RJ / Advisory Community Circle Innovation

Hey fellow, ICs, I’m wondering if you can help me flesh out a project idea…

At SECA we have been having 13 minutes for advisory circles after lunch all last year and so far this year. I’m already exhausted for the year trying to figure out what we should be talking about there and I want to make this easier on people like me leading student circles daily.

So far:

  • I know there are RJ resources on the district website somewhere, not sure how easy it is for me to go there and be like, “I want 3 good community building circle qs for today” (tomorrow, the next day, the nex…)
  • Our counselor Melissa Winship emailed out scans of some pages from workbooks with RJ community questions. Used those (up?) last year, not sure it’s worth trying to re-dig them out of my email
  • I have an “if” book I picked up at HPB and students sometimes pick a question out of there
  • I know at least one teacher here has some resources like a Smartboard doc with 13 pages of “rather” type questions in it.

What I’d like:

  • LOTS of ideas, preferably in one place
  • Interactive? Some way to sort or mark by what we’ve already used or what went over well / poorly. Staff keeps adding more ideas!
  • Low key vs. in depth. A list of “favorites” to start off circles or ease in new students (book, breakfast food, type of music, shoe brand,…) on the low key end. We literally need hundreds of these to pull from. The list from Melissa had much more “in depth” that most students would say “pass” on like “what’s a time you trusted someone and they didn’t come through”. Maybe a level in between the two to help the group get comfortable enough to move more in depth?
  • Something that helps move through the year? Back to school vs. fall / halloween vs. … vs. spring vs. end of school year…
  • A way to give students more ownership of the process / resources?

So what do you think my new project is? A shared google sheet with tabs to sort things out? A dumping ground to start with? A concerted effort to amass stuff over the course of the year and org it later? A cool tech tool all circle leaders can pull up on their phones?

As far as ideas go:

We do morning ‘check-ins’ at our program every day. We have routinized it a little giving each day a specific theme.
Mondays are always about appreciating others/showing gratitude
Tuesdays are always self-appreciation (what is something you did well this week, what was a time when you showed x, etc)
Thursdays is always related to school–we have the students grade reports and ask students what their goal is for getting an assignment in or speaking with a teacher/advocating for something.

Before this we only did check-in questions off the top of our heads and while some of them were definitely fun, others really felt like a waste of time and the kids didn’t buy in as much. The Monday and Tuesday questions are really cool, and the students seem to be building a stronger sense of community from it.

I like your idea and would definitely use your list :slight_smile:

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I like the idea of a spreadsheet sorted by topic… seems easiest and for me, personally, I wouldn’t need anything more elaborate than that. In fact one already exists, but I’m sure could be updated. I haven’t gone back to it in quite a while because I also feel like I “used up” most of the good ones there.

As we’ve become increasingly more consistent and routine with our use of circles I am getting farther and farther away from the sort of surface-level, “what’s your favorite… would you rather, etc.” Those do serve a purpose but I just find myself and students not getting too much out of it. It does serve a purpose of reinforcing the circle process, so that when you NEED to have a circle (for example, due to an hour that went sideways the day before) you can start class with a circle and kids know the routine. We have been doing this in my classes, actually using the process to “restore” after a poor class period. It has been helping quite a bit.

With our Foundations class (Advisory) where we do circles to open and close the week, we have been taking the discussions a lot deeper than the typical “community builders” and we’ve had a lot more engagement, a lot less having to remind students to put phones away, etc. I think in another thread, Leslie, you mentioned the idea of using “Kohlberg dilemmas.” I used one of those and it produced a really good discussion, so I found some additional resources on ethical dilemmas for teens that get at character education. Here is a good website with a ton of discussion topics.

My preference would be to try to organize this in a massive slideshow that can eventually be used by an Instructional Designer to turn into a Moodle resource or series of folders.

Sections for:

  • Community Building (Group games, go-arounds [with questions to aid with processing])
  • Individual Accountability questions/procedures
  • Groups (Forming norms, holding a restorative group, group etiquette)

stuff like that.

We have some slideshows that were created for PD and put in Moodle, but they’re nowhere near a complete online resource like what we’re trying to do with SEL. We need people who want to put these together. 10 years of my teaching career was almost solely focused on Restorative Practices, I’d be happy to help do some of the design work with this and even contribute some resources. I just can’t take the lead on it.

Would you like me to “make a copy” or give me write access? This would help me in a quick-hit sense!

Don’t think it was me but cool link; these would probably be great for that middle category because they aren’t actually personal.

What of this do you think overlaps with the specific immediate need I was going for? Is there a way for me to start the gathering in a way that could be the first organizational pieces of this?

[Discourse is suggesting I not reply several times in a row on the same thread… Is there any easy way to do the 2 quotes from Ben and one from Jon in the same reply post?]

I think even just gathering a massive list of go 'rounds that you think aren’t silly could be a good start as part of the Community building sections. That could happen in a doc. So many times, just googling for lists gives you about 90% garbage ones that kids hate or think are dumb. If we could have a place where 287 teachers could put some that have been used/vetted that would be a great start. Maybe even a spreadsheet that highlights rows in green or red for what worked and what didn’t?

I wonder if setting up a shared RJ calendar that reminds people to address certain concerns at particular points throughout the year.

I also thought you might be able to take a look through the Six Core Strengths for Healthy Childhood Development and come up with some ways that you could incorporate these into your circles. The keynote speaker from the beginning of the school year referenced these in his speech. We use them in our program and it would be pretty easy to develop check-in questions from these.

We pull from these all the time to craft check-in questions. I suppose I could start writing some down and share them if you are interested.

@jmzimbric, if you’re looking at the resources anyway, it would be awesome if you collected questions out of it, maybe just in a doc or sheet you shared with me? (It would probably be a ways down my list before I got to looking at it myself…)

Everyone, any ideas on how we could like “tag” the questions? So that questions could be “Favorites” and “animals” and … at the same time? I’m noticing I wouldn’t have split the tabs in Ben’s database the same way, for example.

(Edited to add:) Could we use twitter and hashtags? Like 287 RJ staff subscribe to @RJcircleQs and then # the different #animal #favorite #summer, etc???

I could help set up a filter that would serve as a report builder for people who just wanted to look at certain tags (or combinations of criteria). If you share the sheet with me I could take a look and see what options there are…it may be too difficult to explain through the forum though.

This can be done in a Moodle Database. It’s how the Curriculum Hub is set up. If this ends up being something people want to do we can set up a space for that, or just flat out add it to the hub as a separate category.

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(This conversation has been moved from the “Innovation Coach Private” category to the “Innovation” category at user request.)

Someone at SECA found another resource. This website has a bunch of kinds of question lists… funny, would you rather, philosophy, this or that, … and at the bottom of most pages there is a printable pdf. Enjoy!


I’m not sure if this fits in with what you’re looking for, but one thing that I’ve used on the past to generate interesting conversations was The Book of Questions. I see they updated it a few years ago. The book asks thought-provoking questions, usually one or two per page. Things like…

“Would you like to be famous? If so, for what? What if you knew that you’d lose all your current friends and never develop relationships that were as meaningful?”