| Contents |
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter
3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4 part 2
Chapter 5 | Chapter 6... | Chapter 6 part 2
| Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |
'All About Me' and the Circle Technique
Stephanie O'Laughlin Peters
Stephanie's report was much longer than the edited version provided here. Among other
things she described a large number of specific activities grouped under the headings: (a)
warm-up activities; (b) self-awareness; (c) other awareness; (d) group processes and
dynamics; and (e) problem solving and decision-making. Most of these activities are well
known, and many appear in the earlier text. She did not comment upon them in any detail
and they have not been included.
Traditional classroom setting with one teacher and twenty-five students (fifteen girls,
ten boys). I take the children for all subjects.
Most of the class have been together since Kindergarten. An influx of six new class
members this year created major social changes and threatened established friendship
The new members obviously brought with them talents, problems and demands of their own
which had to be accommodated. It has been an ideal time to introduce this program.
A. SETTING UP
I decided to keep a diary and I used a folder. It didn't work particularly well because I
usually didn't have it with me whenever I wanted to record something. I also found that it
was too large and conspicuous.
I found that, for me, it was better to have piles of scrap paper placed around the
classroom and a box folder. Whenever I wanted to make a comment, reminder etc. I just
dated a slip of paper, and wrote the message. I then collected them in the box folder.
They were easily collated at a later date and I found that I had far more material than
when I had the conventional diary. It was a quick, easy and effective way for me to keep a
record of what was going on.
At the beginning of the first term I noted that I was confused, overwhelmed and
intimidated by the amount of material I had read. I also kept noting how remote I felt--I
hadn't received the Teaching for human rights handbook, had no idea what had been
done and generally found it difficult to get started. I knew that I wanted to keep the
program cheap and simple. I wanted it to provide basic skills for future human rights
education and development. I also wanted to incorporate as many subject areas as possible.
The program that has evolved over the two terms has included Drama, Art/Craft, Science,
Maths, Physical Education, Music and Oral/Written Language.
(I really appreciated the Teaching for human rights handbook when it
arrived--after all my initial reading it was a relief to read a book that was full of
great ideas, clearly set out and easy to read.)
Some thoughts from my diary:
It's important to introduce the Human Rights Program as early as possible--the
longer you leave it the more self-conscious the children become. By starting the program
while they're young their manner/ approach is more natural.
Children have the right to know themselves and the other selves that they have to
It is important to remember that 'normal' children have needs too-I mustn't get
continually side-tracked by the needs of the handicapped/ disadvantaged.
I must encourage and develop effective language and communication skills. [This led
to the use of the Circle Technique outlined in Chapter 3] I wanted
to encourage children to be curious about other people, other selves-to expect answers.
Must watch for 'Put-downs'--critical words, statements or actions whose purpose is
to hurt the self-concept of the victim.
Want to build habits that will provide a positive climate for helping the total
person to learn effectively.
Want children to look at their lives, draw their.attention to what is going on,
provide them with opportunities to 'share' their discoveries with others, question some of
their statements e.g. 'all families have a mummy and a daddy', 'everyone hates me'.
Encourage them to question, discuss and qualify.
When I read Joan Braham's unit of work sent by Ralph Pettman I felt a little lost.
I had been using many of the activities myself but there seemed to be a need for something
that would facilitate a more detailed look at SELF and OTHERS--I wanted to be able to
collate the ideas and discoveries using the same ideas but a different format. The 'All
About Me' folders linked with the Circle Technique provided the solution for me.
The classroom environment needed to be trusting and the children needed to accept
responsibility for their own actions. I wanted to increase self-esteem, image of
self, image of self and other selves by:
identifying with children that they do have opinions, beliefs and attitudes
noting what we say and our actions
recognising that our ideas, thoughts and opinions do change and change is important
we are all different
I believe an open classroom environment leads to an open outside environment. Children
need to feel free among peers and adults from within their own socio-economic/cultural
worlds. It is what they have to live with. Then if they can cope, accept and
finally enjoy other people who are the 'same' as them (which is normally assumed) they may
then be able to deal with people who are 'different'.
I wanted to take the fear of the unknown away from the children. Prejudice comes from
fear and we persecute those we are afraid of.
