Think-Pair-Share in Community Circles

Think-Pair-Share in Community Circles

Community circles, or proactive restorative circles, are an easy way to give each student an opportunity to speak, but sometimes they can take too long.  This post describes how think-pair-share can be incorporated to increase student talk time without consuming too many instructional minutes.

Community Circles Time Management

On one of my first formal teacher evaluations, my principal noted that he wanted me to work on time management.  Many years later, I still occasionally struggle with this.  I tend to overplan my class periods and overestimate my students’ abilities to transition and complete activities.  This challenge is especially apparent when I am leading community circles.

As I have previously mentioned, my classes begin with daily proactive restorative circles, also known as community circles. (If you missed the post, you can check it out here.)  When planning my semester and weekly lesson plan, I reserve ten to fifteen minutes per period or block for the meetings.  However, my students and I really enjoy these meetings and it is very easy for us to subconsciously to stretch them out, especially on days when we have challenging lessons, such drafting essays, or on days when the prompt evokes long-winded conversations.  

When I first started circles in my classroom, I called the response time “Ten-Second Sound-Off,” copying a weekly good news segment on a local San Diego radio station.  I used my phone to time the students’ responses, but I honestly almost immediately began to give each student twenty seconds of speaking time because I hated cutting them off mid-sentence.  The year my school switched to block scheduling, I discarded the timer completely.  But, I soon realized that the meeting times kept extending–some could even take up to 25 or 30 instructional minutes if I was not careful!

Think-Pair-Share in Circles

Fortunately, my friend, Tracy Makings who was an Instructional Coach at the time, noticed this time management problem and made a suggestion that actually helped to speed up the circles.  She suggested incorporating the think-pair-share strategy.  In think-pair-share, all students take turns responding to the prompt with a partner.  

  • Prompt: What would you do if you ran our school?
    • Student A to Student B: I would…..
    • Student B to Student A: I would….

Then using the talking piece, each partner shares a brief summary of what his/her partner said.

    • Student A to Circle: Student B would …
    • Student B to Circle: Student A would…

Upon implementation, I learned that this strategy allows each student to simultaneously elaborate on his or her ideas and helps students practice listening and summarizing skills.

Think-Pair-Share Convo

Comfortable Think-Pair-Share Discussion in Academic English

Now, I utilize think-pair-share whenever I feel like the daily prompt may elicit lengthy responses and on days when the class period has a jam-packed schedule–yes, I still tend to overplan!  If your community circles consistently fall within your allotted time period, I applaud you but still suggest integrating think-pair-share into your practices to help your students further develop speaking and listening skills.  Also, remember to post sentence frames under your prompt to help English learners, introverts, and students with disabilities.

To help you and other educators implement community circles, I am creating monthly prompt calendars, which are available here.  I am also tweeting daily prompts from @tvszed.
If you use Think-Pair-Share in Community Circles in your classroom, please share below, on Twitter (#tvszed, @npriester, and/or @tvszed) or in the Teachers vs Zombies Facebook Group (

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