Repairing Harm and Building Community: PBIS and Restorative Practices Framework

By Beth Baker, M.S.Ed., coauthor of The PBIS Team Handbook

Repairing Harm and Building Community: PBIS and Restorative Practices FrameworkHumans are hardwired to connect to one another. We want to be seen and heard. We want to belong to a community that cares for us and to which we, in return, can contribute our talents and skills. Many schools are shifting the paradigm of education from the factory model to one that creates positive learning experiences for our students. Punitive discipline such as detention, suspension, and expulsion, when used with students from preK through high school, does little to effect change for students or schools in the long term. Instead, it can cause a disconnect between students and the school community.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a framework used by many schools to create a safe and effective learning environment for staff, students, and their families. Schools can implement tools and strategies based on the needs of their communities, thinking about what kind of school they want to create. Many schools are also adding restorative practices. This is a framework—a continuum of practices that can be used by schools to improve the quality of students’ lives, create community in schools, and put into practice the soft skills of social-emotional learning.

Like PBIS, the continuum of restorative practices can be based on a three-tiered pyramid model, with each tier of the pyramid representing a level of intervention. Brenda Morrison, director of the Centre for Restorative Justice and assistant professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, created this model to demonstrate how the practices can be used in schools:

  • Universal Training: The bottom of the pyramid is for all staff and students. Interventions at this level affirm relationships among students and staff. Social-emotional learning occurs at this stage. Many schools use morning meetings or character education lessons to teach about feelings, emotions, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Repairing Relationships: The middle of the pyramid refers to targeted interventions for smaller groups in order to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings. These interventions can be facilitated by a staff member and can focus on resolving conflict between students or between students and other staff members. At this stage, a conflict or misunderstanding is kept from becoming a larger concern.
  • Rebuilding Relationships: The top of the pyramid is where we address bigger behavioral incidents that may involve bullying or violence. Using a Peace Circle, a trained facilitator brings together the offender, the person who was targeted or hurt, and community members—including parents, social workers, and others—to discuss the harm that was caused by the incident and determine how to repair the harm and make amends. Everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone gets an opportunity to listen to others.

Through restorative practices, students learn to put their emotional literacy into practice. They can discuss how an incident made them feel by using I-statements. For example, instead of saying, “Stop teasing me!” they can say, “I feel sad when you tease me. Please call me by my name.” I-statements can be used by all students. Younger students can identify feelings such as mad, sad, and happy, adding more specific feelings as they get older. Learning how our behavior affects another person helps build empathy. And it is through building empathy that bullying and violent behaviors decrease.

Teachers can also improve (and demonstrate) their emotional literacy by using I-statements with their classes. It is easy to say, “Sit down and be quiet!” in a loud, firm voice. But it turns into a teachable moment when you say, “I feel frustrated when you talk through my lesson. I need you to listen so I know you are getting all the information for the assignment.”

When processing a behavioral incident with a student, staff can ask the following questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What were you thinking about at the time?
  3. What have your thoughts been since?
  4. Who has been affected by what you did?
  5. In what way have they been affected?
  6. What do you think you need to do to make things right?

This may seem like a lot of questions, but these questions can be asked in a matter of minutes anywhere in a school (playground, lunchroom, classroom, or hallway) once you have developed a relationship with the student. This restorative process helps students see how their actions affect others and allows for problem-solving and making amends. Restorative practices create a school community where people care for one another, allow people to be heard, and offer opportunities to repair damage to relationships. Students also are more invested in the people and the property of a community they feel a part of. Restorative schools see a decrease in property damage as well as a decrease in conflict.

When schools add the framework of restorative practices, especially when it is combined with the framework of PBIS, they are committing themselves to creating an environment of respect and inclusion that is safe, effective, and efficient. Everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone gets a chance to listen to others. We build empathy and we learn about our feelings. We build one another up. We enhance our learning communities and eventually the greater communities where we live and work.

If you are interested in learning more about restorative practices, check out the International Institute for Restorative Practices or Circle Space Services for training opportunities or contact your state department of education for trainings or workshops in your area.

