Double Circle

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The curricula strategy double circle, also known as inside-outside circle or onion, is used as a way of organizing discussion groups in the classroom. It is a specific kind of peer work, whereby partners are changing after every round. The whole class is divided into two groups and during the activities each student is involved at the same time (cf. Weidner, 2003, p. 170).


Double circle is helpful for improving free speaking and fluency in Language Class-room as well as active listening. The students are able to correct each other regarding content or language (cf. Grieser-Kindel, Henseler, Möller, 2006, p. 48). Depending on the task, different strategies might be involved as well (i.e. mind-mapping). Double circle includes movement, which leads to active learning.


Double circle may be used in different contexts and in combination with different types of activities. On the one hand it can serve as a way of comparing homework – on the other hand it can be used for sharing opinions or ideas concerning a specific topic the teacher introduced. Besides it can be introduced in different situations of a lesson: the teacher can make use of it while doing a content period or afterwards (cf. Grieser-Kindel, Henseler, Möller, 2006, p. 48). At the beginning of a school year it can be utilized as an activity of getting to know each other. At other times it may be helpful for introducing topics, exchanging opinions, remembering content or repetition of topics that had been introduced some time ago (cf. Peterßen, 1999, p. 167). On top of that, the strategy may be used for pursuing different goals (like speaking fluently or the preparation of a short presentation). Further aims are to reduce anxiety and improve social contacts as well as get used to certain topics (cf. Peterßen, 1999, p. 167). Depending on the number of rounds of changing partners, carrying out the strategy takes about 30-45 minutes. Some kind of acoustic signal might be used for announcing the period of time and the moment of changing partners.


The teacher has to define the topic of discussion and the desks should be put against the wall. If the students are supposed to sit while discussing, they need to arrange two circles of chairs – one inner and one outer circle so that “the chairs in the outer circle [are] facing inwards and those of the inner circle [are] facing outwards” (Klippel, 1984, p. 9). Otherwise the students can stand opposite each other.


First the teacher should introduce the course to double circle and the aim of it. The children can then be counted off “in ‘As’ and ‘Bs’” (Grieser-Kindel, Henseler, Möller, 2006, p. 51). Afterwards the ‘As’ are supposed to form the inner circle and the ‘Bs’ to form the outer one so that everybody faces another pupil. To avoiding the grouping of friends only, it’s helpful to let one of the circles move in one direction for one or two places before starting, so that everyone is facing a differ-ent student (cf. ibid., p. 49). Now the students of the inner circle start to present the ones of the outer circle their results, ideas or thoughts concerning the topic of the discussion and the students of the outer one can take notes for summarizing the content. The teacher is supposed to give the acoustic signal for the end of the first discussion round. After each round, one of the circles moves a few places in one direction and then the ‘Bs’ are the ones who present their thoughts to the ‘As’. Every pair is now supposed to either discuss the same topic/question or a different (this is variable). Depending on the topic and the time the teacher wants to spend on this activity, one could change partners 3-4 times (cf. Weidner, 2003, p. 171).

Role of the Teacher[edit]

The teacher is the one who determines the amount of time that is spent on one discussion round as well as the number of rounds (cf. Peterßen, 1999, p. 167). While the discussions are going on, the teacher should go around, listen to some peers and remind them to speak in English if necessary (cf. Grieser-Kindel, Henseler, Möller, 2006, p. 49). Afterwards he selects two students to present their notes in class (one student from the ‘As’ and one from the ‘Bs’). For the integration of the other students, the members of the same group can correct the student who is presenting, or add additional results.


Grieser-Kindel, Henseler and Möller (2006, p. 49) give some further advice and provide a graphic for visual aid. Besides, it might be helpful for the teacher to limit the time for arranging the double circle. If the class consists of an odd number, the teacher can tell one of the students to work with two others or one of them could observe the whole group and each pair. He could remind them not to talk with other neighbors. If the students need more preparation for the discussion, it can be good to let them take notes before starting the double circle activity. They also mention that it is important to inform the students about the way of controlling the work before they start the double circle so that they know about the importance of the discussion activity for following tasks (cf. ibid., 2006, p. 49). The teacher should be aware that the first time of coming together in pairs will take more time than the other rounds. Apart from that “[the] activity can well become quite noisy as many people are standing close together and speaking, but it is perfectly possible to quiten things down by, for example, asking them to whisper for a while” (Stenlev, 2003, p. 38).


Grieser-Kindel, Henseler and Möller (2006, p. 49-50) propose two variants for double circle:

Information gap[edit]

The students could get two different texts on the same topic so that the ‘As’ are provided with different material than the ‘Bs’. Every one of them could then pre-pare a mind-map for their text and only the mind-map (not the text itself) is al-lowed to be used during the double circle discussion.


This variant expects the students to stand in two rows so that everyone is facing another one. Afterwards, the procedure is the same as the one of the original dou-ble circle. Inside-Outside Circles can also be used for tutoring vocabulary. McCloskey (2005, p. 8) proposes that “[each] student prepares to teach one vocabulary or grammar or other language item to others”. The procedure is the same as in double circle.


Stenlev mentions some advantages of the Inside-Outside Circle. According to her “[it] is very good for getting the pupils/students to feel relaxed with each other in a new class, where one can, for example, use it to get them to talk about themselves in English” (Stanlev, 2003, p. 38). She also states that the double circle is a suitable way of developing presentation skills. The task for the double circle might be a five-minute presentation in which the presenters have to “present material in a clear, well-structured way” (Stanlev, 2003, p. 38), while the listener has to listen carefully to be able to comment on the presentation afterwards. Furthermore the feedback they give each other might lead to an improvement of presentation skills (cf. Stenlev, 2003, p. 39). Besides, double circle is useful for utilising time for speaking instead of wasting it “If we are interested in our students speaking English in their English lessons, there is something useful to be had here” (Stenlev, 2003, p. 39).

List of References

Grieser-Kindel, C., Henseler, R., Möller, S. (2006). Method Guide. Paderborn: Schöningh Verlag.

Klippel, F. (1984). Keep Talking. Communicative fluency activities for language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.

McCloskey, M.L. (2005). Cooperative Language Learning. Handout, No.5 (online). Retrieved July 22nd 2012 from the World Wide Web:

Peterßen, W.H. (1999). Kleines Methoden-Lexikon. München: Oldenbourg Schulbuchverlag.

Stenlev, Jette (2003). Cooperative Learning in Foreign Language Teaching. Sprongforum, No.25 (online). Retrieved July 22nd 2012 from the World Wide Web:

Weidner, M. (2003). Kooperatives Lernen im Unterricht. Das Arbeitsbuch. Seel-ze: Kallmeyer.