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30 minutes




Speaking object


To learn to respectfully listen to and connect with others with understanding

Doing activities in a circle provides educators the opportunity to acknowledge that the use of circles is rooted in the cultures of Indigenous peoples from across North America and around the world. There are many connections that can be made between Restorative Processes and Ojibwe Medicine Circle and Seven Grandfather teachings. Contact your board’s Indigenous education department for supports to further your learning and the learning of your students. They may have access to relevant resources from your local community partners.

The classroom circles that you facilitate provide an opportunity to create a comfortable space where you and your students see themselves reflected in a genuine and authentic way. What is most important is that your circle gives voice to the members of your classroom community.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was struck by the federal government in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. Classroom circles offer a path to move forward with Call-to-Action Number 63.3: Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

Please make sure to review the “Considerations” section before starting this practice.

  • Provide context for the practice (see “Evidence” section).
  • Invite students to form a circle where students and staff are sitting/standing at the same level.
  • Invite students to offer what ground rules they think need to be in place in the Talking Circle so that the voice of everyone is heard and valued.
  • Make a connection to the significance of talking circles for Indigenous people.
  • Consider using a “talking object” to signify whose turn it is to speak without interruption.
  • Provide a topic for discussion (these can be brainstormed and selected with students).
  • Speakers express themselves in any way that is comfortable.
  • Everyone else listens in a non-judgmental way to what the speaker is saying.
  • When the speaker is done talking, they pass the object in a clockwise direction to the next person until everyone’s voice has been heard or a student wishes to pass.
  • When the discussion is complete, thank the students for joining you in the circle.

Talking circles are rooted in the Indigenous practice of sharing circles where a group of people share feelings and discuss issues in a safe climate of trust and cooperation (Mehl-Madrona Mainguy, 2014). Talking circles help to acknowledge, celebrate, encourage, explore and share ideas, along with address problems (Dennis, 2010). Speaking openly and listening to each others’ stories helps students learn about others’ perspectives, as well as provides a safe space to connect and develop relationships with their peers (Absolon, 2010). Talking circles provide opportunities to practice respect for others, mindful listening, and empathy which are effective ways of building and developing relationships, as well as fostering resilience amongst students and teachers (Healey Akearok, 2019).

Absolon, K. (2010). Indigenous Wholistic Theory: A Knowledge Set for Practice. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 5(2), 74-87.

Dennis, L. (2010) Talking Circles: An Indigenous-centered method of determining public policy, programming and practice.

Healey Akearok, G., Cueva, K., Petter, J., Stoor, A., Larsen, C.V.L., Rink, E., … Hiratsuka, V.Y., (2019). Exploring the Term “Resilience” in Arctic Health and Well-Being Using a Sharing Circle as a Community-Centered Approach: Insights from a Conference Workshop, Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, 8(2), 1-11.

Mehl-Madrona, L., & Mainguy, B. (2014). Introducing healing circles and talking circles into primary care. The Permanente journal, 18(2), 4–9. doi:10.7812/TPP/13-104