Mornings in Judith Lowe's grade four class at Canyon Heights Elementary School look a little different than that of a traditional elementary class. Desks are pushed to the sides of the room and in the centre of the room, students sit in a circle facing one-another.
"I'm a nine because my cousins from Florida are coming to stay with us soon, which will be fun," says one student.
"I'm a four because I didn't sleep well last night," says another.
One-by-one, students ground themselves for the day by expressing how they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. Sitting quietly and attentively, the students make eye contact with each other and demonstrate support for their peers. The daily activity is known as community circle, and it is something Lowe does with her students to enable them to connect with each other, to provide herself an opportunity to connect with her students, and to allow students to ready themselves for the day.
"Everybody is a valued member of our classroom community and everybody works hard to work together to do the best we can do for ourselves in the community and the best we can do for our school community," said Lowe.
Lowe sees great value in the community circle approach because she believes it provides her students an opportunity to self-reflect and connect their actions to the broader class, school and wider communities they belong to. It also makes her students closer to one-another and it provides her an opportunity to connect with each one of them every day. Circle is also used at other times in the day if conflicts arise in the classroom that need to be resolved.
"I like community circle because it's fun to find out what other people are excited about," said Tyson, a student.
"I like to share," said Donna, a student.
Students share their happy things such as sports tournaments they took part it, but they also share sad things such as an ill family member.
"I find I really get to know my students well," said Lowe.
"What I really like about community circle is that it gives you an opportunity to hear from every child, every day; whereas otherwise as a busy teacher you might not get to," said Susannah Howick, Principal, Canyon Heights Elementary.