Before beginning any new routine in your classroom, it’s important to establish the ground rules. How will students participate? What is expected of them? When and how often will the new routine take place? When the routine asks students to talk about themselves, the ground rules become even more important. Requesting vulnerability from your students must come with the security that you are there to mediate the discussion and protect them.
Surely you have already established routines for respecting the different opinions in your classroom. Maybe you have an object students are given which signals their turn to talk or you ask them to jump in, not over.
Be sure to take the time to lay out the ground rules for these conversation starters. Ask your students to tell you what rules would help them to feel safe. And, always explain to them why you are asking them to complete a task. In this case, tell them that you are leading them through a journey of learning about themselves, of self-awareness.
Remember to refresh their memories every so often about the rules that they all agreed to. I like to write down the class rules on a poster and ask students to sign as a pledge of their intent to honor the rules.
What strategies work in your classroom? What makes your students feel safe?