I’m obsessed with circles. It’s true. When I started having my students sit in a circle my teaching changed and learning increased.
What? Just a circle on the rug?
I’m literally talking about just changing from having students sit in rows to sitting in a circle. That being said, I’ve always had rectangular carpets in my classroom so we always sat in a rectangular-ish oval… it still works.
So, let me make you a promise….
When students sit in a circle everyone is essential. Everyone is important to the integrity of the circle. If just one person is too far ahead or behind it is no longer a circle. But why does this matter? If we want to build a strong, student-centered classroom community we have to value each member. A circle shows students what we mean when we say our class is a “community”.
Students can see each other. Everyone in a circle is seen. When students can see each person they can hold each other accountable to the norms, to learning. Students can listen and give eye contact because everyone in the circle can been seen. One of my favorite parts of learning in a circle is students can acknowledge one another. Signals in response to something a student says have more meaning if everyone can see it. Eye contact can connect breathe life into a less confident learners. Being seen is one of the best ways we can honor one another and we can do that best when we learn in a circle.
Students can call on one another. In my classroom during a discussion students led by calling on each other. They ask for help. They answer each others questions. They choose the next speaker. I believe that whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning. So, I teach them sentence stems, norms, and active listening. Then, I listen carefully and facilitate as needed. I pop in an essential question to keep the discourse on track.
Circles take the focus off me. I do not want students to leave my classroom thinking I gave them what they know, but instead that they worked hard to learn what they know. When students sit in a circle they are positioned to work together. By default they aren’t looking at me in rows waiting for me to tell them what to do or for the answers. Have you ever heard of power poses? Well basically its when you posture your body in certain ways to give yourself a confidence boost… that’s a circle. Its a power pose for learning.
I suggest you start with thinking about norms. What will your students need to do to work well together in a circle? Once you’ve formed a list of norms, make a plan for how you’ll teach them.
Make space in your space to meet together in a circle. For me, that means sitting around the edge of our carpet. If could mean sitting in a circle of chair or standing 6 feet apart on the playground in a circle.
Consider times in your day that you can transform from sitting in desks or in rows to sitting in a circle. Consider how you can shift to focus from yourself to the collective knowledge of the circle.
Will you try it?
If you give this a try in your classroom PLEASE share with me how it goes.
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