Social skills are a vital element to helping kids succeed socially, emotionally,
personally, and even academically. These are the skills that help kids join in
meaningful conversations, collaborate with peers, develop lasting friendships, self-advocate when they need help, and so much more.
School can be a challenging time for many. Our kids spend so much time with each other from day to day, there needs to be an outlet to raise concerns, celebrate successes and have an opportunity to talk through whatever else is rolling through their minds on a day-to-day basis.
Every Wednesday afternoon our class holds a ‘Community Circle’ meeting. It is an opportunity for the class to work through a process that allows important conversations to be held around not only the positive aspects of what has been happening, but also bring forward any issues or concerns the students may have in a safe environment.
This component of our Community Circle can also allow the opportunity for students to receive feedback and advice from their classmates to assist in whatever issues are brought forward.
Receiving support and advice directly from their classmates is an incredibly powerful situation and one that has allowed many students to feel a stronger connection to our class community.
Our Community Circle meeting begins with a random question asked of all the students to help engage their thinking followed by an opportunity for students to acknowledge other classmates for any positive acts they have witnessed throughout the week. This is quite an interesting and worthwhile process as students are often quite surprised when they are recognised by their classmates in a public forum. It teaches that people are always watching and aware of the positive acts of others and should be acknowledged for them.
After moving through general class announcements, the focus then moves to the central component of our Community Circle and that is the visual ‘Community Circle’ chart on our classroom wall. A chart that is separated into four coloured quadrants, red, blue, green and yellow. The idea being that this chart is a visual indication of how each student is living our class ethos around our MARBLES acronym (Manners, Attitude, Respect, Body Language, Effort and Smile).
All the students begin in the red quadrant at the beginning of the year and are then nominated by their classmates to move around to the next quadrant. This is achieved by a student having to nominate a classmate and prepare a short-written speech, outlining their reasons for nominating this person. If every member of the class agrees with the nomination through a vote, the student is moved around the circle and is celebrated. The goal is to reach the yellow quadrant and become our ‘Ultimate Community Role Model’.
On the opposite end of the scale, students can also be moved out of the circle, but this is done through a supportive conversation and goal setting for the student to improve certain aspects of their behaviour for their classmates to vote them back in.
It would be ideal if all learners walked into classrooms equipped with strong social skills ready for success. The truth is, though, that kids are kids; they are still developing, learning, growing, and trying to make sense of the social world around them. Upper Primary students are heavily influenced by their peers and the Community Circle process allows many opportunities for the students to learn and pay attention to how they treat others and how this impacts our classroom community.
Kingsley Heard – Year 6/7 Teacher