prominent classroom issues in a separate section of this libguide. 
  • After the main issue has been addressed, participants provide feedback on how to move forward or their feelings about the day’s activities.  This part of the circle can be used to quickly assess what was learned or gained and to name what outstanding concerns or issues exist.
  • Finally, a closing reiterates the oneness of the group.  This could be a chant or a high-five.

Elements of the circle can be modified to accommodate time.  For example, to ensure that enough time is given to address the primary issue, facilitators can omit an opening activity and closing activity.  When participants already know each other, ice breakers can be omitted.  Three essential components of the circle are 1) the warm-up activity 2) the primary issue and 3) feedback.

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