Friday, February 22, 2013

                                           INSIDE OUTSIDE CIRCLE

          We are having a couple of snow days here, due to ice.  Yes, that is right, ice.  Luckily though, we haven't lost electricity.   So I am having one of those slow mornings where I stay in my jammies.  They are warm and cozy and I have orange slices and cinnamon brewing on the stove and the smell is wonderful.  Now I want to talk to you about a favorite classroom strategy. This strategy is called Inside and Outside Circle.  You have probably heard of it. If not, you need to, you will be glad you did.  I have been using it for a couple of years now and was trying to remember where I learned about it.  I think my mom told me about it a few years ago, from a workshop she had attended. My mom has taught Kindergarten, First grade, and Second grade and has been a powerful resource for me over the years, and as usual mom knows best.  Imagine my surprise when I was doing research for this blog and learned that this strategy activity has been talked about as being very powerful and helpful with students. I mean, I knew I loved it, but so cool when you find out others do too.  I always like that feeling. I learned for this blog that it is a Kagan strategy and you can learn more about how to use it in your classroom and about Mr. Kagan, the author of this strategy at  You can also go there to learn when and where it was published. Here is how I use it in my classroom.  

1.)  I first divide students up into two groups by saying, you're a one, you're a two, you're a one, you're a two, until everyone is either a one or a two.  

2.)  I then show all the students the task cards.  These are cards that the ones will use to ask the twos a question or it can be a series of flash cards.   The cool thing about Inside Outside Circle is that you can use it for EVERYTHING!  Some examples are story questions to assess for understanding, for those cards you might have the question, "Who are the characters in the story?"  or "How did the story end?"  Was there a problem in the story and if so, how was it solved? etc.  Or flash cards for letter/sound correspondence, or sight words, math numbers, math problems, fluency sentences, etc.  Also, it can be used for any grade.  Make up your task cards ahead of time, these already need to be made up. These are just on notecard or a piece of paper or card stock if you want to use them over and over again.  Then ask the whole class, the questions, reading the cards, so they know what questions to ask when it is their turn to be a one and show them how use the cards.  For example you might say, "The one of your team is going to use these task cards and flash it to you.  You will need to read the letter and tell them it's name and sound, a word that begins with that sound or maybe it is a picture and they need to tell you a word that rhymes with it, etc.  

3.)  I then ask my students who are the ones to get their chairs and they place them in a circle facing out.  Then I ask the twos to sit on the floor in front of the ones, facing in so that the ones are facing the twos and the twos are facing the ones. (Students are facing each other).  If you have an odd number it is okay, there will just be two students who are both numbered two facing the student numbered one at that spot.  (See the above diagram as an example. The green are the ones in the chairs.  The twos are represented by the blue.)

4.)  Now each  student who is a one has one student at his/her feet and they ask that student the question or show them the flash card (whatever you are practicing/or assessing, depending on your purpose)  If letters, then student one (in the chair) shows the student numbered two (sitting on the floor at his/her feet) the letter and student two then tells the letter name and/or sound it makes, etc.  If math equations, then they would show the student on the floor the card with the equation and then the student numbered two(who is on the floor) would answer it and tell how they got their answer.  They stay there for a few minutes then you the teacher will give a word to let the twos know it is time to move. (This is the group that is sitting on the floor facing the students in the chairs).  There are different ways to do this part.  I have the row of twos all move to the right one person, and then they start over with new questions or flash cards from the next student who is a one. So again the two is on the floor but this time facing the student who is a one that was one chair to the right of their last partner.  They slowly move around the circle. They are the outside circle facing the inside circle.   I use the word, "right" to let students know when it is time to move.  We do this until we have made a complete circle and every child has visited with every person.  All twos have met up and answered questions for all of the ones.  

5.)  Then you can say switch, and the student in the chair switches with the person in front of them on the floor and the student on the floor takes the chair and the task question cards.  Then resume play.  

     This is a great way to make sure everyone is learning, to assess how much they have learned, what their weak areas are, and to reinforce skills that are being worked on in the classroom.  Everyone is actively involved and engaged.  Also, students are learning social skills and social relationships as everyone partners up with the job as a one or a two.  Everyone works with everyone else.  (Always a big plus in the Kindergarten classroom!)  I hope it doesn't sound too complicated.  It is actually really easy.  For more information you can visit the West Virginia Department of Education at They talk about this strategy.  They use it a little different than I, but that's the cool thing about a great idea, it is adaptable and can meet the needs of so many.  
You can also differentiate this activity very easily by switching out cards for  different skill levels or by being very selective as to who gets which partner and with what set of cards they practice, meeting the needs of all of your students, even if they aren't all at the same place in their learning.  For example, maybe a few students really need to work on letter sound skills and the others need to work on sight words. Or you could have two circles going at once and each work on different skills. I also like using this for missing number or what letter comes before or what letter comes.  
Happy Teaching!!

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