Beth Baker, FSP Author

Beth Baker, M.S.Ed., is a teacher and an advocate for students with special needs. During her twenty-plus years in education, Beth has taught in self-contained special education classrooms, implemented and coached PBIS teams, and worked as a behavior specialist. She was also a district program facilitator assisting staff with professional development around social-emotional learning and coaching them in supporting students with emotional-behavioral needs. Recently she has been teaching abroad and implementing PBIS at international schools. Beth loves creating positive paths to behavior change whenever and wherever she can. She presents frequently on social-emotional learning and PBIS in the US and internationally. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

PBIS Team HandbookBeth Baker is coauthor with Char Ryan of The PBIS Team Handbook: Setting Expectations and Building Positive Behavior

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Free Spirit Storytellers on Their Best Behavior

By Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen, author and illustrator of the Best Behavior® series

Free Spirit Storytellers on Their Best BehaviorStorytelling is at the heart of being human—and it starts at birth. We share stories as we talk to our babies, sing to them, and read to them. They grow rich in stories, and once children are verbal, they are eager to share their own tales, eventually writing and drawing them on paper. Storytelling helps children better understand the world, develop empathy, and grow up with greater knowledge and confidence. As an author/illustrator team, we’re grateful that storytelling—via words and art—is our daily work, our way to reach out to readers all over the world. Together, we aim to make books that serve as “mirrors and windows,” helping children build their own social and emotional identities while offering views into other children’s feelings and experiences. We think it’s the best job in the world!

Over the years, parents and teachers have asked us, “How do you make the books? How do you work together?” We’re glad you’ve asked! We thought it would be fun to share the story of how we collaborate.

Elizabeth: Most of the books I’ve published are nonfiction with a focus on children’s social and emotional needs. You might know of the two series that Marieka Heinlen and I work on together: Best Behavior® and Toddler Tools®. Our main audience is toddlers, but many of our books have been adapted into lengthier versions for preK to grade 3. I love collaborating on these books, but I also write children’s fiction and have learned that most often authors and illustrators work separately—never even meeting! The book’s editor is the go-between, and if an author is lucky, she will get to see some preliminary sketches. But that’s it until the full-color illustrations are placed with the text. At that point, the author finally sees how the words and images work together. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes: laying out the narrative, determining the story’s climax, creating character consistency on the page, identifying the color palette, choosing fonts, and completing page designs—all of which will be a surprise for the author. (Talk about suspense!) From the author’s perspective, it can feel like you’re waiting so long that spider webs could cover you by the time it’s all finished. Then—years after signing a book contract—you get a present in the mail: your completed book.

My work with Marieka is . . . a whole different story. Our bookmaking process in educational publishing doesn’t have so many surprises because Marieka and I are involved in almost every stage of a book’s development. Together, we figure out how the words will fit on each page and how the images will complement the text. We brainstorm ideas for book covers, we talk about scenes that will best show a diverse community of children and adults, and we use our knowledge of all the previous books in our series to make sure we keep the material fresh but also compatible with earlier works. The best thing about collaborating on new projects with Marieka is that we’ve known each other for more than two decades, and we both live in the Twin Cities—that face-to-face contact and history helps keep our creativity flowing. We’re both moms, we both love kids, and we both feel lucky to have the opportunity to use positive language and images to help our readers handle the social and emotional ups and downs of growing up. It’s hard work—but mostly it’s fun, fulfilling work.

We can’t wait to get started on new projects, and we love when our readers send us ideas. Every week, I get emails from parents telling me about the challenges they face raising their kids: My child won’t stop sucking her thumb! My toddler insists on dressing himself without any help and has a tantrum when I even try to get his pants on. Can you write a book about not spitting? My own children are well past toddlerhood, but they have always inspired my creative work and storytelling. These days, I have lots of young nephews who keep inspiring me with their busy, curious, hilarious, and challenging antics. I write nonfiction and fiction with them in mind. Storytelling is my way of connecting with them from far away.

Marieka: Elizabeth’s and my books are teaching books. Children learn visually from the very beginning: Where am I? Who is taking care of me? Where do I get food? When do I go to sleep? When we teach toddlers, it is so important to combine the visuals with words. When I first started illustrating the Best Behavior series, I instinctively drew dark lines and used saturated colors to capture the attention of busy little readers. It was always important to portray every kind of child I could imagine, so our readers could find themselves in each book. I also researched environments, from urban or rural settings to child care centers and homes, since we wanted each child to see familiar surroundings. All the Best Behavior books present a common challenge or milestone for children; the Toddler Tools series, on the other hand, focuses on daily routines and transitions that young children must learn to help organize their world. Elizabeth creates text young children can relate to, and I work to make art they can identify with. I like to think that between the words you read and the art you see, you get a full understanding of each social-emotional topic through a child’s eyes.

Elizabeth and I met working at Free Spirit Publishing, where I was a designer and Elizabeth an editor. We had been writing and illustrating for years and were enthusiastic about broadening our skill sets. Our ideas flowed easily out of a common language we had learned from working closely together on other books and marketing materials. When we started collaborating as storytellers long ago, we would look at Elizabeth’s text together and come up with ideas about how to show the reader what was happening. Book after book, our process became more streamlined: Elizabeth knew my style and I understood how to make her words come alive in scenes without too much back-and-forth.

