Sharing circles

On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.

In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.

In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.

reading

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.

The one rule is:

  • Everybody reads without interruption.

This means:

  • Nobody talks
  • Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
  • No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)

It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.

I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:

  • Tell the book’s title and author
  • What it was about
  • What they liked about it, and
  • Read a small section to the class

I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.

If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of reading

A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.

Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.

Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.

If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of writing

Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:

  • “I feel happy when …”
  • “When I lose a tooth …”
  • “On the holidays, I …”
  • “I think children should be able to … because …”

discussion circles

Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.

These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.

Thank you

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

16 thoughts on “Sharing circles

  1. Bec

    These circles all sound wonderful – and very valuable. It is amazing how much you can ‘get’ from being in a group with other people ‘working’ toward the same goal. I feel like ‘get’ and ‘working’ aren’t quite the right words… But there is such a power to community, isn’t there!

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I absolutely loved your prompt for Carrot Ranch’s flash. (And I’m sorry I missed it. However…I am working it into this week’s prompt from Anne.) 🙂
    Oh! D.E.A.R. sessions! We have them at home. It’s to the point now where, when I’m making appointments or stressed about something or I get a particularly stressful email come in, my son will say, “D.E.A.R. time!” It’s kind of annoying but makes me laugh and, often, we do all sit and read. Though we don’t have the circle sessions after. I don’t know why we have never done that but I love the idea. Also love the idea of your pre-writing circle (which we just call ‘brainstorming’). We do that quite often, too. ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      I have just read your flash response, Sarah. Thank you for combining both. You did a brilliant job. I have commented over there, so won’t say any more here.
      What a wonderful thing for a family to do – read together. I think sharing by discussing or reading aloud would be a wonderful addition to the session. I remember at school that reading the funny parts was often the favourite thing to do. It might help in those stressful times to have a bit of laughter added.
      Yeah, “brainstorming” – what a great term! I love it. I prefer the flashes of lightning to the rumbling of thunder though!
      Thanks for reading and sharing.

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  3. Sherri

    Oh Norah, I am so very sorry I haven’t been able to get over here, nor to take part in your wonderful prompt over at the Ranch…I am very much out of the circle this week 😦 Will comment over there after this. I am struggling to get online greatly this week and last, as I suspected would be the case. Hubby is off all this week (I think I mentioned we’re decorating the upstairs, so the place is in disarray, we’re sleeping on the downstairs sofa bed…the cats love it by taking over what is already a cramped space, ha!) and away visiting the boys, plus trying to get my work ready for the weekly workshop in London (and failed to do that this week…)…etc. etc. Won’t bore you. But I am excited to share with you something of my children’s school days in California! They had DEAR days! But they would be a day when the children were invited to wear their PJ’s, take a pillow and blankie, and of course their favourite books, and snacks to share. I thought it was a wonderful thing. The sharing of reading and writing and just feeling part of that special circle made for wonderful times of bonding and learning in a safe, structured and comfortable environment. And of course, as an adult, the sharing of writing is exactly what I’m doing now! Love this: ‘…a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.’ So, so true! Love this post Norah, as always!:-)

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri. It’s lovely to have you join in the circle and share your experiences. We’re all so busy, it’s difficult to keep up with everything. I’ve had to be quiet for the last couple of days while I (try to) sort out some issues of my own.
      Having a house renovated is definitely a disruption. I can just imagine how much your cats love to snuggle in and take over the space!
      Thank you for sharing information about your children’s D.E.A.R. days. I know of others who had pajama days like that. I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to show up to school in my PJs, party pooper that I am. But it is a wonderful experience for the kids, that’s for sure, and certainly shows them that reading is valued.
      I’m pleased you like my little quote about writer’s circle. We are all sharing the contagion as if it was the flu, urging each other forward, supporting our attempts, and generally being a warm and friendly cheer squad. What fun it is to belong. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  4. Gulara

    I love D.E.A.R. and discussion circles. Children learn what they see, and an adult setting an example is a powerful message. As to letting them to speak up, I feel so passionate about it. Sets them up for life and teaches them important communication skills.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Gulara. I’m so pleased you agree. Sometimes I feel I’m out on a limb, out of step with so much that’s going on. It’s wonderful to have your reassurance.

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  5. jennypellett

    Yes, I love the idea of your D.E.A.R. group. We do something similar with our 11-13 year olds but they are not so engaged, sadly. It seems that a love of books is something gifted to the minority these days, the majority are put off by being labelled nerdy or geeky; they don’t see the point; they’d rather be glued to a screen. Worryingly, more and more children are arriving at secondary school without the basic capability to read. Without swift intensive intervention, these students continue to struggle well into their exam years – some even have to have their exam papers read to them. Somewhere along the line, the system is failing!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Jenny, though I am saddened by your words. It is so sad that fewer and fewer children are acquiring a love of reading. It is hard to believe that so many could be turned off something so pleasurable and rewarding. It can only be from the way they are introduced to it. You say the system is failing. I say so too. Most reading disabilities are taught through faulty instruction. I see it all the time. There is nothing better than a child sitting on the lap of an adult who loves them, reading to them daily. When that doesn’t happen before school, we need to create the same warm, enjoyable responses to reading at school. It doesn’t involve having 25 children sitting in your lap, but it does require promoting all reading in context, in purposeful and pleasurable ways. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I appreciate that you read and commented. I think it is just as important for children to be engaged in authentic sharing situations as it is for adults.

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I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

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