As teachers, we work to create positive learning environments in which students adhere to expectations and routines. Unfortunately, undesirable behavioral incidents are an inevitable part of teaching young people. Growing up is a process of trial and error, and when behavior goes awry, restorative practices have been proven to help students repair any damage done and learn new skills so they can continue as positive members of the classroom community. The goal is to move beyond consequence and rewards into authentic learning.
As artificial intelligence tools become more prolific, I’ve discovered some helpful resources to improve my use of restorative practices in my classroom. The following strategies have helped me to empower students and facilitate a renewed sense of connection after a disruptive incident.
1. Create restorative reflections
When a student crosses a boundary or violates an expectation, independent reflection can help them express their thoughts and process what happened. I like to use ChatGPT to generate reflection questions tailored to the situation. An example prompt would be: “A student violated (school rule). Generate five reflection questions to help the student think about their choices and improve their behavior and rectify the situation.”
You can also specify the desired reading level for the questions by adding “at a third-grade reading level.” This encourages independent engagement.
Confidentiality is always key. Remember to leave out any identifying information because student privacy is key in using AI of any kind. The more detail you provide, the more the reflection questions will be relevant to the circumstances. This is a helpful way to engage students in learning and growing after mistakes. Rather than assigning arbitrary consequences that may not match the incident, I have students spend time completing the reflection, and then we have a brief discussion to “close” the situation and move on.
I’ve already seen positive outcomes from this practice, and students have surprised me with their ability to be introspective. Their responses help me to identify my next steps for effective intervention. I also send a copy to parents so they know what happened and how their child processed the situation.
2. Compose customized social stories
Social stories are commonly used for students identified for special education services in the area of autism spectrum disorder. I’ve found, however, that social stories can help any student who is working through a negative behavioral incident. ChatGPT can generate social stories that are custom-made for the situation.
In order to incorporate restorative practices, I always include something about “how the student made things right” in the prompt. I also select the reading level and word count I desire based on the student’s independent reading ability. Note that you can also prompt ChatGPT to create 10 comprehension questions about the story to increase independent engagement. Here are a few example prompts you could use as a jumping-off point:
- “Write a narrative about a fifth-grade student who stole another student’s lunch money and then returned it and apologized, at a third-grade reading level, 500 words in length.”
- “Write a narrative about a middle school student who was throwing food in the lunchroom and then decided to clean it up and make better choices next time, at a sixth-grade reading level, 700 words in length.”
- “Write a narrative about a high school senior who got in a verbal altercation that disrupted class and then resolved the conflict with the peer, at a 10th-grade reading level, 1,000 words in length.”
3. Generate discussion questions for restorative circles
Restorative circles are a key element of restorative practices. This involves bringing students together to discuss harms and needs in order to restore harmony in the group. In my practice, I might use a full “class meeting” restorative circle to address an issue that impacts all students. If an issue occurs between a smaller number of class members, a “mini-circle” can help bring restoration.
In order to prepare for the discussion, I ask ChatGPT to generate a list of questions or suggestions that can facilitate a discussion about the specific issue. Here are some example prompts:
- “Generate 10 open-ended questions I can use to facilitate a discussion about excessive cell phone use with my students.”
- “Generate five open-ended questions I can use to facilitate a discussion between two students who had a verbal disagreement in my class.”
- “Generate eight open-ended questions I can use to discuss students disengaging and sleeping during class.”
4. Build creative social and emotional learning lesson plans
Many undesirable classroom behaviors relate to a lack of skills such as self-control, self-discipline, conflict resolution, and anger management. Taking time out to engage students in social and emotional learning can create a more productive learning environment with improved academic achievement. Restorative interventions empower students to improve their ability to manage similar situations in the future.
Lesson ideas and activities aligned to specific incidents or student needs can be hard to find. I like to use ChatGPT to create lesson plans for the specific skills I hope to build in students.
Here is an example of an effective prompt to create this type of lesson: “Generate a multistep lesson plan that teaches students how to (name the skill, such as use coping skills, use appropriate language, walk in the hallways, clean up after themselves, get along with others, etc.), at a fourth-grade level.” ChatGPT will generate objectives, materials, and a lesson plan that includes an introduction, a main activity, guided practice, independent practice, closure, optional homework and assessment.
The benefit of this process is that it frequently offers new ideas in addition to those I might find in curriculum materials. It sends me on a path of brainstorming how I might help students build their social and emotional skills, and it offers me a structure to follow. This, combined with my own creativity and knowledge of my individual students, has resulted in improvement in classroom climate and has bolstered transferable skills for learners.
Essentially, AI tools help me to create learning experiences that are restorative in nature and targeted toward specific behavioral situations. I find that these strategies help convey a message of acceptance and care for students, even after they’ve made a poor choice or violated an expectation. The hope is to inspire growth and learning to improve the students’ sense of belonging at school and to nurture a healthy classroom community.