Sharing Circle Overview
The Sharing Circle is an ideal way for you to incorporate social emotional learning in to your educational setting on a regular basis. At first glance, the Sharing Circle – a small group discussion process – is likely to appear deceptively ordinary. It is not. Rather it is a process of profound simplicity – simple to do but with profound outcomes.
When used correctly, the Sharing Circle is an unusually effective tool for developing self-awareness, the ability to understand and manage feelings, an accurate self-concept, personal responsibility, empathy, communication, and social relationship skills.
The key to all this is incorporating three important elements into each Sharing Circle you lead. The three elements are:
- Adherence to the Sharing Circle rules
- Following the procedure in each Sharing Circle
- Discussing the pre-determined Sharing Circle topic
- The Sharing Circle rules guarantee safety and security and that every student’s contribution is heard and accepted. The rules require the attentiveness of other circle members to the speaker along with their verbal and nonverbal emotional and cognitive reactions, which constitute a legitimate and powerful form of affirming feedback. The rules also guarantee that the students get to practice respectful listening and relate responsibly and effectively to one another.
- The procedure provides you with a structure so that each Sharing Circle is not just a group of people having a freewheeling chat but rather a smooth-flowing, goal-directed session with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- In the beginning you introduce the topic that will be discussed and you elaborate on the topic so as to give everyone in the circle time to mentally prepare and reflect on what they each might share.
- During the middle or sharing phase, everyone gets to talk to the topic and be listened to attentively and respectfully by all others. During this sharing phase the listeners also are expanding their own thinking and noticing similarities and differences in how each person responds to the topic.
- In the final or end discussion phase you ask several discussion questions, related to the topic, that allow students to reflect on and understand what has been shared at deeper levels, to evaluate ideas that have been generated by the topic and to apply specific concepts to other areas of learning.
- The Sharing Circle topics are designed to specifically provide sharing, discussion, and reflection on a wide range of fundamental human conditions, both positive and negative. Rather than leaving the topic to chance, by providing a curriculum of specifically formulated topics, each with an identified goal, it is guaranteed that over time your students get to consider, and learn from, a complete spectrum of social emotional learning topics. Through insights developed in the course of pondering and discussing the various self-awareness topics students are offered the opportunity to become more aware of, and acknowledge, their strengths, abilities, and positive qualities. The social-interaction topics allow students to discuss interpersonal experiences and so grasp the concept of cause and effect. They learn how they affect others and how they are affected by others.
In each Sharing Circle lesson we provide the topic and suggested elaboration and discussion questions. You provide the leadership and your students (and you as a member of the Sharing Circle) provide the sharing, the interaction, and the discussion. The outcome is an opportunity to practice fair, respectful interaction where everyone’s feelings are accepted and everyone’s contributions are judged valuable. Through discussion and reflection on a wide range of social-emotional learning issues, students learn important life lessons, gain useful insights about themselves, and develop understanding about getting along with others.
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