Building Community and Deepening Learning Through Picture Books: A Restorative Justice Approach

At the recent RJ World Online conference, Carmen Zeisler, Director of the ESSDACK Learning Centers, delivered a powerful presentation on using picture books to build circles and community in the classroom. With her expertise in educational consulting and coaching, as well as her passion for creating a strong reading culture, Carmen shared valuable insights on how to engage students deeply in their learning through circle discussions.

The presentation began with Carmen introducing herself as a co-founding member of the ESDACK Resilience Team and highlighting her experience leading a Redesign process through Project-Based Learning at the Learning Centers. She emphasized her love for collaborating with teachers on Trauma-Informed practices and highlighted her role in leading The Restorative Justice in Schools effort.

Carmen’s enthusiasm for integrating technology tools into the elementary classroom was evident when she mentioned some of her favorite platforms such as Seesaw, Flipgrid, and Classkick. As an experienced consultant and coach, she has supported numerous teachers in implementing these new technologies effectively.

However, it was clear that Carmen’s true passion lies in building relationships with both students and teachers. By establishing strong connections with them first, she can then ask powerful questions that help ignite their passions. This approach is especially crucial when using picture books to create meaningful discussions around literature.

Using the Restorative Justice in Education framework of community-building circles, Carmen explained how this approach can benefit classrooms by fostering deeper connections among students while also enhancing their understanding of literature. She stressed that it is essential for educators to create spaces where students feel safe to share their thoughts and emotions openly.

During the presentation, participants had an opportunity to experience firsthand how community-building circles work by engaging in one themselves. They were able to witness how this process encourages introspection about personal feelings while also promoting empathy towards others’ experiences within a story.

Carmen provided practical strategies for implementing community-building circles in the classroom. She emphasized the importance of asking open-ended questions and actively listening to students’ responses. By creating a space where everyone’s voice is valued, teachers can cultivate an inclusive learning environment that encourages deeper engagement with literature.

One of the highlights of Carmen’s presentation was her emphasis on using picture books as a tool to make science and social studies content areas come alive for students. By integrating these subject matters into circle discussions, educators can help students connect more deeply with their learning and develop a love for reading.

As the presentation concluded, participants walked away not only understanding the process of community-building circles but also armed with practical support ready to implement in their classrooms immediately. Carmen’s passion for building relationships and fostering meaningful discussions around literature was contagious, leaving attendees inspired and motivated to create transformative experiences for their students.

In conclusion, Carmen Zeisler’s presentation at RJ World Online highlighted the power of using picture books to build circles and community in the classroom through a Restorative Justice approach. Her expertise as an educational consultant/coach combined with her passion for creating strong reading cultures made this session invaluable for educators seeking innovative ways to engage students deeply in their learning while fostering connections within their classroom communities.