Community Circles

Community Circles can be a powerful tool to establish trust, connection, and inclusivity as a norm in your classroom

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Grade level: Adaptable for any grade level! (K-12)

Overview: 

When I was a Theatre teacher, other classroom teachers were always asking me for advice on some activities to help build a sense of community in their classrooms.  Community circles quickly became a favorite.  Reserve 5-10 minutes (depending on class size) at the beginning of class.  You should reserve this time at least once a week in your classes.  These circles can be designed to check in with students, establish trust, develop relationships, and celebrate individuality.  They also create a regularly established space for all students to express their needs in a creative way.  

Here's how to set it up: 

1. Norms!

 Establish some strong norms for your community circles.  These norms should really place an emphasis on trust.  Make sure to be consistent in holding all students accountable to these norms to establish a safe space.  

2. Circle up! 

 (I always loved using music as a cue that it was time to circle up, but this is optional)

3. Time to share! 

Generate some prompts: 

  • Prepare a few low lift prompts to check in with your students during this time.  They should start relatively low stakes until students become comfortable with the process.  I've suggested a few simple prompts you can use.  Get creative with these...some prompts can be physical responses and others can be verbal! Have fun! Over time, identify what it is exactly that you want to check in with students about and generate prompts that will require students to reflect on this.  (For example, "When I think about our upcoming exam, it makes me feel ____)
    • Suggested prompts:
      • Express your current mood in a sound and motion...
      • My favorite super hero is ____ and if I could have any super power it would be _____
      • A song that reflects how I'm feeling about this class
      • My dream job is ____ because ____
  • Note:  Eventually, remove yourself as the facilitator.  Encourage students to step into the role of facilitator and lead the circles. It's a great opportunity for students to grow as leaders!


Sources for further inspiration: 

Community Circles are also a tool in Restorative Justice.  Are you interested in learning more about Restorative Justice Circles? Here's a pretty sweet PDF from San Francisco Unified School District's Healthier SF.

Feeling creative?  Here are some fun Drama Games you can use during your Community Circle from  the Drama Toolkit. Great online resource!


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