How to use Dialogue Circles to Support Classroom Management?

By: Admin 10 April, 2018

Dialogue circles are gatherings in which all participants sit in a circle facing each other to facilitate open, direct communication. Dialogue circles provide a safe, supportive space where all school community members can talk about sensitive topics, work through differences, and build consensus.  

At Glenview Elementary School, dialogue circles are part of a program aimed at building collaboration, respect, and positive behavior among students.


Watch the execution of Dialogue circles in this video:


The Power of Circle

  • Dialogue Circles are conversations in which participants make a conscious attempt to suspend their assumptions, refrain from debate, and instead focus on both individual and group learning. 
  • Dialogue circles can help increase generosity, trust, intrinsic motivation, social connection, and cooperation so students can work together for a common purpose.

These circles are so powerful because they facilitate the release of the hormones oxytocin and dopamine in the brain.




5 step process to create a Dialogue Circle process

1.  Participants are seated in a circle. Everyone is expected to sit in the circle; however, if a participant chooses not to sit in the circle they should not feel excluded from the conversation.

2. A talking piece (some easily held physical object) is used, and only the participant with the talking piece may speak. A participant may choose to pass; the facilitator may tell the participant that they are expected to share later.

3. Participants set their own ground rules prior to starting the circle.

4. Participants build community and trust. The facilitator states this purpose when going over the ground rules.

5. To achieve initial comfort among participants in the dialogue circle, facilitators might offer questions or prompts like: If you could choose one super power, what would it be and why? or Describe your safe/happy place.


Trust building in Dialogue Circles

When they feel trusted, students will be more willing to share their ideas and troubles. Engaging in self-disclosure will raise the perceived level of social connection, which will in turn raise their levels of intrinsic motivation.

Self-disclosure creates an environment where students feel socially connected. Social connection not only helps students to feel better about their situation, but can also increase intrinsic motivation.




What can a Dialogue Circle Offer?

  • Enrich the school curriculum and learning experiences of students  
  • Promote student/student and student/school/community connectedness
  • Allow people to explore other viewpoints with mutual respect
  • Provide a safe environment for people to speak honestly and to be heard
  • Give a sense of empowerment and inspiration while promoting habits of respect, responsibility and accountability be used as a tool for reciprocal sharing and learning.

Dialogue circles are simple to organize and activate. They are versatile tools that can increase engagement in any lesson, become part of a good classroom management plan, and help students who have many challenges in their lives develop more resilience, empathy and hope for the future.



(1) Also see: A slideshare describing the Dialogue Circle Method.

(2)  Tamir, D., & Mitchell, J. (2012). Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(21), 8038-8043.


(4)  Video Source – Edutopia Youtube channel