To the teacher:
In this activity, students share their feelings about the election, have a listening circle, and then participate in a community-building activity. The activity requires sticky notes and a ball of yarn.
Note that it may be helpful for adults to have their own listening circle before sharing this activity with their students. In addition, you might find it helpful to review these guidelines on teaching controversial issues.
Gather students in a circle and pass around a pad of sticky notes, asking each student to take two sheets. Then ask students to write on one of their sticky notes a word to describe an emotion that they are feeling about the election. Have students post their notes on the board or wall.
Then ask students to read all the notes their classmates have posted. What do they observe about these feelings? Are there patterns?
Share with students that the presidential election and the election campaign have brought up strong feelings for many people. These might be positive emotions or they might be difficult ones such as sadness, anger, fear, confusion, or worry.
Tell students that today, we’ll give people a chance to share more about how they’re thinking and feeling (if they choose) in a "listening circle."
The format is simple. Position students in a circle. Each person in the circle has one to three minutes (depending on the size of the group) to say what they are thinking or feeling about the election.
When one person is speaking, the others in the group pay good attention but don't comment. The circle is over after every person has had a chance to speak. (If students seem to have more to say, you can go around the circle a second time.) Participation should be completely voluntary, and what people say in the circle should be kept confidential.
If students find the activity helpful, consider organizing a brief listening circle every day or every week. Listening circles can also be helpful for adults.
Helpful Values Web
Ask students to think about one value or action that helps them when they are facing a big challenge. This might be a value or action that they themselves would find useful right now, or one that might be helpful for other students who are feeling worried or upset. Ask students to write a word describing this value or action on their second sticky note.
Now, introduce a ball of yarn and explain to your students that in this activity we’ll be weaving a web, a web that represents the relationships in our class and the way we are all connected. Students will share the value or action they wrote down and say a word or two about it, then throw the ball of yarn to another person in the class. (Make sure to unwind the ball of yarn some before throwing so there’s enough spare yarn to reach the person they’re throwing the ball to.)
Demonstrate and set the tone by sharing your own value or action (caring, listening, determination, friendship...). 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 value. Each person should pull the string taut so that the web is tight. 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 once and shared their value or action, note again that 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.
Now ask student to raise the web by raising their arms in tandem. Invite them to get a look at the web from below. Then slowly lower the web to the ground. Now students can let go of the web. Ask them to place the sticky notes with their value or action into the center of the web. Give students a moment to look at the web and the words you’ve collected.
Ask students to join hands and send a pulse around the circle. Each person in turn will squeeze the hand of the person next to them until everyone in the circle has participated. Tell students to wait till they feel their hand squeezed by the person on their right before squeezing the hand of the person on their left.
Begin the pulse yourself by squeezing the hand of the person to your right.
Once the pulse has completed the circle, have students first lean their arms into the circle (with hands still clasped), then raise them up all together to the ceiling, and saying together, "Yes!"