As an author-illustrator team, we were creating a world together, one that all children could find themselves in. Elizabeth imagined scenarios where children learned life lessons, and she described feelings and actions in simple, clear messages. Her words were pared down to just what a young child could grasp about emotional growth while still being fun to read, with a singsong cadence and easy flow. I took her words and created bright and bold pages, bursting with diversity and expression. I worked hard to represent all kinds of people, homes, neighborhoods, and educational settings. Whenever possible, Elizabeth made sure I got lots of animals and pets in there too!

We are very lucky: There is a never-ending bounty of social-emotional skills to teach children through our books. We hope to keep telling stories for years to come.

Author Elizabeth VerdickElizabeth Verdick has written children’s books for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. She has worked on many titles in the Laugh & Learn® series. Elizabeth loves helping kids through her work as a writer and an editor. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two (nearly grown) children, and she plays traffic cop for their many furry, four-footed friends.


Marieka HeinlenMarieka Heinlen received her BFA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and also studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. She launched her career as an award-winning children’s book illustrator with Hands Are Not for Hitting and has illustrated all the books in the Best Behavior and Toddler Tools series. Marieka focuses her work on books and other materials for children, teens, parents, and teachers. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband, son, and daughter.

Free Spirit books by Elizabeth and Marieka:

Noses Are Not for PickingWorries Are Not ForeverCalm Down TimeBedtime

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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10 Inexpensive Ideas for DIY Fidget Toys

By Andrew Hawk

10 Inexpensive Ideas for DIY Fidget ToysRestlessness in the classroom is a challenge for both students and teachers. This is especially true on wintry or rainy days when outdoor recess and activities are not viable options. Students’ attention can quickly wane, leaving them daydreaming at best and engaging in any number of misbehaviors at worst.

The truth is, it is a waste of time to try to teach students who have zoned out. Save yourself the trouble of having to reteach any portion of a lesson by offering your students brain breaks. Strategically scheduling two-minute brain breaks into your lessons can effectively raise student engagement. Offering students fidget toys to enjoy during these short breaks is a great way to let them unwind. In addition, many students with attention challenges can benefit from using fidget toys throughout the day. I have not yet met a colleague who wanted to spend the money to buy enough fidget toys for an entire class. So why not buy some materials and create homemade ones?

In general, fidget toys should be simple. They should offer some sort of repetitive motion or tactile experience. Naturally, students should enjoy playing with them. It is best to have a variety of fidget toys students can choose from that fit their tastes. Here are some ideas you might try if you decide to make your own fidget toys.

Pipe Cleaners
Students were making fidget toys out of this versatile art supply long before the term “fidget toy” was even invented. Playing with a pipe cleaner can be both tactile and repetitive. I enjoy bending one into a figure eight and spinning it with my two index fingers. Brainstorm some ideas that will work well with your class.

Velcro Strips
These can be used in several ways. Get the kind with adhesive on the back. If you have a few extremely fidgety kids, stick a strip under students’ desks so they can run their fingers over the rough or soft material. This tactile experience is often calming to students who need a lot of movement or sensory input. During a brain break, students can put the strips together and pull them apart.

Stress Balls
These can be easily made at home by pouring flour into a balloon through a funnel. This type of toy has gained popularity because there are now many squishy toys available that resemble foods and video game characters.

Rubber Bands
The thing about using rubber bands as fidget toys is that you have to clearly define your expectations. Otherwise students will often flip and snap the bands. Rubber bands can be used for a number of finger exercises. For example, students can place their fingertips together and put a rubber band around them. They then move their fingertips apart and see how long they can maintain the hold. More rubber bands can be added for extra resistance. Rubber bands can also be paired with a number of other items, such as paperclips, to make stretchy fidget toys.

Nuts and Bolts
Place a container of nuts, bolts, and washers in a variety of sizes somewhere easily accessible to students. Students enjoy putting these together and taking them apart. You can have some sets already put together for students to grab and go, or let them make their own.

Magnet Games
I like to find round magnets with holes in the middle and put them on a bolt. (I prefer to buy them predrilled because magnets usually crack if you try to drill a hole yourself.) I put two magnets on a bolt and position them to repel each other. I then add another bolt to keep them in place. Students have fun pushing the magnets together and then releasing them. A magnet is another item that could be used in many ways.

Stop booing and hissing! Homemade slime is not my favorite thing either, but students of all ages love it, so it can be an effective fidget toy. Find some recipes here.

