We believe that how you open and close your program or instruction is as important as the content. Children’s schedules are jam-packed with activities and constant stimulation. That is why spending the time to get their heads and bodies present and focused, and at the same time creating community at the beginning of a program, will make all the work you put into the actual lesson or program that much more valuable.
Likewise, spending time at the end of a session helps to consolidate the learning and experience, while reinforcing the shared community of learners.
Setting aside 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your instruction is precious time that will serve to welcome students, touch in with their emotional well-being, and nurture togetherness. At the other end, Closing Circles are a time to reflect, take stock of the learning and each other, and plan for the future.
These opening and closing rituals do not have to be complicated or time-consuming.
In this post, you will learn more about ideas for these session ‘bookends’ and how StickTogether can serve as an inclusive, focal point for your opening and closing ritual.
Opening activities set the tone for welcoming instruction. They are typically around 5-10 minutes long and can either be organized as a class or by breaking students into smaller groups. Short meditations or mindfulness exercises help to bring everyone into the moment and on the same wavelength. Having a simple list or graphic depicting emotions, where each student ‘taps in’ is another option that can easily be customized. Having students share an ice-breaker story with an assigned ‘buddy’ is a way to help create connections among students who may not normally interact.
StickTogether can be the focus of, or the passive background to, any Opening Circle. The sticker activity is a safe place, which provides a consistent, stress-free and predictable, yet fun, activity. StickTogether helps foster student engagement and casual connections. It’s the perfect way to transition into the day's learning activities.
A more structured way to for use StickTogether as an opening activity is to give each student 15 stickers as they come into your class/program. Allow students to add their stickers to the StickTogether poster. As they get ready to start the program or lesson, have them guess what they think the image will be. Wrap up the Opening Circle by having students share their guesses.
The time you spend with your opening ritual helps students to re-focus, while allowing time to reconnect with their classmates and educators.
Closing activities give students a chance to consolidate their learning or experience. Closing activities are typically 5-10 minutes long and can be conducted as a group, or by breaking students into smaller groups. They provide time for students to reflect, internalize and share experiences, while cementing the community that has emerged over the time together.
Some easy ideas for Closing Circles include having each student share one quick story or word that encapsulates what they learned; A physical game that relates in a tangential way to the learning; ‘I liked how you…’ tag: each student ‘tags’ another student with something they liked about what the other student did or said. Then that student tags another until all have been tagged.
StickTogether also works well as a closing activity, again, either as the focal point or as the passive ‘background’ activity. Again, it is a safe and relaxing experience which provides stress-free, non-competitive time together as a group. The StickTogether experience naturally celebrates community and collaboration – the sense that we are in this together! It’s the perfect way to transition students to go back into their busy schedules.
One idea for using StickTogether as a closing activity is asking students how they are feeling; having them reflect upon their learning experience; sharing any troubles they are having; or asking them any other questions you feel would be relevant that day, as they are working on the poster together.
The opening/closing ritual influences how your students engage with, and then retain, their learning.