This activity uses a Circle format to encourage students to reflect on the school year that's now coming to a close. See our Introduction to Circles for guidelines on this practice, which Morningside Center is introducing in middle and high schools across New York City.
Opening ceremony: Guided meditation
Explain to students that you'll be starting today's circle with an activity that will allow them to reflect on the school year. This kind of activity is called a guided meditation and in it you take a journey in your mind. Ask students to sit back in their chairs and get comfortable. If they want they can close their eyes or pick a spot on the floor in front of them to focus on.
As the facilitator, in a calm voice, slowly read out the meditation that follows (or one that is better geared to your students). Take your time, pause frequently so that students can think and reflect:
- As you think back to September ... the end of your summer break ... the start of the new school year ... How were you feeling? Summer was coming to a close ... you had to start getting up early again ...
- That first day of school as you started _______ grade ... you entered the school gates ... walking down the hallway on your way to your new class ...
- Think back to meeting your new teachers ... seeing your old friends ... or meeting the new kids in your class ... Maybe you were new yourself...
- What was that like? ... What were you thinking? ... What were you feeling? Pause.
- And as you got used to your new class and met your new teachers ... think about the relationships this year ... with your teacher ... with your friends ... your fellow students ... what were they like?
- Were you able to work well together ... hang out after school perhaps? Did you get in trouble ... if so why? ... What happened? ... How did it turn out? Pause.
- Were you able to reach out to anyone who was struggling? ... Did anyone reach out to you? ... Think about that time ... Pause.
- Think also about the things you gained ... Pause.. ... the things you lost ... Pause.... a time you celebrated ... a time you commiserated ... How have those times affected you?
- Now, think back to a highlight of your year ... Pause. ... What happened? ... Who was involved? ... And how did it affect you? ... Pause.. ...
- Next, let's also think about a challenge you faced this year ... What happened? ... Who was involved? ... How did it affect you? ... What did you learn? ... Pause.
- And as we've arrived here, now, today, as we wrap up the school year ... summer only just starting ... As you think back over the year, how are you feeling?
And ... when you're ready ... open your eyes as we open up the circle to talk about the year.
- Send the talking piece around asking people to share a highlight, achievement or something worth celebrating with the rest of the group.
- Send the talking piece around again, asking people to share a challenge they faced this year. How did they respond? What was the outcome?
- Send the talking piece again one final time asking students to think ahead to next year and to share one thing they will stop doing, start doing or keep doing next year.
Weaving a Web
Ask students to stand up and think about this question: If you forgot everything else about this year, what is the one experience you'd most like to remember or hold on to?
Introduce a ball of yarn and explain to your students that in this activity you'll be weaving a web, a web that represents the relationships formed in your class over the year. Set the tone by sharing an experience of your own and why you want to remember it. Then toss the ball to someone else in the group, inviting them to share. After sharing, instruct this student to hold on to a piece of the yarn before tossing the ball on to another student, who will share his or her experience. As the ball of yarn is tossed from one student to the next, a web is created, physically connecting the members of the group.
When everyone has received the ball at least once and shared their reflections, explain that the web they just created symbolizes the community that was built between them over the course of the year (or years in some cases). The strands show the connections and relationships that make up the class community.
Ask students to make sure the strands are not sagging by taking a step back if needed. Then tug on the web in different places so that students can physically feel the interconnectedness you spoke of. Explain, as you tug on the web, that if something happens in the class community in one place others are affected too. If something happens to one person in the community there will be reverberations across the community - we're all affected; we're all touched in some way.
Ask students if they can feel your tugs at the web? You may want to draw on an event that took place this past year that illustrates the idea of interconnectedness and community.
If you feel more of a closing is needed, read the following quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady:
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."