Duct Tape Creations
Duct tape now comes in so many flashy colors and patterns. I have seen teachers do projects where students make wallets and flowers out of duct tape. So why not make fidget toys too? For example, make a narrow tube out of duct tape. You have to fold the tape so that all the adhesive is covered. Place a marble inside the tube and use hot glue to seal the ends. Students will enjoy squeezing the marble back and forth. Be sure to make the tube narrow enough that there is some resistance and the marble does not simply roll around.

STEM Project
I have not tried this, but I think it would be fun. Give students a variety of materials and let them invent their own fidget toys. When they are finished, let them demonstrate their creations in front of your class—or in front of other classes. Have students vote on which fidget is the best!

Andrew HawkAndrew Hawk has worked in public education for 16 years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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I Don’t Wanna Go! Determining the Cause of School Avoidance

By Molly Breen

I Don’t Wanna Go! Determining the Cause of School AvoidanceAbout six weeks (or less) into the school year, the bloom is off the rose. That is to say, school is no longer novel, compelling, or inspiring, and some children begin to complain that they “hate school.” Does this sound familiar? And how about when, after a school break or a family vacation, a child who was well-established in school routines and seemed to be secure and fulfilled at school suddenly switches gears to sobbing at drop-off and not participating during the day? What’s a teacher to do when a child simply doesn’t want to go to school?

I often visualize dedicated educators as emotional detectives, piecing together clues from observation, direct experience, and parent/caregiver anecdotes. Once all the pieces are in place, what seemed like a puzzle becomes a much clearer whole picture. But where do we begin? Certainly the answer is not to take the child’s behavior personally; if we did this every time a child complained, none of us would be coming back to work on Monday. Instead, we should begin our detective work by carefully considering several key features of the child’s emotional experience, with a goal of getting to the root cause.

First, determine which level of mistaken behavior the distress is coming from. Author Dan Gartrell uses the phrase “mistaken behavior” to distinguish from “misbehavior,” because “misbehavior” carries the implication that the behavior was intentional (and therefore makes punishment seem appropriate). If we think of children’s inappropriate actions as mistaken behavior, we have the opportunity to guide them toward learning and correcting. According to Gartrell, mistaken behavior has three recognizable levels:

  1. Experimenting—generally testing limits and trying things out; easy to correct and redirect
  2. Socially influenced—colluding behaviors or mimicry that are more relational and have to be dismantled from the inside out
  3. Strong needs—repeat behaviors that build over time and require coping strategies for development and/or addressing unmet needs

With this framework in place, we can use a more systematic and research-based approach to guiding development out of challenging behavior instead of relying on our instincts or on what worked in the past. The cornerstone of guidance practice based on mistaken behavior is context: the who, what, when, where, and how of the behavior. This will help us get to the why.

Next, observe for context. This includes checking in with parents/caregivers about any information that is being shared by children at home. Questions include: Are children reporting anything about school, friends, or teachers specifically that would have an effect on their connection to school? Children may say things like, “Teacher Macie is scary,” or “The big kids are mean and don’t let me play on the slide.” These are helpful indicators when we are piecing together the context for school avoidance. Observation should also include checking in with teachers and, quite literally, objectively observing the behavior: When is it happening and with how much frequency/intensity? Take a look at the environment: Has there been a change to the school environment or, for example, the drop-off procedures? How is the environment set up to support or not to support children and families?

Finally, create an individual behavior plan around the school aversion/avoidance. Consider the contextual factors and, if possible, get the collaboration and support of the family. This is not a time to reinvent the wheel! Use existing templates, easily searchable on the web if they aren’t in use in your setting, so that everyone (parents, teachers, school administrators, and children) have the same point of reference for the plan. Don’t be afraid to iterate! If after a week or more you don’t see any progress, try another approach and document the outcome—there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to child development and behavior guidance.

If we set our intentions on understanding children’s needs and collaborating to guide their development, if we rely upon research for our decision-making, and if we remain open to iteration, we can be the supersleuths all children deserve.

Molly BreenMolly Breen, M.A., ECE, has worked with kids and families for nearly two decades as an educator. A believer in lifelong learning, her heart is in early childhood, where the seeds of curiosity, character, and community are planted. Through her work with children as a practitioner in the classroom, Molly has developed broad expertise in curriculum development and instruction, behavior guidance, and social-emotional learning. In her role as a program director, she has created innovative approaches to professional and program development, family engagement, and community outreach. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and three kids.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Enter to Win the Teens and the Law Series!

Enter to Win the Teens & the Law SeriesThis month, we’re giving away the Teens & the Law series. These three books familiarize young readers with our legal system, dispel myths and mysteries, and show that the law is by and for the people—including teens. One lucky reader will win:

To Enter: Leave a comment below describing how you would use these books.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s five chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, March 22, 2019.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around March 25, 2019, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. Winners must be US residents, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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