The program also needed to incorporate: the recognition of the interrelated processes
of thinking and feeling; the importance of effective interpersonal skills and
self-direction in a positive classroom environment. I wanted to help students make
connections between thoughts, feelings, actions and values.
The first half of Term I was spent establishing an 'open' classroom environment which
would facilitate the development of the Human Rights Program--I wanted the program to be
flexible so that I could do it at anytime.
Many of the activities introduced are not original. They have been gleaned from various
sources to highlight and develop:
awareness of self trust
an awareness of others
a willingness to communicate at a personal level
I don't believe these activities need to be introduced in any particular order although
it would be an idea to establish the Circle Technique and make a Name Tin first.
It is important however to monitor how we do the activities; i.e. we need to be
positive and encouraging. The adult is a very important part of the process. We are
reflecting many of the-behaviours we are trying to encourage and develop in the children.
I began the program by sending out welcome letters and meeting with parents to outline
the Human Rights Program. I mentioned that emphasis would be placed on self-awareness and
I explained how I thought the program would develop. I discussed how I would:
set up class routines and general climate
introduce activities to develop particular skills i.e. communication
introduce 'All About Me' folders
The parents were enthusiastic and happy to be involved in the program and every one of
them agreed with the overall aims and objectives.
Also from my diary
I found that I was taking all the responsibility for their behaviour--I was constantly
reminding them about silent reading procedures, to bring their P.E. gear, etc.
I decided to increase positive interactions to encourage students to take more and more
responsibility for their actions by keeping a record of my positive and negative
instructions/comments. It really helped to keep me positive.
The children wrote up their own silent reading rules-these were discussed and then
displayed. The P.E. clothes problem was solved using a chart.
I remembered my P.E. clothes
A number of children were forgetting to bring their gear for P.E. each week.
To encourage children to remember to bring their gear.
To encourage children to accept responsibility for remembering/forgetting.
I simply put up a chart and children drew a happy face alongside their name and
under the date if they remembered their clothes. The class decided that if they forgot
they would put an 'X' in the space.
I REMEMBERED MY P.E. CLOTHES
Welcome letters were posted to each child at the beginning of the year.
The response from both parents and children was warm, immediate, and encouraging.
It was a definite, positive beginning to setting up an open, friendly climate between
school and home as well as in the classroom.
19th February 1985
It has been a pleasure to welcome you into Class 2. I am looking forward to getting to
know you and I am sure we will have happy times together this year.
Wishing you happy days
(sgd) Stephanie Peters
Where do I sit?
At the beginning of the year the children could choose where they wanted to sit and with
whom. There were squabbles and it took them 35 minutes to organise their desks and groups.
After a few days some children complained that they couldn't work properly next to the
people they had chosen.
A circle discussion time was held and children decided they'd rather have groups chosen
using the Name Tin-this worked satisfactorily and every week we re-arranged the groups.
Six weeks later I decided to give the children a chance to choose their seating
During the next two minutes think about someone/some people you would like to work
Talk to the person or people and work out a mutual agreement. Now arrange
your group and sit down when you're ready.
The difference was amazing. Their communication was effective and they were able to
organise themselves quickly and quietly in eight minutes.
B. INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL ACTIVITIES
The Circle Technique
During the program the Circle Technique has been used at least once daily-on some days
three to four sessions have been
held [see Chapter 3, for detailed instructions].
I like this technique because, amongst other things, it encourages listening, provides
an excellent venue for all children to be heard and everyone can see everyone else.
Children have an opportunity to pass or contribute and I have found that it is an
excellent means for maintaining an open classroom climate. Circle times are particularly
useful for incidental reporting back to class, end of day reviews and for developing
ideas. Children settle down readily to this format. It quickly becomes familiar and they
know that they will be able to contribute if they want to.
I have found that it's a good idea to limit children to a one to two sentence
contribution because it is possible for these sessions to become negative i.e. one child
dominating, teacher disapproving of a contribution etc. I strongly recommend that the
guidelines for running a circle and the guidelines for teacher behaviour are followed
Thank you tree
To encourage children to recognise positive attributes of others.
