Saturday, 26 February 2011 17:45

Tip #24: The Friday Circle

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Each school day is so packed with activity that there rarely seems time to stop, talk with our students about all the things that are happening in class, and reinforce the important priorities expressed in our class mission statement.  The Friday Circle is a weekly class meeting, conducted during the last hour of the school week, that facilitates this type of communication.


During this time the kids and I sit in a circle so we can all see and hear one another easily.  

These gatherings are held on Friday afternoons for three reasons.  First, concluding the week with a class meeting allows my students and me to review the previous week and look ahead to the next.  Second, Friday afternoon is a strategic time for these meetings because the last hour of the day before the weekend is generally when kids have the greatest difficulty focusing on academic work.  Third, ending with a team-building activity gives me the opportunity to wrap up the week in a positive fashion and send everyone home happy.

A full Friday Circle agenda consists of nine items.  Proceeding through every item usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes.  When our schedule doesn’t allow us this much time - and usually it doesn’t - we do what we can.   Typically, we will have approximately 15 minutes at the end of the day on Fridays, and we can complete three or four items.  I try to do Recognitions and Acccomplishments every week and rotate through the other items over time.  Each agenda item is listed below along with a brief description.

• Recognitions: Students are invited to acknowledge the noteworthy efforts of their classmates.  These comments help the kids feel appreciated and valued, positively affecting their intrinsic motivation and sense of connection to the group.  

• Accomplishments: A time for the kids to share what they accomplished during the week, either in the academic subjects, the habits of mind or character, or even something outside of school.  Celebrating their achievements helps children build confidence and makes them feel more successful.

• Contributions: Students describe what they did during the week to make the class a better place, such as donate supplies or help clean the room.  Such a discussion reinforces the importance of service.

• Next week: In this part of the meeting, the kids express what they hope to accomplish and/or contribute during the week ahead.  Looking to the immediate future in this manner whets their appetite for what’s to come and strengthens their commitment and ability to plan ahead.   

• Learning Connections: Students discuss something they learned during the week and explain how it relates to their everyday lives or how it may relate to their future lives.  For example, Aline may say, “This week I learned about the human body, and that helps me because I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”  Thinking about these connections reinforces the purposes of classroom learning.

• Numbers: As I described in Teaching Tip #8, my students and I begin our daily morning routine with a brief team-building activity from Jeanne Gibbs’ book Tribes.  Using a 1-10 scale, each student states a number expressing how he or she is doing that day.  A “10” means life couldn’t be better.  I’m happy, energetic, and ready to have a great day.  On the other hand, a “1” means that I would rather be anywhere but here.  Perhaps I am sick, upset, or troubled by something at home.  The kids pick any number between one and ten, fractions and decimals included, to share with the group.  Students who do not wish to participate have the freedom to pass.  Going around the circle takes only a minute or two because the kids are only saying numbers; they aren’t revealing the reasons behind their numbers, thus preserving everyone’s right to privacy.  I’m always on the lookout for low numbers so that, as the day unfolds, I can offer these students comfort and cheer to boost their spirits.  I encourage the kids to do the same.  This activity builds a sense of inclusion and mutual caring; it also strengthens the bonds among team members.  In addition, whenever possible, we try to find time at the end of the day to go around the circle again so that we can determine whether there have been any changes from the morning.  Building this activity into the Friday Circle agenda ensures that even if there isn’t time to compare numbers on any other afternoon during the week, there will be a chance to do so on Fridays.

• Solutions: We openly and honestly discuss any problems we may be having and try to solve them together in a positive way.  This part of the meeting enables us to continue the dialogue we began during our beginning-of-the-year training period.  We use this time to practice problem-solving strategies, share strategies that have proven to be successful, and talk about how to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.  The constructive tone that underlies these conversations helps me reinforce the point that the proper response to problems is not anger and blame, but thoughtful action.

• Suggestions: An opportunity for team members to suggest any ideas that they believe will improve the performance, appearance, or morale of the class.  Every individual has valuable ideas and should have the chance to express them to a teacher who’s willing to listen.  Implement as many suggestions as possible so the kids know you take their proposals seriously.  Keep and post a running list of all the suggestions your kids offer so that they take pride in the contributions they are making to the class.

• Sharing (Otherwise known as Show and Tell): Another way to build a sense of inclusion, this final segment of the Friday Circle allows students to share objects and possessions from home.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.