Circle Forward Revised Edition 2020

Building a Restorative School Community

By Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Pranis

Living Justice PressSoftcover, spiral-bound, 528 pp., ISBN 978-1-937141-19-6, publication 2020



In response to concerns that have been emerging since the initial publishing of Circle Forward, Living Justice Press has issued a revised edition which includes a new module that addresses the need for adults within school communities to address issues of race, equity, and justice among themselves. Of course, we strongly encourage educators to thoughtfully open conversations about race with students, and in the module “Important but Difficult Conversations,” we offer several Circles to help adults talk about race with students. However, the more we have witnessed the work of bringing restorative justice to schools, the more we have understood the urgent obligation for adults to talk about race together—even before they engage students. When the adults become more comfortable talking about race with each other, they will carry these experiences and the awareness gained from them into their conversations about race and racism with youth.

Circle Forward is a resource guide designed to help teachers, administrators, students and parents incorporate the practice of Circles into the everyday life of the school community.  This resource guide offers comprehensive step–by-step instructions for how to plan, facilitate and implement the Circle for a variety of purposes within the school environment.  It describes the basic process, essential elements and a step-by-step guide for how to organize, plan, and lead Circles. It also provides over one hundred specific lesson plans and ideas for the application of Circles in the following areas of school life:

•    Learning and establishing a Circle practice
•    Establishing and affirming community norms
•    Teaching and learning in Circle
•    Building connection and community
•    Promoting social-emotional skills
•    Facilitating important but difficult conversations
•    Working together as adults
•    Engaging parents and the wider community
•    Developing students as leaders in peer Circles
•    Using Circles for restorative discipline


I am very grateful to Kay and Carolyn for their commitment to creating healthy communities for all young people, for their wisdom, and for their generosity. I cannot wait to share this wisdom with our schools—the teachers, administrators, students and their families, student support staff, educational assistants, volunteers, cooks, janitors, bus drivers, and school board members. This book is such a gift!

Nancy Riestenberg, author of Circle in the Square, School Climate Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

In this time of great opportunity within our schools, Dreams are coming true … my first gaze at Circle Forward began a wave of chills … have you ever wondered how to bring more SOUL into our schools? Depth, Purpose, and Connection … wonder no more… this book is sacred and brings us to a holy place … we are seen and heard in Peacemaking Circles … slowly we Trust … Circle Forward creates the feeling of being Home! An absolutely amazing, loving GIFT to us all … deep gratitude to Kay and Carolyn for this incredible Labor of Love.

Jamie Williams, The Restorative Way: Circle Training for Schools, Minneapolis, Minnesota

It takes skill to author a book that is both inspiring and practical. Kay and Carolyn provide a strong theoretical foundation for Circles and include extensive information about how teachers might utilize Circles in their schools and classrooms. The modules containing models for various types of Circles are extremely helpful and the appendix contains so many valuable resources. As a teacher educator looking to assist teachers as they develop both the knowledge and skills needed to effectively facilitate Circle processes, I am so excited about this book.

Kathy Evans, Assistant Professor of Education, Eastern Mennonite University, active in furthering Restorative Justice in Education (RJE), Harrisonburg, Virginia

As a former schoolteacher and school administrator, I see this book adding positively to literature being written on this topic. You have given our teachers practical methods for using Circles in their classrooms and for creating an Ecosystem of Care in schools. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our educators!—

— Robert Spicer, Restorative Justice Consultant and Community Activist: Restorative Strategies, Chicago, Illinois

Across a range of social institutions, people are looking for new ways forward to address growing concerns, such as bullying and alienation, within institutional cultures. Circle Forward offers a framework and process to address these concerns within schools, based on a relational paradigm nested in the human need for belonging, power, and respect. This book offers practical guidelines for building community, teaching social and emotional learning, and facilitating difficult conversations for all members of the school community—administrators, teachers, staff, students, and parents. It offers clear hope for all to find a place to belong within their own school community.

Brenda Morrison, Director of the Centre for Restorative Justice at Simon Fraser University and Professor of Criminology, Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia

Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Pranis, leading voices in the Circle practice, have combined their expertise and resources to publish a book that is practical, accessible and inspiring for anyone, whether lay or professional, who wants a better understanding of the Circle process, especially in the school environment.

This guide provides a succinct, step-by-step description of how to facilitate many different kinds of Circles, ranging from friendship and bereavement to gratitude and team-building Circles. Rich and succinct, these model Circles provide just enough detail to grasp the concept, but not too much to be overwhelming.

The authors emphasize the importance of strong peer-to-peer and student-adult relationships built in Circles within the school community to help curb disciplinary issues. When things do go wrong, however, they offer comprehensive, restorative Circle templates for addressing the harm that has been caused and restoring harmony to those involved within and outside the school environment.

An added bonus are the appendices, which are filled with additional prompting questions for deep discussions; opening and closing readings and activities; inspirational quotes and stories; and meditation and movement exercises.

This book … is a must-read for those who are already in the field facilitating Circles, those who want to begin this journey, and those who are just curious. Its style of presentation and writing establishes the reverent tone of the Circle—one grounded in compassion and understanding—which leaves the reader with an uplifted spirit, knowing that change is possible when people care.

Ann Schumacher, Ph.D., Circle Keeper and Mediator, Detroit, Michigan

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