To develop a basis for relating to others.
Blank cards and a branch to hang the cards on.
Children list the reasons why would like to say thank you to someone in the class.
Their ideas are written onto cards. (I spray-painted them gold to make them look
The 'tree' is placed in the middle of a circle with the cards spread out on the
ground around it.
Each child in the circle has a turn to choose a card. He/she then says the person's
name and reads out the thank you i.e. 'Magda, thank you for helping me' and the card is
given. The child receiving the thank you card hangs it on the tree and sits down. (The
thank you can be explained if they choose.) Children do not have to give a thank you
card-they can pass.
To avoid disappointments I found it was necessary to ask at the end of the Circle Time if
there was anyone who believed they deserved a thank you and why.
I then said their name, read out the card and gave it to them.
I was hoping to use the 'Thank You Tree' daily but I found it difficult to remember. I
now use it two to three days per week and it has remained a special time.
It's also worthwhile finding out from the class what they think are helpful acts and
then reminding them.
Class 2 wanted their thank you cards to say:
Thank you for being helpful listening
" " being thoughtful
" " being friendly
" " sharing
" " making room for me in the circle
" " letting me into the line
" " working quietly
" " helping me
to encourage to evaluate their work
to encourage children to accept responsibility for displaying their work.
When children had their work checked they were asked:
What do you think of your work?
What do you like/don't you like?
Has it improved?
In what way?
What will you try to improve next time?
What are you pleased about?
Are you going to display your work?
If the work was to be displayed the child pegged a display card onto the book.
The cards were made using the class' ideas. Children listed all the reasons why they would
want to display their work.
because I think it is neat
I drew some good pictures
I set out my work carefully
my writing is neat
I got everything correct
it has improved
my work is set out well
all my work was done carefully
I tried to do my best
I am proud of my writing
I am proud of my work
I wrote their ideas onto cards and covered the cards with clear contact.
I have displayed my work because I think it has improved.
The children could peg a card onto their books and display them at any time.
The Name Tin was used to:
choose groups and leaders
set up games and order for a line or a circle
select someone to help, represent class, give their news etc.
I made up the Name Tin because some children were eagerly sought as a partner or for a
group and others were left out. I needed to mix up established friendship groups and I
wanted something that would provide opportunities for all children to be chosen.
A large tin was covered with a piece of cardboard that all the children had signed in
texta colour. This was then sealed with clear contact.
Name cards (approx. 10 cms x 4 cms) were made out of cardboard, covered with clear
contact and stored in the tin.
This proved to be an essential aid. We all used it constantly and the children readily
accepted it as a fair way to choose groups and leaders etc.
Run around Tasmania
To develop class co-operation.
5 minutes for run and 5 minutes to record runs
Children decided where they wanted to run to.
Children measured their daily run circuit (we measured a 250 m distance).
Children spent 5 minutes daily running and/or walking the circuit.
Back in the classroom the number of runs was tallied and the kilometres
worked out. A graph was kept as a record.
The daily distance was then marked on a map.
Comments from circle time:
'I did one lap and that was enough for today.'
'I ran 1 kilometre today--I'm really pleased.'
I found that in the beginning some of the children were not honest about the number of
laps they had done. I expressed my concern to the class and they decided that they would
run with a partner and check their laps together. They also thought that when we tallied
up our laps it would be a good idea to put a block in the middle of the carpet for every
lap completed so we sat in a circle and each child said 'I have run ... laps' and they
would place the appropriate number of blocks in the middle of the carpet. These were then
grouped to make up a kilometre i.e. 4 x 250 in = 1 km.
Children were still enthusiastic after twelve weeks!
We talked about the towns we 'ran' through, special features etc. and they often
dragged parents and friends in to show them how far we had run. This activity generated a
lot of interest in the school.
What behaviours or rules would help to make the classroom a happier place for you?
During Circle Time children gave their ideas for preferred class behaviour.
Their contributions were recorded on the blackboard using their language. Don'ts
were in vogue! i.e. 'Don't fight anyone', 'Don't break the games' etc.
