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Closing With Connection: Finding Space for Reflection at the End

By Kerrick Goodman-Lucker, Curriculum Manager

Think about a transformative experience you have had with a group. What was it like to end that experience? What helped you bring the valuable lessons you had with your group into your everyday life?  

As many of our teen groups and B-Mitzvah groups’ time together ends for the year, group leaders may be looking for a way to imbue the final sessions with a sense of reflection and connection—to sum up all the transformation the group has been doing together throughout the year. Reflection allows learners to internalize the parts of their experience that will go on to change their thoughts, beliefs, and choices in the future. It is a process of developing understanding—and celebrating! —the What, So What, and Now What of their experience. 

What did we just do?

So what was so important about it?

Now what will I do with it?

How best to create a container for this reflection will depend on your group’s mood and dynamics. A boisterous group might appreciate a celebration with games, while a quieter group might appreciate the chance to share in pairs. Here are some considerations that will help you to develop a memorable closing.

Eight people's hands joined together in the center

Photo by Hannah Busing

In closing with connection, you will be creating a container for your learners to have their own process. To create a container means to establish boundaries and a form for the experience but allow the content to arise organically from the participants. This could be done in a special closing session, if time allows, or as part of another planned session. 

Containers can make space for a private experience, an experience in pairs or smaller groups, or for the whole group together. An individual activity can allow for rich and uninhibited reflection for people who struggle to open up to others, while a pair or small group setting can help learners go beyond the thoughts they would have on their own. A whole group session brings a sense of unity and closure. 

Here are several activity ideas that may help you as you plan: 

1. Quick Pair-Share

In this activity, pair learners together or allow them to pair up. Instruct them to share freely about what they liked, what they learned, and what they felt was challenging over the course of the program. (You might use the framework of “rose, thorn, and fruit” for something they enjoyed, something they were challenged by, and something they learned, or the “What, So What, and Now What” framework described above.) Then have them think of one word to sum up and invite them to share that word with the whole group.

2. Individual Reflection

Offer the following text for their contemplation:

Shabbat Meals and Melaveh Malka / The Significance of Melaveh Malka  

אמרו חכמים, שמצווה לסדר שולחן במוצאי שבת לסעודת ‘מלווה מלכה’, כדי לכבד את השבת בצאתה (שבת קיט, ב). כמו אדם שנפרד מאורח יקר ואהוב, שקשה עליו פרידתו, והוא הולך עמו כברת דרך ארוכה כדי לשהות עוד במחיצתו, כך צריך לנהוג עם השבת, שלמרות שהיא כבר נסתיימה, אנו ממשיכים להתבשם ולהתענג מקדושתה.

The Sages state that it is a mitzvah to set the table on Saturday night for the melaveh malka (lit. “accompanying the queen”) meal, with which we honor Shabbat at its departure (Shabbat 119b). When one must say goodbye to a dear and beloved guest whom he does not want to leave, he escorts him a distance in order to spend just a bit more time with him. So too, we must escort Shabbat at its departure. Despite the fact that it is over, we continue to savor and delight in its holiness.
Peninei Halakhah, Shabbat 7:7

ASK: 
  • What is it from this program that you are saying goodbye to?  
  • What do you continue to savor?  
  • What will you want to stay with you for a little distance? Invite the learners to reflect on these questions and write or draw their reflections, which will remain private. 

3. Reflection Circle

Have each person bring to the last session a small object of meaning to them. At the time of the reflection, invite them to put their objects into the middle of the circle. Go around the circle and have each participant explain the meaning of their object and why it is important to them. Then have them say what they have put into the group over the course of the program, and what they are taking away from it. Have the following prompt written where it can be seen:  

The object you chose can represent something—an experience, a feeling, a thought—you brought into this circle today. What knowledge, feeling, belief, or experience have you brought into the group during this program? What new experience, knowledge, feeling, or belief will you bring out with you? 

The group will need some time for reflection prior to sharing. It will help if you can model for them. You may wish to invite the group to say something in affirmation after each share. For example, the person sharing says, “dibarti” (I have spoken) and the people listening say, “shamati” (I have heard). This could be used to affirm and recognize what each person offers to the group and what they receive from it.  

Choose the activity that suits your group’s mood and preferences best, and remember to have fun with it! 

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