top of page
Talking Circles

Stemming from aboriginal cultures, talking circles work to create a safe space for discussion in order to improve relationships and build community. “The process is based on an assumption of equal worth and dignity for all participants and therefore provides equal voice to all participants. Using a circle process is not simply a matter of putting chairs in a circle. Careful preparation is essential to good practice in using circles”. (Pranis, The Circle Keeper’s Handbook)

Circle processes help people establish and share core values. Clarifying these core values allows guidelines to be created. These guidelines help to ensure a safe space in which people feel open to share their thoughts and feelings. Most circles use a talking piece to ensure that every voice is heard.


There are various types of circles:

Check-Ins, Ups and Outs

Check-in circles occur at the beginning of the day to acknowledge everyone who is present. They strengthen classroom communities by allowing each day to start with an opportunity for sharing and they offer a place where everyone’s voice is heard. At the core of the circle is the idea that that everyone has a chance to have their voice heard, and to reveal something about their inner lives so that others can see them, and they can feel seen. For this reason, topics for a check-in circle are often low-risk. They are questions that all students will feel comfortable talking about. When students become familiar with the circle, they often enjoy coming up with their own questions for morning check-in. This is a great opportunity for students as it allows students to choose topics that are of interest to them and it helps them take ownership for the circle.

Topics could include:

  • If you were an animal, what type of animal would you be and why?

  • What colour is your heart today?

  • If you had a day to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

  • If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?

  • Tell us something not many people know about you.

  • Would you rather live in a place that was always very hot or always very cold?


Check-Up Circles

Check-up circles occur mid-lesson/mid-meeting and are used after or during discussion on significant topics. Stopping to go around the circle provides space for reviewing. It is a time of information gathering, summarizing, and posing questions to confirm that everybody is still on task, being heard and on board. It also ensures that those who have been quiet [and often hold deep insights] are offered a space to voice their thoughts.

Topics could include:

  • What’s one thing that is surprising you?

  • One thing you now understand?

  • What’s the hardest thing for you right now?

  • I’m wondering …

  • I realize …

  • I need to know …

  • I appreciate how [classmate] …

  • I can’t concentrate because …

  • I am interested because …

  • One thing I am doing well is …

  • Now I’m ready to …

  • One thing I will do to make the decision happen…


Check-Out Circles

Check-out circles occur at the end of the time together allowing for a final response. Confirming, concluding, affirming statements are invited as well as commitments to action one will take as a result of the lesson/meeting.


Topics could include:

  • I am glad that …

  • I learned that …

  • I will never forget …

  • Thanks to _____ for ….

  • I am still confused by …

  • A question I am leaving with …

  • Something we could do next is …

  • For next class I will …

Class Meeting Circles

Classroom meetings can act as planning meetings or debriefing meetings and often occur frequently in a classroom. They help outline and explore the weekly goals of the classroom. Classroom meetings may occur at any time but often happen at the beginning and the end of the week.

Questions for discussion in a classroom meeting at the beginning of the week might include:

  • What do you think is going to happen this week?

  • What is the nest about last week?

  • What is the goal for this week?

Questions for discussion in a classroom meeting at the end of a week might include:

  • What happened this week?

  • What was the best thing that happened?

  • What was the most difficult thing that happened?

  • What do you need for me, as your teacher, to be the best that you can be?

  • What do I need from you to be the best teacher I can be?

Problem Solving Circles

 When concerns or questions arise in a classroom or when issues arise in the classroom where one or more students has been harmed, problem solving circles can help to resolve these issues or concerns. When something goes wrong between people, it is necessary to ask:

  • Who has been hurt?

  • What are their needs?

  • What needs to be done to repair the harm?

Using a series of questions, people have an opportunity to share their experience in a safe and supportive environment. These questions allow us to move away from asking why in order to get a deeper understanding of what has occurred and who has been impacted.

 Five Core Questions:

  1. What happened?

  2. What were you thinking and feeling at the time?

  3. What’s been the hardest thing for you?

  4. Who has been impacted? How?

  5. What do you need [to do] in order to move on?

Healing Circles

Healing circles are used when serious harm occurs. They are an extension of problem solving circles and often happen after moving through a formal problem solving circle. Healing circles require an experienced facilitator and often require mentoring through outside support. If you are experiencing a situation where serious harm has occurred and would like to discuss ways of moving forward or would like to avail of the services of an experienced facilitator, please contact us.

bottom of page