One of my favorite Responsive Classroom philosophies is the “You break it…You fix it,” concept, also known as “Apology of Action.”“Apology of Action” is featured in The First Six Weeks of School resource book and essentially, encourages students to not only apologize through words, but through actions. After all, isn’t that a LIFE SKILL as well? There are MANY mistakes and situations in life where we might cause harm to others, and “I’m sorry” simply isn’t enough to fix the mistake. During the school day, it might happen in the classroom, on the playground, or in the lunchroom, but it also might happen at home.
In fact, just the other day, my four year old dropped an economy-sized container of blueberries ALL OVER THE FLOOR of the grocery store. I’m not exaggerating a bit when I say that there were approximately 4 billion of them on the floor. Now, was it an accident? Yes. Was I mad? Not really. But did “I’m sorry” fix the mistake? Absolutely NOT. So what did we do? I said, “Well, Ellie, how can we fix it?” and we proceeded to pick up ALL the blueberries that we could before the store clerk arrived with a mop.
“Apology of Action” also aligns beautifully with “Logical Consequences” and Jim Faye’s “Love and Logic” approach in the classroom. As you can see, it doubles as an excellent parenting go-to strategy and not just a teaching philosophy!
While this concept should be introduced at the very beginning of the school year, it is not simply a one-shot cute activity, and should be embraced and referred to as much as possible. You’ll know that your work is done when you watch them apologize through actions without even being reminded! I can remember one such time on the playground when I saw one of my first graders apologize through action to another classmate without my having to step in, and it was MAGICAL!
So here’s how to get started!
To introduce the concept, I always read aloud one of my all time faves for Back to School, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes. Afterwards, we hold a class discussion about how Lilly made a mistake with her teacher, but “fixed” it through her actions, not only by saying, “I’m sorry.”
I also take this time to share some personal stories about how me or others in my life have make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings, but fixed it through meaningful actions. (i.e. the blueberry story)
Then, I ask students to brainstorm some actions that might happen in the classroom that might cause harm or hurt feelings, and some ways to fix it through actions.
Here are some ideas that they usually come up with:
-Fixing something that has been broken or replacing it
-Writing a note of apology
-Giving a kind touch such as a hug
-Drawing a picture to show apology
-Asking them to play
–Asking, “How can I help” or “How can I make it better?”
(Responses will vary depending on the age level of your class.)
I compile student responses on the chart as shown above, and then pick the top 5 or 6 to record on a poster to display in our classroom.
Then comes the students’ independent part:
I have students create their own representations of “You Break it…You Fix it” with the templates shown above. I usually display the colorful hearts around the poster with strategies so that they may refer to them all year long. You may also choose to compile student activities into a class book to place in a relevant area of the classroom.
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