All students learn best when they are in an environment where they feel safe and connected. This creates an opportunity for curiosity to emerge, where risks can be taken and where growth can occur. One of the best ways to create this kind of environment is by incorporating classroom rituals.
What is a Ritual?Peacefirst defines a ritual as:
actions, activities or ceremonies, repeated on a regular basis, that have specific meaning or significance and that reinforce a desired behavior.Many of us already have classroom rituals we use, although we may not call them that. We may, for example, have a morning check-in or a way of calling students to silence that we use regularly.
Rituals can occur on a daily or weekly basis. We can also have regular rituals we use to start and end our programs or in connection with specific events or projects.
How Can Rituals Support Student Learning?Done well, rituals can:
- Provide students with a sense of safety and community.
- Provide structure and clear expectations for behavior.
- Help students practice key skills, such as communication, cooperation, empathy and conflict resolution.
- Create space for students to reflect on their work and their behavior.
- Create a more peaceful and cooperative learning environment.
Using Rituals Effectively
To ensure that your rituals are effective, you need to:
- Explain--Introduce each ritual to students, explaining its purpose and what's involved.
- Rehearse--Have students practice the steps involved in the ritual, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback. Depending on the nature of the ritual, this may not require much, but it's still important to treat the first few times as "practice" sessions, allowing students to become accustomed to the ritual.
- Reinforce--Be sure to model the behavior you're looking for and to reinforce young people as they use the ritual. Recognize those young people who are positively participating in the ritual and reinforce their behavior.
- Be consistent--Use the same language and routine every time. This is what reinforce the ritual.
As you think about which rituals to use in your classroom or program, consider engaging young people in this process. Work with them to brainstorm about the kind of positive classroom/program environment they want to create for themselves and then look at possible rituals to help reinforce that environment. Have your students identify which rituals resonate the most for them and try those out.
And consider having students lead some of these rituals as a way for them to practice and develop their skills in this area.
Don't be afraid to experiment--possibly trying out different opening and closing rituals and other types of rituals to see which work best for the group of students you're working with that the time. Some rituals work better with some groups than others. If a ritual that worked with a previous group doesn't seem to be working well now, find another ritual to take its place.
Resources on Rituals
Below are some resources with suggestions for a variety of rituals to use in your individual classroom and in developing your programs.
- Creating a Peaceful Climate in Your Classroom and School Using Rituals--A fantastic resource from Peacefirst, with tons of practical suggestions for opening and closing, for classroom management and for activities.
- Ten Tips for Classroom Management--Great ideas from Edutopia.
- Coaching Chronicles: Routines, Rituals and Expectations--How one classroom teacher uses various rituals. Although written from the elementary teaching perspective, many of these apply and can be adapted for older students.
- Rituals on Pinterest--Some good examples and ideas here.
- Great Beginnings--Some Try it Tuesday tips for beginnings.
- Let's Get Physical--Try It Tuesday ideas for incorporating movement rituals into your classroom.
- Promote Happiness--Try It Tuesday rituals to encourage appreciation and happiness in your programs.