Finding Time before Dismissal
"How do I make the time for a Closing Circle at the end of the school day?" That is definitely the question I hear most from people who want to start using Closing Circles. It's addressed in detail in a section of the Closing Circles book called "Seven Ways to Find 5–10 Minutes," but here's the main idea underlying what you'll read there: If you manage the end of the day efficiently, you can find the time.
What really has to be done?
First, decide for yourself what really needs to get done right before dismissal. In most classrooms, there's a lot happening all at once in those last minutes of the day: cleaning up, packing up, assigning homework, completing classroom jobs, and so on. Make a list of all the activities that typically happen in your classroom at the end of the day.
Then, go through your list and see which of the tasks can only be done at the end of the day. Some things—getting packed up comes to mind—are essential, but you may find that there are some tasks on your list that could be taken care of at a different time. For example, you might review and assign homework earlier in the day. Some teachers do this after a morning snack, right after lunch, or when students return from a special.
What does each student need to do?
Now, divide the remaining tasks into two categories: Things that each student has to do each day, and other things that need to get done. Use Interactive Modeling to teach students a routine for managing the individual dismissal tasks, and post a chart that lists them. Keep the list simple so students can refer to it quickly if needed and get right back to the routine.
Older students can help create this list. Younger students may need pictures to help them remember. Taking photos of them doing the expected behavior and putting them on your chart can be a great visual for pre-readers! Here's an example of a chart that uses pictures this way, but to illustrate the class's morning routine.
Can classroom jobs help?
Making the tasks that must be done, but not by every student, into classroom jobs can also be a way to make the end-of-the-day more efficient. Jobs that contribute to the cleaning, organizing, and upkeep of the classroom teach students to take care of their environment. Some of the end-of-day jobs (I have found helpful include pencil sharpener, chair stackers, floor checker, and table/desk washers.
Taking the time to use Interactive Modeling to teach each job will allow students to see, hear, and experience exactly how to complete the tasks. Also, instead of having a different job for each student, assign multiple students to jobs that take a bit longer so that all jobs are finished at the same time.
Reflecting on and clarifying the routines involved in ending the school day can help you manage this crucial time more efficiently. You may be able to find a surprising amount of time for packing up, cleaning up, and getting all other tasks done, while still having 5–10 minutes left for Closing Circle. If you try it, please let me know how it goes!
Bringing the school day to a peaceful end enhances learning and reaffirms classroom community. Get ideas for your closing circles: Closing Circles: 50 Activities for Ending the Day in a Positive Way, by Dana Januszka and Kristen Vincent.
Interactive Modeling: A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children, by Margaret Berry Wilson, provides step-by-step guidance on how to use Interactive Modeling. Includes many practical tips, real-life examples, and sample lessons and scripts that you can adapt for specific classroom needs.
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