Concentric Circle Discussion

“It’s like speed dating!” -one of my students

This discussion format is based on an activity I learned in the Intergroup Dialogue Program at the University of Michigan (also called Concentric Circles). It’s an icebreaker activity where participants stand in circles and answer “getting to know you” type questions with a partner. You then rotate as many times as you like. It’s a great way to get to know several people in a fast and less intimidating way. In my Hunger Games class, I decided to adapt this format for a discussion on differences between the films and the books.

The Setup

This discussion can be done in almost any size class. If you don’t have an even number of students, you can sit in as a participant. Arrange the chairs in two concentric circles, with the inner ring facing the outer ring. Have students sit down, with those with mobility issues sitting in the inner circle.

The Discussions

In each round, students introduce themselves to their partner and discuss a question for 3-5 minutes. After time is up, students in the outer ring stand up and rotate. The students then get a new question to discuss. You can rotate for as long as you want. I did this for about an hour in my class of 30, until everyone had a turn around the circle. At the end, I had the students get into small groups and share some major take-aways from the day.

Reflection

This activity is a great way to break up the traditional discussion format. It places the responsibility for carrying a discussion on every student, and it can be less intimidating than having to share in front of the whole class or even a small group. Additionally, the short time means that students don’t have to worry about a very in-depth conversation. I like this activity because students get to know a wider range of people and can appreciate the brilliance of classmates they may not have heard much from. As the instructor, you have to be comfortable with giving up some control, because you can’t hear every conversation and you don’t know if they’re really on topic. Just make sure you give students meaningful and interesting prompts that they can have different opinions on. So not just summarizing the reading or answering “What did you think of this?”  It’s also nice as the instructor because you can repeat questions and ask the students to notice how different people give different answers.

 

My Concentric Circle Discussion Prompts

As homework, students had watched one movie and written down three differences from the associated book.

  • Share your movie differences. Note how your difference relates to any of the three features of oppression identified in the reading (repeat x3)
  • What about the medium of movies or popular culture affects the way oppression is portrayed?
  • Talk about real world examples of the three features you noticed. Try to give an example from your privileged identity, then an example from a disadvantaged identity (x3)
  • Talk about how the three features relate to the five forms of oppression
  • What is a beneficial way to talk to people about the these features in educational settings?
  • In everyday settings?
  • How would you disrupt the three features on a societal level for a given identity? (x3)

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