This topic contains 23 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by  Courtney L 2 months, 1 week ago.

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    Elizabeth Eagle

    I have tried this approach before, and always adapt a circle based conversation depending on the group of students. I do find it difficult to have everyone participate, especially if a student doesn’t feel comfortable and too much on the spot. I love the idea and do plan this upcoming school year to try more intimate conversations and critiques in this manner; but I feel that I can’t “force” a student to share.


    Circle pedagogy, as a feminist art teaching methodology used and discussed by Judy Chicago, involves the students’ voices (each is given time to speak and expected to participate) rather than students circle around for a teacher demonstration, or to hear the teacher read a story, or the teacher to circulate around the room.


    Judy Chicago

    It has been interesting to me to read the comments by different teachers in terms of their efforts to use a circle pedagogy. One of the critical elements is the use of silence; that is, when a student doesn’t speak up immediately when it is his or her turn, teachers often step in because they are uncomfortable with silence. But silence can be useful as it can give hesitant students time to work up the courage to speak. Most students learn quickly that teachers will (unfortunately) fill up all available space and use that knowledge to avoid taking the risk of speaking up (risky because many students are afraid of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing). All the more reason for teachers to learn not to be afraid of silence and to see it as a pause, a moment for reflection, a quiet time rather than a void to be immediately filled.


    Caroline Coady

    As a student, I’ve been involved with circle activities just like this throughout my life. As someone who grew up shy and is only just learning to open up, this kind of group activity always made me nervous. The “pass” was my best friend, but only calmed my nerves until it was finally my turn to speak.

    Looking back now, I realize that by the end of the activity, I had heard and learned so much about the others participating. I had even realized that talking in front of others wasn’t so bad after all, especially when we were all in the same vulnerable state of displaying body language. Of course, as a child, I would forget this feeling by the time it was used again.

    For this kind of activity, it’s definitely important to remember that some students may not feel comfortable speaking. Perhaps on the first day or two, allowing them to simply listen could help them slowly get more comfortable. However, I do think it’s a great method to get students to share things with each other that they typically wouldn’t if they were in a normal classroom setting and the teacher was asking for volunteers. Having people across from and on either side of you doesn’t really leave you with the option to not include yourself; you don’t have a choice. And once you see others participating, it’s much easier to share your own feelings and opinions.



    I have not tried this approach, I teach younger students so sometimes discussions are difficult to maneuver, they take specific jobs and direction because we are building the skills needed for discussion later in life however, thinking about how to implement this into a classroom of older students and thinking back to my own time in a classroom I see pros and cons to the circle. Pros would include teaching students to listen; the circle really makes students sit and listen to those in the circle. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in thinking about what we want to say next that we forget to listen. The circle allows for students to pay attention to body language, which is so important when thinking about how to talk with people no matter the subject matter. Having everyone participate seems to me to hit that line of pro and con. It stands as a pro because we all have ideas and opinions that are valuable to a discussion. We all bring a piece of importance to the table. I can also see it as a con because I was the kind of student that did not like to participate. Not because I was paying attention but because I was afraid and shy. I feel the force of making everyone say something becomes distracting for those students that are shy, I remember knowing that I had to speak made it incredibly more stressful and I wasn’t listening as much because I was more concerned with what I was going to say. But this is something that depends on the student; it depends on the environment created in the classroom. I think it could be a very interesting, very rewarding experience for all those involved. I wish I could facilitate it or watch it be done. I think discussions are a vital part of the curriculum that I find students struggle with more and more.



    This year my school has begun to implement “Morning Meetings”. Every teacher is expected to try out a different greeting each time they teach a lesson. I quickly decided that the best way to implement this was in a circle discussion. We take the time to greet each student and say good morning and then they all share at least one thing that they did since the last time they saw me that they were excited about. I have found that the discussions following the greeting are more lively because the students feel like they each have their own voice already. Some of the challenges I face is the class size. When you have a circle of 28 students, the distance between one side of the circle from the other is significant. I think that it is harder for students to focus on the speakers because of this. My students are often shy about speaking to large groups and speak quietly. It’s almost as if the students need to be taught the fundamentals of public speaking before they can efficiently participate in the circle method.


    Kerry R

    I have hosted participatory art workshops for moms and by intention we set up in a circle so that it fosters open and equal dialogue. It allows that participants feel comfortable and open to offer comments and sharing. Also, people can see what others are working on for inspiration and to feel like they are part of the spirit of the group. One major benefit of the circle set up is that it feels so casual and communal. The moms talk about their kids and share stories as they continue to work on projects together. No one ever has their back to each other or the art project. I always notices a stronger bond at the end of these sessions than when they start because all are welcome in the circle.


    Hello Shelby,
    In looking at your questions, I recommend that your classes could watch Evoke/Invoke/Provoke–Story Behind Evoke/Invoke/Provoke: “Paula, Surviving the Fourth Dimension” [clip 7 on the page] to hear how Paula works through the processes of making her art, finding her content, and her personal voice.

    Shelby: regarding the circle

    I understand your concerns that you shared but I think you may have missed one valuable point—the opportunity for a student to “pass” on sharing. Sharing is a very personal act, and I agree with you that some students are not comfortable participating. But they will become so when they feel the circle is a safe space to do so. The “pass” is a method of inclusion, allowing the student the power to choose. The teacher must be prepared for this and accept this choice. I would take a moment and talk to your students about the importance, power, and value of talking face to face employing circle pedagogy.

    Watching the clip (the third one down from the top) about Kristina, shows her self-presentation, another strategy in Chicago’s participatory art pedagogy. Kristina illustrates different content influences on her art, and art making challenges she faces. A student can see how Kristina shares as this clip follows her through some of her creative experiences. She shares some challenging parts of her life. It can be hard for students to talk with words, to share inner thoughts publicly about art making processes or ideas. The option to record their self-presentation and then discuss with the group is an option that some students prefer.


    Courtney L

    Each morning we begin our day with a morning meeting circle. This is a way to show students that what we value in this classroom is building a community and letting all voices be heard. The circle begins with a greeting, as I feel it is important to make each student feel welcome and included. There is inclusive power in having each student hear their name being greeted in the morning before the instruction begins. Students are also given an opportunity to share at this time. Some days students are prompted to share how they are feeling and have the option to pass. Students sometimes have the opportunity to share something they did since they last saw the class. Facilitating these morning meeting circles not only allows me to get to know students better, but also gives every child a voice.

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