I realized the other day that I want all meetings and conversations to happen in a circle. I tried to talk to my advisory while they were sitting in chairs looking up at me and it just felt wrong. I quickly had them get up and stand with me in a circle. There is something powerful about the structure of the circle that I can’t quite explain. But, I’m going to try anyway. Here is some of the magic that the standing circle structure brings to the classroom.
Stronger Classroom Management- The circle allows me to see everyone in my class clearly. Students cannot hide in their desks or look at their phones or do other homework.
Gauge comprehension- Since I can see everyone, I can tell whether they are understanding or not based on their facial expressions and body language. This also helps with classroom management because I’m able to adjust if what I’m doing is too difficult (or too simple), which is usually the biggest cause of problems.
100% Target Language and Formative Assessment- In the circle, I’m able to hear everyone. It becomes easier to be a warm demander who doesn’t allow English in the classroom and to actually follow-up when I hear it. The other plus side of being able to hear everyone is that every class becomes a formative assessment in which I’m hearing the students as they use the language.
Participation & Student Engagement- Students cannot bring anything with them to the circle which helps them to focus on the tasks of the circle. They also cannot fade into the background because we are all facing one another and accountable to one another. Once students realize they can’t fight this, we’ve found that they tend to embrace the experience with high engagement.
Community & Communication– The circle demonstrates community and equality. I’ve found that by standing as a circle daily, the circle actually creates community. We are close together, looking at each other, listening to each other. The circle brings us together as a learning community which allows us to communicate effectively.
Teacher- The teacher is a part of the circle. She becomes a guide, facilitating the language acquisition journey instead of simply someone in front of the class imparting knowledge.
Movement- The circle allows for fluid movement, groupings and pairings for a variety of interactions. The class comes in and out of the circle throughout the class, so it provides a structure and organization for everything we do.
It’s become clear to me that the first step is the circle. (Well, I guess moving the desks out of the way to form a circle is really first). There is something about the structure of the circle itself that is powerful and allows the rest of the things we do to work well. Essentially, The circle is powerful because the people in the circle can’t hide or check-out. Yes, it can make people feel uncomfortable, exposed and vulnerable. But, as the community builds; the circle becomes a safe space for communication, risk taking, and high student engagement.