Restorative Approach to Classroom Management


 Restorative Approach to Classroom Management 

  Restorative management is a widely-used, research and evidence based, progressive program based on responsibility, respect, and relationship-building and repairing. It focuses on intervention and agreement rather than traditional punishment. Its goal is creating a safe environment that leads to high-quality instruction.































  1. A History of Restorative Classroom Management

  Traditionally, schools have operated on zero tolerance and punitive discipline policies. Zero tolerance is a school policy where students have set consequences for infractions, and students are given consequences without warning and regardless of situational context or other factors. Zero tolerance is part of punitive discipline, which is a more broad term for implementing something unpleasant when children exhibit a negative behavior. This type of discipline in schools creates punishments for students when they break the rules typically set by uninvolved adults and administration. Likewise, teachers commonly use these strategies because often they are effective in stopping unwanted behaviors. It teaches students to follow the rules set in place in school, and that there is no other option than complying with what the teachers and administrators tell children to do.  


  2. Current Issues

School-to-prison pipeline: This is a metaphor for students’ increased contact with the justice system. In the article, Keeping Kids in School: Restorative Justice, Punitive Justice, and the School to Prison Pipeline, the author, Thalia Gonzalez, argues, “schools have imposed harsher sanctions on students for minor disruptive behavior, such as tardiness, absences, noncompliance, and disrespect, resulting in a systematic and pervasive pushing out of students from schools and into the school-to-prison pipeline” (Gonzalez, 2012, p.287). The phenomenon occurs in schools, especially when students are being treated as criminals. Schools rely on suspending or expelling students who continue to misbehave. This isolates children and adolescents from their peers, which “interferes with educational progress and perpetuates a cycle of failure” (Gonzalez, 2012, p.288). Even in the early childhood years, teachers can tell which students are on a road to getting in trouble in school and with the law. In return, these are the students who continue to get in trouble in younger grades, and then as they age it becomes the expectation set by previous teachers and administrators. Schools, like the justice system, continue to put blame on the student, instead of evaluating the larger system.


   3. Findings & Research

  •  Language is a key component of restorative practices. The way that teachers communicate with students has a direct correlation to their social, emotional, and academic view of school. 
    • Children will also learn to identify themselves based upon the language that you use with them. Using postive language when referring to students will help them to choose positive identities. 
      • Example: Instead of saying "students" or "boys and girls" choose to refer to students as readers, writers, mathematicians, or scientists, depending upon your focus content.


  • Use Logical Consequences: A logical consequence is an idea the children would implement if they were to abuse the rules. The consequences need to be simple so that students are able to understand and adapt quickly to them. For example, if a student misuses materials, they lose the privilege of using them. 
  • Positive Time Out: When a student becomes seemingly frustrated, upset, or exhibits negative behaviors, allow them to "take a break." Rather than leaving a student to sit and sulk alone, allow the student to get up and get a drink of water, silently read for five to ten minutes, or participate in a calming activity to allow them to refocus and calm down. 
  • Apology of Action: This technique of restorative classroom practices allows students to learn about empathy. An apolog of action provides a means for students to discuss what it means to be truly sorry. An apology of action also allows students to discuss and create a list of steps to take when saying sorry isn't enough. 

















   4. Application and Best Practices 










  • Responsive Classroom: An approach to teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. 
    • Morning Meeting: Everyone in the classroom gathers in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes at the beginning of each school day and proceeds through four sequential components: greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message. 
    • Establishing Rules: Teacher and students work together to name individual goals for the year and establish rules that will help everyone reach those goals. 
    • Energizers: Short, playful, whole-group activities that are used as breaks in lesson. 
    • Quiet Time: A brief, purposeful, and relaxed time of transition that takes place after lunch and recess, before the rest of the school day continues. 
    • Closing Circle: A five to ten minute gathering at the end of the day that promotes reflection and celebration through participation in a brief activity or two. 
    • Investing Students in the Rules: Students collaborate to establish classroom expectation based on individual goals. 
    • Brain Breaks: Short breaks in lessons used to increase focus, motivation, learning, and memory. 
    • Active Teaching: A straightforward, developmentally appropriate strategy for delivering curriculum content. 
    • Components: Teacher presentation, explanation, illustration, and demonstration. 
  • LiveSchool: Online program that rewards students with points for positive behavior, and can take away points for negative behaviors. Students can then use the points to "purchase" rewards. 
    • Has been beneficial in the classroom, but like any other program, the students either care about their points or they do not.  

