Students often need space to discuss the issues that face them on their developmental journey as they grapple with a range of emotions, navigate peer challenges, and consider their place in the world. No matter the content area, teachers can support productive whole-class discussions by establishing a practice of Class Circles or Class Council. In Class Council or Class Circle, students sit in a circle, pass around a talking piece, and respond to questions posed by the teacher. This community-building practice can help students address hypothetical conflicts in a safe space, explore encounters and moments that stem from class conflict, and reflect on shared and personal experiences.
Teachers can also use circles for academic content by eliciting prior knowledge when launching a unit or reflecting on a new class practice. As students become comfortable with Class Council or Class Circle, teachers can gradually release control of the circle to students, identifying peer leaders who eventually facilitate the circle and contribute topics and questions.