Saturday, August 15, 2015

Helping Circle

The Helping Circle

‘… the whole class team assembles in a ‘helping circle’, usually at the beginning or

end of a writing session, so that writers can share their work and consider the effect

of the writing and what might improve it. After receiving an initial response, the

writer will expect some specific feedback about the effect of the writing and the

choices made. Over time, as students gain confidence and success in the Helping

Circle they will also expect to be helped, questioned, nudged and challenged to

improve. Initially the teacher takes the lead, modelling the expectations of the

helping circle and establishing protocols around language that builds confidence and

skills in developing writers. As students are guided to respond competently and

confidently, the responsibility shifts more to the students themselves for response

and help. They become less dependent on the teacher and more confident in using

the community of writers within the classroom.’

Loane/Muir ‘I’ve Got Something to Say’

 I get to read my work to see if I need to make changes

 I get to read my work to a buddy, who can respond and help me

 I get to listen to a buddy which helps me with my ideas

 I get a chance to make the changes I need to

 I get to learn more about language

 I get to see who has done what

 I can prompt students to support their self-editing

 I can direct students into the learning focus

 I can lead the learning when we all need to hear about (eg) spelling patterns –

 Inclusiveness – we are all part of the class ‘team’; nobody is an outsider

Associate Gail Loane Educational Consultants

 Develops oral language – there is an expectation that we all participate; we learn a

language that is useful when we talk about texts: “when the writer said ‘he trudged

towards school’, it gives a strong image, because of the strong verb…”

 Develops peer response: students expect to listen and respond to the writing of

 Develops critical thinking: “I wonder what the author meant here…”

 Setting is a practical means of monitoring how each student is getting on as a

 Provides an environment where students are secure – they know that they will be

supported and they know they will get a chance to be successful

When everyone is responding to others’ writing, then the writing and the

- Organise the furniture to enable a circle; if there isn’t room for the whole

class to sit in one circle, make it a ‘double’, like a doughnut.

- Practice responding to model texts – can be excerpts from stories, articles,

picture books etc

- Allow and expect a response from everyone, firstly on an emotional level:

Did I like it? Did it do anything for me? What did it make me think?

Feel? Visualise?

- As we respond on an intellectual level, feed in the language that we use to

discuss texts, eg

These comments can be transferred to peer response –

The writer has included three senses when he described…

The writer draws us in with her opening sentence.

We get a clearer picture because the writer has used specific


This is a good example of personification.

Let’s see if we can identify what the writer has done to persuade us…

You have included three senses when you described…

You draw us in with your opening sentence.

- Reminders about the writing processes;

o Writers have something to say (forming intentions)

o Writers choose the best words to say what they mean (creating a

o Writers check, for meaning and for surface features (revision)

- In a Helping Circle, writers come to the circle with their draft writing and

o read their own writing, to themselves - make adjustments if


Associate Gail Loane Educational Consultants

o read to a buddy (turn to the person next to you) – make

- Teachers support the revision process, through their inclusive talk (with

reference to the success criteria):

o Put your finger at the end of your first sentence… did we all

adjustments if necessary

o Who included a sentence that mentioned an action? Let’s listen to

o Did anyone have a go at a listing sentence? Four of you did! Let’s

remember the full stop? Let’s check we have remembered where

the full stops go.

those action sentences… Jamie, read yours to us…

listen to those four… it might give the rest of us some ideas for our

own writing.

- Teachers monitor where students are at: in a circle, you can see at a glance

who has done what

Sally Muir 2014

Associate Gail Loane Educational Consultants

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