How to Circle

*Click here to download a PDF version of this post including PDFs of all embedded images (it’s free).

DEFINITION

Circling is the instructional practice of asking a series of prescribed questions in the target language about a statement in the target language.

PURPOSE

Circling is used to provide students with contextualized repetitions of target structures. (A repetition is an instance in which a language learner understands a structure when she or he hears it or reads it.) Research shows that language learners need between 70-150 repetitions of a structure in order to acquire it into their permanent vocabulary. The range is so wide because (1) different researchers have given different numbers, (2) each learner has a different general ‘threshold’ of repetitions for acquisition, and (3) each structure requires a different number of repetitions for acquisition. The higher the value of the structure to the learner, the fewer repetitions will be needed.

PROCESS

In a nutshell: Begin by making a statement in the target language. The statement should contain only ONE new target structure (vocabulary term or phrase), and the rest of the statement should be completely comprehensible to students (previously acquired vocabulary, cognates, and proper nouns). Follow it up with yes/no, either/or, and open-ended questions, and restate/recast the original statement after the answer to each question is given.

Read through this example. The explanation of each step is in the right-hand column. *Click here to download a PDF version of this post including PDFs of all embedded images (it’s free).

Circling Template

IN PRACTICE

Once a teacher has acquired the practice of circling, it is no longer necessary for him or her to ask EVERY question about EACH component of a statement. If we were to do this every time that we made a statement, students would quickly become disengaged. Once the teacher has acquired the practice of circling, the next step is to develop discretion: learning how to balance the number and variety of questions asked with the engagement level of students. To reduce the need to ask so many questions about a single statement (to get a high number of repetitions of a target structure from a single statement), use strategies like Personalized Questions and Answers and Storyasking that use the target structures many times in different statements. Instead of trying to elicit 20 repetitions from 1 statement, you can strive for 5 repetitions from each of 4 statements. Here is a demonstration of me using circling during a story asking session in Spanish 1:

I also created a poster for teachers to post in their rooms (it can be enlarged) for their own reference while developing the habit of circling. Place it in a location that is easily visible to YOU during typical instruction, and glance at it while you practice circling with your students to remind you of the possible questions to ask.

Circling

*Click here to download a PDF version of this post including PDFs of all embedded images (it’s free).

15 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am venturing into the Movietalk world and incorporating these methods more into my teaching. I so appreciate this and will be citing this wonderful resource on my blog!

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  2. Hi Martina!

    The link to Julie Baird’s example gave me a 404 error message. Just letting you know 🙂

    I appreciate everything you to to share effective methods for language instruction, so thank you!

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  3. Thank for this blog post Martina! I’m new to using CI methods and circling is one of my biggest weakness. I’m always afraid that students are going to get bored from me asking the same question over and over again. But you make a really good point that students need all that repetition to truly process and learn those structures. I also find myself doing just a few yes and no questions and then jumping straight to question word statements. Your chart and video are great such great resources. I love your poster. It is definitely what I need to have up in my classroom to help keep me on track. I really like the idea of circling and especially PQA. You learn so much about your students and it helps create such a wonderful classroom culture. Thank you again for this and all your other wonderful posts!

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