After they had given their ideas I went back through the list and asked for
At a later date the children were given a sheet of their ideas and reasons for
preferred classroom behaviour. They were asked to tick what they agreed with and to add
extra ideas if they had any.
Random groups were chosen (using Name Tin) and children read their decisions to the
group. e.g. 'I agree that we should not throw blocks'.
The next day an agreement form was issued and children cut out and pasted on all
the 'rules' they agreed with. They signed the form and it was put in their 'All About Me'
Next time I will make the agreement more special i.e. use a gold/silver text, have a
'flash' border, use thicker paper.
Signing the agreement can be a ceremony. The children took it very seriously and they
constantly reminded each other of what they had agreed to!
Agreements need revising every month.
Next time I will list their ideas so that they fall into the two categories:
positive (freedom to)
negative (freedom from)
Children of this age group are a little too young to fully understand the Declaration
of Human Rights but they are quite able to form their own preferences in terms of likes
I found that they listed everything negatively.
I wrote down their ideas in their language.
Class 2 visited another section of the Junior School. When they arrived they found that
they didn't know:
where they were allowed to play
how the equipment was to be used
how they were to protect the environment
During the follow-up discussion time children said it was good fun playing at the other
place. They made no mention of the confusion re expectations and different rules.
On the second visit I asked them what they could remember from the previous visit: 'We
are not allowed over there'; 'We are not to break branches off the bushes and trees' etc.
With both lots of children together we talked about rules. We said that we had rules'
over at our place and we decided to make a comparison.
What rules do we have?
Which rules are different?
Which rules are the same?
Why do we have these rules?
Do we agree with them?
Which rules would you change and why?
When we got together again with the other group we talked about our findings and we
discovered that many of our rules were the same and we had rules for similar
reasons-safety, to protect our environment, for convenience of supervision, etc.
Needs and rights
The children's ideas of needs and rights were written on the blackboard under the
They were then asked to consider what they thought their particular needs were.
The same was done for rights.
The children wrote what they believed their needs and rights to be on their worksheets.
They read out their needs and rights during a Circle Time. 'My needs are ...' 'My
The children were then asked to spend some time at home thinking and finding out about
the needs and rights of each family member.
The next day they completed the other section of the worksheet.
Once again their thoughts were shared during Circle Time. 'I found out that my mother's
needs are...' 'My brother's needs are...' etc.
Who am I--today?
This was one of the initial activities. The children were asked to sit quietly and think
about the statements and the worksheet as I read them out.
They were then given a sheet to complete and I helped them with spelling etc.
During Circle Time each child gave the answer to number 1, then number 2 and so on.
(They could pass if they wished.)
The children then folded their paper, sealed it with a 'special' label and signed their
name over the label.
They then put their paper into a box which was sealed, wrapped in brown paper and
They decided to open the box in ten months time to find out whether they have changed
I plan to give them a different looking worksheet to fill in two weeks before the
opening of the 'Who Am I' box. It will seek the same information and on completion will be
placed in their 'All About Me' folders [see the next section for a variant of this
activity]. At the appointed time, the 'Who Am I' sheet from the beginning of the year will
be opened, compared and added to their folders. A Circle Time will be held for the
children to tell what has changed and what has stayed the same.
To develop a trusting attitude towards members of the class.
To examine patterns of listening.
Children sit in a circle.
A child is chosen to whisper a message about herself/himself that the class doesn't
know, to a person sitting next to her/him.
The last person to hear the message tells the class what they heard i.e. 'Mim likes
to play with her dog Spot.'
Was the final message the one that was started?
If not, how did it change?
How well did you listen?
Is this a pattern of yours?
'What I like...'
During the first week I told the children who I was, about my family, what I had done in
my life, and showed them photographs. I said that we were going to do different activities
in order to get to know each other better. I then introduced 'What I Like' which was very
To think about 'self'.
To find out about other 'selves'.
a mirror, cardboard, paper plates, wool, coloured paper, textas, scissors etc.
Class brainstormed their ideas re what they like and these were written on
Read through list.
Children wrote and illustrated their choices onto both sides of card (19 cms x 25
They read through their list with a partner and made additions/deletions. Children
had a good look at themselves in a mirror and then they made up a paper plate collage of
their face. The child's name was written on the back--'Ben likes...' and the card was then
hung from paper plate face.