For more information on Best Practices, visit these resources:

  • The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete
  • The First Six Weeks by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete
  • Power of Our Words by Paula Denton
  • Teaching Childreen to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney
  • Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood
































  5. Conversations and Perspectives: Interview

  • Principal: Every year there is a new behavior management program or idea that is believed to be most effective. We try to implement new ideas, however to see if they really work we have to keep at them consistently. It is hard to really understand if behavior management programs are working because we always have issues, every day we have students in the principal’s office. But it is hard to know if there is a discipline program that would be better, or if some of the students will always find themselves in trouble. Also, we have so many teachers in the building with a variety of views, we try to implement one program as a school and have every teacher stick to it, that way it is cohesive in the school and as students travel. Obviously the behavior program we currently use, which is the green-red card system, is used more often by some teachers. We have some teachers that swear by the card system, and use it daily with much emphasis on it, but on the other hand we have some teachers that only use it when a severe behavior occurs in the classroom. So, basically it is just hard to say what really works because each child is different, each teacher is different, and those things have a huge effect on the effectiveness of the program. I think it is really about finding the right balance in each individual classroom, which is hard when a district or school mandates one behavior program.   
  • Teacher 1: Something I’ve come to realize with my years of experience is that every child needs a different plan to encourage good behaviors. We have some students that just do not respond to the current behavior program we have. Their card can be moved to red within the first hour of the school day and they just do not care. Their behavior will not improve, and they are not learning to correct or fixing their behaviors at all. But then we have some students that cry and beg for their card to be flipped back to green after it is moved. Those are the students that will actively work to keep their card on green. With our behavior program though, I’m not sure I see it working at all. Maybe that is because I hardly ever use it, or when I do the students have such differing reactions to it that it makes it hard to really know if it is helping. We’ve been using the card system for maybe three years now, and I don’t really see the students behaving differently than they did before we used it. I’m not sure, I know something needs to be put in place and stuck to day after day, but I think a lot of it is just trial and error.
  • Teacher 2: I do not think I will ever feel truly confident in my classroom management. I feel like once I find something that works, and the class is really meshing and behaving, something flips and then I have to start all over. So it is hard to have one behavior program that we use each day, every day, for years. Once the students become used to it, they figure out ways around it and then it is less effective. I don’t know if it would be beneficial to switch up behavior programs often, or just to do without one monitored program. I try to work with each student individually to set behavioral and academic goals, but then that way I can start to understand what works for them and what doesn’t. that has definitely been the most useful thing for me, meeting with my students and knowing what they need. Some kids need love and compassion, some need to be yelled at, and some need a note home to fully understand their behaviors and the consequences. Ideally, we would just get rid of the card system, and allow teachers to do what they feel is best in their classroom and for their students. I know there is research to back up and dismantle the card system, but I think it should be up to teachers to decide what to do in their classroom.
  • Student 1 (First grade): When my card gets to yellow it is sad because I feel sad. Then I have to be really good so [my teacher] moves it back to green. I am mostly scared because it means I see [the principal] or my mom will be mad. Sometimes I know why it is flipped, but then sometimes I don’t know why and I tell mom that.
  • Student 2 (Second grade): My card only got flipped to red once, and it was for talking a lot in the bathroom. I still talk in the bathroom sometimes but my card stays on green. I just don’t like when it is on red because I have to walk at recess and I can’t play with my friends.
  • Student 3 (Fifth grade): I remember caring a lot about my card when I was younger, like I would cry and stuff. But now, it isn’t a big deal. If my parents find out I just tell them why it happened and they say ok. I’ve never been to the principal’s but I’ not really scared of that. If my card gets flipped I just kind of be quiet for a little. Some teachers move it back really quickly, and others you have to work for it more.


6. Resources

  • Gonzalez, Thalia, Keeping Kids in Schools: Restorative Justice, Punitive Discipline, and the School to Prison Pipleine (April 2012). Journal of Law & Education, Vol. 41, No. 2




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