We found that using peace circles in the classroom is a good way to practice the social emotional learning (SEL) skills, reduce drama, and proactively address bullying. Here is how to create a peace circle that will form a safe and trusting environment for your students.
Peace Circle Set Up
Form a circle: Try to eliminate any barriers so that you have a fully closed circle and students are facing each other. Make sure that there is nothing in the center of your circle that might be distracting. All students should be able to see each other and sitting on the same level. You want to build connections and by forming a circle, we create a safe open space.
Create a talking stick: to help facilitate conversations and avoid interruptions, use a “talking stick” or object. You can use a tennis ball, a closed jar filled with marbles, a painting stick, pen, or just a plain-old stick. Be creative and make sure that you are using the talking stick to manage the conversations. Explain to your students that the only person that is allowed to talk is the person holding the stick. You can create Talking Stick Ambassadors that help kindly remind students to wait until they get the stick to share their thoughts.
Explain how the peace circle will work: Explain the purpose of the peace circle. Create a clear set of rules for your peace circle and repeat the rules regularly or post them on the board, so students can revisit them. Talk about the importance of confidentiality and respect. Ask students to define their definition of respect and what confidentiality means to them.
Use open-ended questions: Create a bank of questions and topics that you want to cover with your students. Have a suggestion board or box for students to put suggested questions/topics into. Using the students’ ideas will create more engagement and they will feel valued. You will also cover the topics that are most important to them.
Facilitate the discussion: Practice managing the conversation and give the students a chance to talk. Put your facilitator hat on and avoid giving advice, feedback, or recommendations. Keep your thoughts to the very end as closing thoughts. Make sure you are sharing to help the students and not preaching. You want students to problem solve and build off each others’ ideas. Your job is to facilitate a safe space to do so. By keeping your talking to a minimum, you will empower the students and create a positive experience.
Inquire without using leading questions: Try to be more inquisitive and avoid any leading questions. Be present and open to learning more about your students. An example of an inquisitive question is: “Why are people mean?” An example of a leading question is: “Do you agree that being mean only leads to negative consequences?”
Be present and actively listen: Use your facilitation skills and paraphrase or repeat when you have an opportunity. This will give students validation. Be mindful of what the students are saying. Join in the circle and make sure you eliminate any distractors. We recommend doing deep breathing exercises with the students each time you form a peace circle. Have them close their eyes and lead them through 5 deep breaths, breathing in and out slowly. It will set the tone for a successful peace circle.
I found that using these simple steps can help you build the best peace circle. Remember it is about being consistent and creating a supportive environment that gives our students room to explore.
Be Brave*Be Strong*Be a Bulldog