Series: Expeditionary Learning Deeper Learning

Debrief Circles
Lesson Objective: Reflect on learning through conversation
Grades 6-12 / All Subjects / Collaboration

Thought starters

  1. Why is it important to spend time modeling how to participate in debrief circles?
  2. What do students learn from reflecting with their peers?
  3. How does Ms. Ekmalian structure the questions she asks students?
I really appreciate seeing this done in a math class. Great level of preparation by the kids, and emphasis on both speaking and listening. I also love that she shares that the strategy wasn't very successful on the first try! Implementation can take multiple attempts and lots of modelling!
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This video shows that students in this age group are capable of doing this activity if it is structured correctly. I can see this being extremely beneficial with middle school age student.
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Could you elaborate on your AGENDA for me? I have been perusing the resources, so I know it is tied to the EL model. Is your agenda a school-wide model and what comes after "Do Now?"
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Great ways to create positive interactions and discourse among students. Are there any videos for how this looks in elementary classrooms.
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What a great way to get students engaged in "listening" and processing what they have learned and heard. I appreciated that the author pointed out that this is a hard concept for middle school students, and that students were comfortable using the technique by the end of the year.
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  • Debrief Circles Transcript

    Teacher: Inside circle, you’re talking. Inside circle, you’re what?

    [Cross talk] Listening.

    Teacher: Okay. Inside circle, 30 seconds left.

    Debrief Circles Transcript

    Teacher: Inside circle, you’re talking. Inside circle, you’re what?

    [Cross talk] Listening.

    Teacher: Okay. Inside circle, 30 seconds left. Make it happen.

    Narrator: Debrief is actually where the kids do get the deeper learning and the deeper understanding of why it was what they did either worked or did not work. Today in math class, we were teaching them math class and proportions. I said, what better way to get them to interact with proportion and ratios that making waffles?

    Teacher: First question is what would you have changed in your batter? Go ahead.

    Narrator: Within the debrief circle, the inner circle was speaking while the outside circle was listening. Then the outside circle was speaking and the inside circle was listening. Then students were to rotate.

    Teacher: Inside circle, rotate two people to the right. Outside circle, what did you notice? Go ahead. Share.

    [Cross talk 01:06 – 1:08]

    Narrator: Students were able to speak to each other and really hold each other accountable for what they were learning and how they were learning it.

    Teacher: Outside circle, you’re going to share your wonders.

    Narrator: In the beginning, when we first did the debrief circle, it was a major challenge. Students would not speak to each other, so you kind of had to go around and model it a few times. Now that we’re toward the end of the year, they’re definitely a lot more comfortable with each other, and they kinda know who they are and who their peers are. They’re able to articulate better.

    Teacher: Now, two targets that I think were most important today, we’re gonna go back and revisit ‘em. First one was our learning target, which is I can describe the relationship between the two quantities. Inside circle, please let the outside circle know what it mean to do that today in class. Go ahead.

    Narrator: It’s the courage that comes up in students to be able to articulate what it is and how it is they’re learning, and then for other students, to take it in so they can learn how other students, as well, are learning.

    Teacher: Inside circle, rotate.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

The Springfield Renaissance School
1170 Carew Street
Springfield MA 01104
Population: 689

Data Provided By:



Maria Ekmalian


Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Planning

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Engagement

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12 / ELA / Tch DIY