A Word About Circling

If you have done any work with communicative language instruction before, you probably have heard the term “Circling”. Here are my thoughts on it:

Circling doesn’t work very well. It’s an old technique that has lost its shine. If you feel that your recent communicative teaching has been boring, look to Circling as a possible cause.

Circling came into the old TPRS/CI movement in 2005. Since then, over the years, it has slowly ground the spontaneity and interest out of our instruction. The main drawback of Circling is that it greatly diminishes student interest.

I have replaced Circling in my own work with Sercling: Spiraling, Expansive and Recurrent auditory Input. S-E-R.

Sercling is the way a journey around the SquareChart™ plays out in a typical class. Each time that you take a journey around the SquareChart™, you expand and do not reduce the language. You deliver spiraling input to your students. It’s like a whirlwind, or dust devil, that originates with just a few particles of dirt or dust on the ground and then gradually spirals into a larger and larger whirlwind.

The process of Sercling in both the Square™ and later the Star™ do not reduce language into a predictable series of boring questions. Rather, the whirlwind expands the same original four words until those same words have spiraled and expanded into something greater over a much longer period of time than the original four words.

This happens over the entire class period, and not just for 45 second periods of time. The language flows naturally when you Sercle; it does not flow naturally when you Circle.

Sercling, because of its spiraling, expansive and recurrent nature, never leads to boredom, but always towards more and more interest as you take your kids around the Square™. Circling, on the other hand, reduces interest and “stalls” the message of the narrative, which is the only thing that the kids are actually interested in.

In communicative language instruction, the learner’s focus should always be only on the message and not on the language itself, but Circling unfortunately puts the focus of the learner on the mechanical and repetitive patterning of the language and not, as it should be, on its meaning. This is a most important difference.

In Circling, the words that the teacher wants to teach occur all at once, within a minute of focused questioning. However, as soon as the students figure out the pattern of the questions, their interest goes down fast since there is nothing new being added to the narrative during that minute.

Sercling, on the other hand, keeps the focus on the narrative by distributing the repetitions over the course of the entire class period and not within a short period of one minute. It does so via the different activities found in the SquareChart™.

The activities of the Square™, and later the Star™, keep student interest high because now you are offering them multiple properly-paced, drawn out, engaging and unnoticed reps on vocabulary that is actually interesting.

Learning how to “Sercle” provides a more natural and unforced language experience for your students and can therefore change your entire relationship with your students. It is extremely easy to learn because it happens completely naturally within the natural process that the SquareChart™ provides.



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