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Resource Spotlight: Restorative Practices

By Nick Kier, M.A.T., Daria Lorio-Barsten, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, and Kara McCulloch, M.S.

In the January 2019 edition of Link Lines, we addressed the impact of trauma on students and briefly discussed some examples of trauma-informed practices.  We also promised future articles that would provide additional information and resources for implementing these practices. This is one of those articles.

Restorative Practices

One promising option for supporting students who have experienced trauma is implementation of restorative practices.  Restorative practices move away from punitive procedures, focusing instead on understanding the cause of harmful decisions and underlining the healing relationships (Fogarty & Hardiman, 2016). As such, K-12 restorative practices focus on building a sense of community (High, 2017; Mansfield, Fowler, & Rainbolt, 2018; Pavelka, 2013; Ryan & Rudy, 2015). Core values for restorative practices include voluntary participation, transformation, inclusiveness, empowerment, empathy, respect, personal accountability, healing, fairness, communication, honesty, and problem-solving (Judice, 2018).

Implementation of restorative practices is increasing in K-12 settings, ranging from informal to formal practices (Fogarty & Hardiman, 2016). The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP; 2019) describes a continuum of restorative practices. Check out the IIRP website for a host of resources – from explanations of the foundations of restorative practices and their rationale, to definitions of practices and recommendations for their uses. Below, we will look at some of these practices.

Affective Statements

The continuum starts with the informal practice of using affective statements (IIRP, 2019). Affective statements communicate feelings and prompt people to reflect on the impact their behavior had on others (IIRP, 2019).

Costello, Wachtel, and Wachtel (2009) described affective statements as simply another way to express your feelings, yet they help “foster an immediate change in the dynamic between teacher and student” (p. 12).  When teachers use affective statements, students develop empathy and build a more positive image of the teacher, thus strengthening student-teacher relationship (Costello et al., 2009).

Teachers can start practicing affective statements in the classroom through structuring their sentences using the following model: When  __________ [list specific action], I felt________ [feeling] because____________ [rationale]. The order of the components matters less than including all of them within the statement(s).  This frame models for students how to express emotions respectfully, and explains the direct impact of the behavior. Costello and colleagues (2009) illustrated the model with the following examples of both positive and negative behaviors: “It was a joy for me to see the way you developed that project” (p. 13).  “While you guys might not like English class, I work very hard to make this class interesting [rationale].  I don’t think it’s fair for you to say that assignments are “stupid” without even giving them a chance [behavior], and it hurts my feelings [feeling].  I’d like you to make a commitment to not do that anymore” (p. 15).

Additional examples of affective statements that teachers may use:

  • “I really appreciate that you used your self-management strategies because it shows that we can work together to support your success.”
  • “I felt so happy when you helped Sally pick up the books she dropped because it showed me that you are a great friend and a member of our classroom community.”
  • “When you text on your phone while I am talking to you, I feel disrespected and frustrated because I value your contributions and thoughts.”
  • “When you tease your peers about their appearances, I feel disheartened and upset because I worry that others will not want to be friends with you.”
  • “When you tear up the work I provided, I feel concerned and sad because it prevents you from learning harder skills that will help you grow. I know how successful you can be in this class. If you feel frustrated, how can you communicate that differently?”

Key aspects of delivering affective statements:

  • Use positive affective statements frequently.
  • Remain respectful.
  • Deliver statements as privately as possible.
  • Focus on describing the student’s specific behavior rather than any value judgments or perceptions of the student’s motivation.

Additional Resources From the T/TAC W&M Lending Library

The TTAC William and Mary Lending Library has several resources to support teachers and administrators interested in restorative practices.  Below, we provide brief descriptions of each.

Gardner, T. (2016). Discipline over punishment: Successes and struggles with restorative justice in schools. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

In this account of a teacher and administrator implementing restorative practices, the author describes several students’ experiences working through restorative justice structures. Appendices include examples of reflection forms, training schedules, and other resources to aid initial implementation of restorative practices.  Appropriate for schools interested in initial implementation of restorative practice structures and/or teachers interested in trying a few specific practices in their classrooms. (148 pages)

Thorsborne, M., & Blood, P. (2013). Implementing restorative practices in schools: A practical guide to transforming school communities. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.

This how-to guide for organizational change in schools as a means of implementing restorative practices is intended for educational leaders who are just beginning to review restorative practices, or those ready to implement school structures necessary for restorative practices to be effective.  The supporting research and the philosophy of restorative practices are provided, as well as a step-by-step process for organizational change. Appendices include templates for assessing readiness for change and multiple tools to support school climate transformation.  The book does not include instructions, templates, etc., of how to implement specific restorative practices and, therefore, would not be particularly helpful for teachers interested in implementing a few practices in their classrooms. (232 pages)

Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practices handbook for teachers, disciplinarians, and administrators: Building a culture of community in schools. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices.

This text starts with a description of several of the common restorative practices (e.g., restorative conferences/circles, affective questions/statements), followed by an explanation of how these practices fit into an overall school discipline program.  Finally, the authors describe the role of administrators in school change. Descriptions of the various practices are brief and easy to understand and envision in a school. The text does not include any templates for implementation, but could still be a great resource for teachers interested in implementing some restorative practices in their classrooms as well as for administrators focused on whole-school implementation.  (110 pages)

Claassen, R. H., & Claassen, R. (2015). Making things right: Activities that teach restorative justice, conflict resolution, mediation, and discipline that restores. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

This text includes 32 activities designed to train students to be mediators and peacemakers in their schools and homes, train students to take part in restorative justice/discipline structures in classrooms, or train parents to use constructive conflict management strategies in their homes.  Each activity is described in a full lesson plan, including handouts and slides/transparencies. Participants are encouraged to complete the activities in order. (149 pages)

Amstutz, L. S., & Mullet, J. H. (2015). The little book of restorative discipline for schools: Teaching responsibility; creating caring climates. New York, NY: Good Books.

This text offers a brief introduction of restorative practice to practitioners interested in shifting towards more restorative discipline in their schools and/or classrooms.  The values and principles of restorative justice are presented, followed by brief (generally less than one page) descriptions of specific practices and training considerations.  Finally, case studies of schools or teachers implementing restorative practices are presented to provide the reader with options for implementation. This book is a good choice for someone who is interested in restorative practices, but does not yet know much about them. (88 pages).


Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practices handbook for teachers, disciplinarians, and administrators: Building a culture of community in schools. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Fogarty, J., & Hardiman, K. (2016).  Restoration over criminalization. Pittsburgh, PA: A+ Schools.

High, A. J. (2017). Using restorative practices to teach and uphold dignity in an American school district. McGill Journal of Education, 52(2), 525–534.

International Institute for Restorative Practices. (2019). Defining restorative. Retrieved from

Judice, K. (2018). Implementing restorative justice in Texas’ juvenile justice system. Retrieved from

Mansfield, K. C., Fowler, B., & Rainbolt, S. (2018). The potential of restorative practices to ameliorate discipline gaps: The story of one high school’s leadership team. Educational Administration Quarterly, 54(2), 303–323.

Pavelka, S. (2013). Practices and policies for implementing restorative justice within schools. Prevention Researcher, 20(1), 15–17.

Ryan, T. G., & Ruddy, S. (2015). Restorative justice: A changing community response. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(2), 253–262.

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