Doing Circle Online to Create Community

The following are suggestions. Modify in any way that works for you and your students.

1. Openings and Closings.

Always begin and end your Circles with an opening and closing. Often these are quotes or short readings. But they can also be a game, or a song, or whatever your students would identify with. One kindergarten teacher I know made up a song with her students for both opening and closing. They did it every day, every circle all year. It was their “ritual”.

2. Circle Guidelines

The primary things to keep in mind: Help your students to honor turn taking such as we do in person when we pass a Talking Piece and practice deep listening. Speaking and listening with respect. Speaking your truth (from your heart).
In some Circles everyone has their own Talking Piece and holds it up when they are passing or receiving. It can also be a check-in topic (what talking piece did each of them bring?). As they hold it during Circle, it also functions as a fidget as well as a reminder that “we are in Circle”.
To aid in turn-taking, you can put a number on the screen by each chid’s name, or let them know the order of passing if they can remember it. You can also simply call out who is next and then have the student say, “I pass to __.”

3. Check-ins

Use your creativity – sky’s the limit! One sentence check-ins such as sharing what number or color they are on a scale of Not so good – Fantastic! Have them draw a picture of the weather that reflects how they’re feeling. Ex: Sunny (happy); stormy (upset); Grey and rainy (sad); Super scorching hot (angry)…. Something beautiful they saw that morning. Something that makes them happy. What they want to be when they grow up. Play a game…

4. Values

Depending on the age and ability of your students, it may take many circles over days and weeks to work on a value you think is essential. For example, Kindness. Explore this with them in Circles from meanings to experiences they’ve had, to reading stories, to what each of them will commit to doing to practice kindness. Remember, we want to live these values, not just mentally assent to them.


Circles to build community and relationship do not need to be serious all the time. Do things that are fun, or silly as part of Circle time. A few ideas: Do the Hokey Pokey Other games you know they would enjoy. When they can also provide opportunities to practice skills – so much the better. Read stories that are short and fun and incorporate the value you’re working on. Follow up with a round of something they remember or liked in the story.

If you feel you are ready to use the Circle process to resolve conflict or repair harm, #1 – #3 are most important. Read over the Circle Preparation handout. What this structure does, even in an online conversation, is provide parameters that aid in creating a safe space to deal with the problem without judgment or shaming. Students learn that they are not being punished but rather, are being challenged to repair the harm they caused, learn from mistakes, grow their capacity for empathy, and to problem solve.