During Circle Time each child read out their list: 'I like...'
Children noted who had the same likes.
Mobiles of 'What I Like' hung from hoops.
The display of 'What I Like' generated a lot of interest both within the classroom and
with visitors. The list of things someone liked was often talked over with the person
concerned and the children loved showing visitors.
I found that this activity effectively achieved the aims.
V.I.P. for the week
Use the Name Tin to select a V.I.P. for the week.
During Circle Time children ask a question about the V.I.P. The answers are then
written onto a poster with the V.I.P.'s name on the top. This is displayed in a prominent
place for the week and more information can be added by anyone during that time.
Display child's name above a list of questions:
When is your birthday?
What do you like to eat? etc.
During Circle Time at the end of the week each child tells what they found out about the
This was a very popular activity and we certainly got to know each other!
Finding out about others
Discuss individual differences in people. No two people are exactly alike. Sit opposite a
partner and write down a list of ways in which your partner is different from you--don't
forget things like ability to kick a ball, to run, to talk, to get along with people, etc.
When you have finished, compare lists with your partner. If he or she has some qualities
you like, tell him or her, and ask how he or she got them, and if he or she would help you
Discuss some physical things which can affect the reasons why people act differently at
times e.g. weather, tiredness, sickness.
Give other examples.
Finding out about others
Make up cards for children to fill in. They write their name first.
|Charles is allergic to mice
....................................... and dislikes ..................................
||Wendy finds it too difficult
Cards are stored in a box and used as a reading activity. They can be turned upside
down and used in a game or read by a child during quiet reading or activity time.
Cards can be filled in as soon as an interesting fact is discovered.
Frieda knows her 3 x table
A child reports:
'We all listened to the same piece of music' ('Song of the Seashore': James Galway)
pictures about the music and then we wrote down what we thought about when we listened to
the music. We all listened to the same music but we had different ideas.'
'I thought of sailing around in a boat on calm water.'
'The flowers are growing in the green house and it is a hot day. The weather vane
slowly in the wind.'
'Three pigeons are flying and a baby pigeon is in the tree.'
'I thought of the wilderness. I saw a platypus sitting on the bank.'
Something to think about
During spare minutes before or after play or time in between lessons I read newspaper
articles, selections from books or showed photographs to give the children 'Something To
Think About'. The aim was to develop understanding of others by finding out about other
selves. I was hoping to develop sensitivity to others' needs and highlight some issues
i.e. how can we help disabled people? What makes their life different, difficult or
The children particularly enjoyed these sessions.
They were always attentive and keen to add their experiences and opinions. I tried to
keep the 'Something To Think About' times short and interesting-just long enough to raise
an issue or state a fact.
If the 'Something To Think About' session generated a lot of interest we held a Circle
Time for further discussion. The book What it's like to be me edited by Helen Exley
generated a lot of discussion. Children often talked about the children mentioned in the
book and it provided them with a valuable insight into the lives of many disabled
What it's like to be me
(What it's like to be me, ed. by Helen Exley, Exley Publications Limited)
This book was prepared during the International Year of the Disabled as a contribution
by disabled children themselves. It is written and illustrated entirely by disabled
Helen Exley writes:
||The basic idea was that this was to be their book,
entirely their own words, entirely their own drawings saying what disabled children
themselves really felt ... I found it the most genuinely happy book I have ever edited.
Some of the section headings include:
I can answer for myself
I feel the same as you
Problems getting out and about
Please don't tease me
I'm happy to be me
About hearing problems
Feeling left out
The book contains an incredible amount of material-black and white drawings, colourful
illustrations, photographs, comments, poems and life histories. Each contribution is
labelled with the child's name and age.
The book provides an excellent insight into the lives of disabled children and it was
Did you know?
Place a blackboard or display board in a prominent place in the school. Children add any
information re human rights, i.e. newspaper cuttings, photographs, quotes from books etc.
Teachers or parents make sure that something new is added on a regular basis--once a week.
(adapted from Human rights by David Hayes)
In Africa and Asia only 20% of the rural population has access to clean water.
