How to Implement Concentric Circles Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


This discussion method invites every learner in the class to participate as an active listener and speaker. Learners stand in two concentric circles facing one another and respond to a question in a paired discussion. When prompted by the instructor, one of the rings moves to the left or right, so each learner now faces a new partner, with whom they discuss a new question. This activity works well to debrief a reading or video. Because they are speaking with just one other person at a time, reticent learners may feel comfortable sharing their ideas.


  1. Select a Text and Select Questions: Find a reading or video that will catalyze this activity. Select the questions that you will ask learners to respond to in their discussion.
  2. Prepare Learners for the Concentric Circles Discussion: In preparation for the discussion, you may ask learners to make notes while they are reading the content or watching the video, so they can do some initial thinking. Alternatively, you may ask them to make a quick journal response to gather their thoughts before being asked to discuss the content.
  3. Facilitate the Concentric Circles Discussion:
    • Ask learners to stand in two concentric circles or ovals. The learners inside and outside the circles face one another so that each learner is positioned across from a partner. If your classroom doesn’t have the space for concentric circles, you may have the learners stand in two lines facing one another. In this case, when learners move to meet their new partners, the learner at the end of the line moves to the start of the chain.
    • Tell learners that you will give them a query to examine with their partner. Discuss how much time they have for their discussions and tell them that learners must share and listen. Give them tips about asking follow-up questions in case they finish their conversation before their time is up.
    • If you are concerned that learners may not get equal time to share and listen in each round, you may provide more structure. For instance, you can tell learners that for the initial minute, the outside circle will discuss their answers to the question, and the inside circle listens. For the second minute, the inside circle shares, and the outer circle listens actively. For the third and final minute, the groups discuss their ideas, commenting on patterns.
    • Afterward, instruct learners in one of the circles to move one or two spots to the right, so they are now facing a new partner. Repeat the last step with a new question.
    • Repeat this process until your learners have answered the questions that you prepared. You may add a bonus round in which learners pose questions to discuss with their partners.
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