Celebrating: Circle Time

Every year I play with the physical space of my classroom. Moving desks, chairs. Trying to create new areas for children to find quiet, thoughtful moments as well as places to collaborate. Finding what fits the needs of every child takes equal parts kid watching, experimentation and questioning.

When we set kids up to do something and watch, so much is revealed. In January, I changed our morning routine to start the day with a circle question. Watching how students negotiated the circle was fascinating.  Some kiddos chose to sink back behind, while others quickly found their spot. That led to me making the circle space bigger. Still, with ample room, some found a way to be behind the circle. Slowly, those students are finding their space in, outside the circle.

I had discounted this kind of work for upper elementary students. Thought they were too old for this. Oh. So. Not. So.

Questions range from the silly to the serious. They are specific and ambiguous. Student and teacher-generated. Written on the board next to the agenda, there is no verbal explanation. Interpretation is up to the responder. The only rule: one person speaks their mind at a time, and all others listen. Silent approvals are welcome, but verbal responses are not allowed. (A challenge for my very verbose students.)

This week’s questions:
If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?
What was the weirdest place you’ve ever been?
Where is your favorite place to read in the classroom?
What do you prefer pen or pencil?
What do you wonder about our classroom?

You can probably guess which ones came from students. All gave me insight and direction.

The last question on the list was on Friday. That day students walked into a room that had been changed significantly. About half of the tables had been lowered to the ground. Two tables had been removed, allowing more space in the back of the room. I wanted their reactions, questions, and thoughts. And as usual, unexpected ideas were voiced. Two unrelated to the question, all valuable to me. Views and opinions that will change my approach and course of instruction.

This year, the daily circle question is time students look forward to.  It has led to better listening and has pulled students into the community. Our morning circle has opened doors to instruction and deeper understanding of each other. But, interestingly, I have ended up being the biggest learner.

This week I celebrate the art of wonder, my students’ unrelenting questions and another day to try to answer them.

Thank you, Ruth, for the weekly call to celebrate. Find more here at Ruth Ayers Writes.

7 thoughts on “Celebrating: Circle Time

  1. Encouraging the community to share helps them learn things they might never ask. This sounds just great, Julieanne, and yes, the teacher learns much, too.

  2. I love this circle community you created. These students are fortunate to have a place to share their opinions – not all kids get this! Bravo!

  3. Student choice and voice are two key ingredients in developing student agency. The physical space should never be underestimated as an influence on learning. Your post shows that you know what is important for student learning and you thoughtfully create the learning environment in your class.

  4. A great celebration! There’s so much potential with circles and circle questions as a routine in the day. Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the classroom circle will cause ripples in each student’s life that will continue pass the point that we can see. We truly touch the future when we teach.

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