Every year the world spends $450 billion on defence. One twentieth of this sum could
begin to provide adequate food and services for the world's starving population.
We may agree that everyone has the right to education but did you know that most
children in the world do not receive even an elementary education and that women, the poor
and people living in rural districts are the worst affected.
In the Third World life expectancy is under 48 years. Fifteen million children under 5
years of age die every year through malnutrition.
What do you think everyone in the world should have?
What makes you happy?
What do you need?
If you were hungry how would you feel coming to school, working and playing games?
Have you seen anyone who is poor? How can you tell? Do you think people should be
called poor only if they are hungry or have fewer material things than most other people?
What happens to old people who cannot look after themselves?
Place a world map next to the board so that students can look up countries that may
Have a teacher as a reference point so that interested children can ask questions,
discuss the quote, hand in more material, collect books to read etc.
Regularly mention any new display material in staff meetings and during
assemblies--interest generated may carry through to the classrooms and be developed
C. 'ALL ABOUT ME' FOLDERS
[These have been mentioned a number of times above. Here Stephanie develops the idea in
1. SETTING UP FOLDERS
Children were given the opportunity to choose the colour of their folder. They decorated
their 'All About Me' label and their name for the cover. This was then put on the folder
and covered with clear contact.
I was hoping to have a file of 'All About Me' ideas/worksheets so that I could just select
a particular topic and use it at an appropriate time i.e. 'Mothers' to use around about
Mothers Day. This plan didn't eventuate. I think it would have been easier to have had a
basic resource of ideas/worksheets to draw upon instead of sifting through lots of
material as I went along.
The response from the children was taken into account. Some ideas were received better
than others and they could have easily been developed into themes, using additional
material i.e. books, films, drama etc.
Folders effectively satisfied all points covered in the program outline.
Although the ringed folders were bulky, they were strong and provided flexibility.
Children were open and enthusiastic about showing their folder to others.
Use reinforced holed paper.
Store the folders together for easy reference and care. I found two oblong plastic
containers were ideal, with every two folders facing each other. With the spine of the
folder named, children were able to find their folder quickly and easily. The folders
stored in this way meant that they could easily be moved to other rooms etc.
2. GENERAL ACTIVITIES
(a) Who am I--today?
To describe 'me'.
Tear a piece of paper into six pieces. On each piece of paper write one word which
describes you. No-one else will see your papers so be as honest as possible.
Arrange your words in order putting the one you are most pleased with at the top
and the one you are least pleased with at the bottom.
Think about what you feel about each of your describing words. Do you like it?
Do you want to keep it?
Do you want to describe it more?
Do you want to leave it out?
Imagine what you would be like with only two of your pieces of paper. How would you
Write down two things that you have learned about yourself and put them in your
'All About Me' folder.
In Circle Time tell the group the two things you found out about yourself.
I've found this activity is easier if a lot of descriptive words are written on the
blackboard before the children start to write their words.
(b) My family
Think about your family.
Tell someone near you who is in your family.
Draw your family.
Write their names under their pictures.
During Circle Time tell us who is in your family and show your picture.
This was a simple and yet very informative activity. All the children were happy to talk
about their family.
My family-follow up
During a quiet time children were asked to think about the following:
Is each member of your family the same?
What is the same?
What does your mother like/dislike?
What does your father like/dislike? etc.
If you don't know the answers to these questions how can you find out? A couple of days
later they were given the following worksheet.
Is each member of your family the same? Yes No
What is the same? ______________________________________________
Fill in the likes and dislikes for each member of your family
My mother likes ______________________________________________
My mother dislikes ______________________________________________
My _____ likes ______________________________________________
My _____ dislikes ______________________________________________
My _____ likes ______________________________________________
My _____ dislikes ______________________________________________
(e) When I was a baby
Children were asked to find out about their likes and dislikes when they were a baby.
This activity caused a great deal of excitement. The children enthusiastically told
everyone about their findings and we had lots of laughs. The parent feedback was very
positive and immediate.
Click here to continue with Chapter 6
| Contents |
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter
3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4 part 2|
Chapter 5 | Chapter 6... | Chapter 6 part 2
| Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |