The Importance Of Circling

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6 thoughts on “The Importance Of Circling”

  1. These recent blogs and comments on circling have pointed out that skill as a weak area in my teaching… so recently I’ve been working more at it. And I’ve discovered that my problem has not so much been circling; it has more been a problem of not training my students to respond to every single question that I ask. I become so wrapped up in the story and asking questions and on MY SKILLS and on MYSELF, that I barely notice that only a few kids are answering my questions. And then I get nervous because almost nobody’s answering and almost everyone looks bored, so I try to move the story along RATHER THAN CIRCLE. So, this is my criteria for circling: Students must RESPOND to my questions – otherwise it’s not circling (it’s just me talking in front of the class like a big lame-o). When I SLOW DOWN enough to make sure that everyone is RESPONDING, then circling comes a whole lot easier. Also, a daily participation evaluation reminds my students – and me – of my expectations. When there’s a grade attached, my students know without a doubt that it is important to listen, to watch (eye contact), and to RESPOND in class.

  2. Just a note on this idea of student response, Toni. I made the mistake (for me) of trying to insist on full-on dramatic yippee doodah responses from everyone in class, and it didn’t work because it was too fake. What I’ve done since that has helped a lot is to post a bunch of possible responses on the wall (adapted this from something I saw in Bryce’s classroom) and ask them to bring these in instead of saying ooooh and oh nooo. Today I had a student counting how many of these responses students came up with, and another counting how many times I used the words I was circling. We had a little contest, teacher TL vs class TL, and it was super fun to have kids get way into finding a time they could say “too bad” or “Are you pulling my leg?” in the target language.
    On the other hand, I had a totally lame class earlier where nobody would say anything in the target language no matter how much I slowed down, speeded up, drew cute pictures, or danced around the room. They were just feeling ornery. But they all passed the quiz, and only one kid missed more than two questions.
    I told my lame complainy class that as long as they were understanding what I was saying, yes they were acquiring the language.

  3. A quick thought on that Carla is that content is everything. The questions that we ask are so important. Who cares if Mary has a cat? No one, including me. PQA has to be in their worlds.
    And there has to be a certain inner determination to not let the kids escape from the questioning. In my view, most inattention is not boredom, but a failure to be civil. The kids don’t need a teacher who will back down from that inner psychic struggle. I often smile and hang with a question for a long time, not letting the kid off the hook, as it were.
    But, again, I need the content. That is where Matava’s scripts come in for me and I am going to have to hassle her again to get some more scripts out by next year.

  4. Thank you Toni and Jennie. Circling has been pretty dead for me for awhile now, and I realize by reading your posts that I just have shied away from demanding student responses for the same reason that Jennie did; it was a bit too fake. About two months ago we actually went and created our own class “phrasebook” that we brainstormed, and then I printed out and had everybody glue in their notebooks (Are you kidding? ; That is the bomb! ; Bring it on. ; The party starts now! ; Where did I put my squid? , etc.). The gathering was really fun and the phrases been cropping up in free-writes and students talking to each other, but putting them up on the wall will invest that energy towards the core of where I need it: circling. Win/Win. Thanks so much!

  5. Jennie, thanks for the idea of mixing up the student responses. It makes a big difference to give the students something fun to respond with.
    Nathan, I love your ideas, especially this one: “Where’s my squid?” :o)

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