Concentric Circles is a powerful bonding exercise because it gives individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences with others in one-on-one conversations. Because learners are given an ordered situation in which they have these conversations, they are able to build relationships with others without the pressure or awkwardness that is often part of social interactions.
Have the group arrange their chairs so that they are facing each other in two circles, one inside the other as in the diagram below: (You can have the group count off by 2s [1, 2, 1, 2…]
Once the circles have been created, tell the group that they will be having a series of short conversations with a series of partners. They should introduce themselves to each new partner, and they should share the time so that each person has a chance to speak.
Give the group a question/topic that each pair is to discuss. (You can find some sample topics/questions I have used here. Having them ready on PPT is a good idea! Thanks to Cansu Turan and Belgin Sahin for preparing this PPT).
After one or two minutes, call time. Having some music play in the background might create a comfortable environment. And you can turn up the volume to call time. Allow less time for younger people and more time for older. (Keep the time short enough so that people still have more to say when they need to move on.) Tell the inside circle to move one seat to the left so that everyone is facing someone new.
Remind people to be sure and introduce themselves to their new partners. Then give another question for the new pairs to discuss.
In smaller groups, this continues until the inside circle has moved completely around to where they began. In larger groups, have people move 10 to 20 times, depending on how long you can dedicate to the exercise. Adjust the time you give each pair and the number of times you have people move according to the needs of the group and the constraints of the meeting.
Some other discussion topics you can use:
- Talk about the neighborhood you grew up in and some of your earliest memories.
- Talk about your favorite and least favorite teacher from elementary school.
- Talk about a time that you broke a rule, and what happened.
- Talk about what you want and need out of your education.
- Talk about what you like about teaching, and what are its greatest challenges for you.
- Talk about a lesson plan that worked and one that didn’t.
- Talk about your approach to discipline – what works and what doesn’t.
- Talk about something that scares you and how you deal with it.
- Talk about something that makes you angry and how you deal with it.
- Talk about standardized testing and how you think it impacts education.
- Talk about how you think racial dynamics affect education.
- Talk about what your hope is for the future of education, and how we can reach that goal.
- Talk about where you hope to be five years from now.