Introduction Getting Ready
Learning Circles Teachers' Guide
Open Circle Plan Projects Share Work Publish
Close Circle Overview

Phase 1: Getting Ready


Participation in a Learning Circle can be a very rewarding experience for both students and teachers.

For teachers, it provides a way to team-teach with many different teachers in a virtual classroom. Developing working relationships with teachers all over the globe enables teachers to develop a very strong sense of the field of teaching. This professional development is more current and dynamic than more traditional avenues of education.

For students, working in a collaborative setting with peers around the world gives them a wider perspectives on issues and a greater understanding of similarities and differences. The work with others can be a powerful mirror that will help them see who they are, where they live, and who they live with in new way.

Now is a great time to have a discussion about expectations and procedures so that you and your students will have a successful experience in their Learning Circles. At the beginning of each of the phase descriptions is a short narrative that describes the Learning Circle experience from the perspective of a single teacher in an Hawaiian classroom.

Learning Circle Interaction

(Curriculum-Based) You and your students will need to coordinate classroom activities with your Learning Circle partners. You can prepare for this interaction by reading this Learning Circle Guide carefully. Part of the excitement of working in a Learning Circle is that it is an open learning environment created by the group. No one can predict exactly what you and your students will be learning over the next few months. Your learning experience evolves from the cooperative work of all.

A little bit of uncertainty is what makes the educational experience so exciting. But there is also a strong need for predictability in networking. It helps if you let your Learning Circle partners know when and how often to expect messages from you and from your students. You will see how important this is the first time your students send a message. They will ask you when they should expect a response. You tell them a few days, or a week, or even a few weeks and they will wait. But if there is no reply once that period is up, they will be very disappointed. So you need to be careful about the predictions you make and recognize that others will be counting on you and your students to respond. Try to set a regular schedule for checking and sending mail and share this information with your partners.

Teacher Preparation

It is important to have a Learning Circle session time line which lists the specific dates for each of the phases of your Learning Circle interaction. This document should be shared with all participants in your Learning Circle prior to the Opening day of the Circle. The Learning Circle timeline from iEARN can serve as a model.

Once you have time line, make a note of the dates when you will be on holiday or away from computer communication in order to share this information with others in your Learning Circle. Make a note of the dates when you will be on holiday or away from computer communication in order to share this information with others in your Learning Circle.

Reading through this Learning Circle Teacher Guide before the start of your Learning Circle will prepare you for working in your Learning Circle.

It is a good idea to have your first " Teacher's Hello message " ready to send as soon as your Learning Circle conference is ready so that everyone will have an opportunity to meet you.

Student Preparation

Your students also need to get ready for this new learning experience. Before the session begins, spend some time talking with your students about the concept of a Learning Circle and the specific curriculum focus of your Learning Circle. Informing parents of your Learning Network activities is also a way to get them involved and gain support for your school's participation.

A student letter introduces the Learning Circles to students. You may find it useful to make copies of this letter to give to your students or post it where your students can read it.

You may find the analogy to primary "circle time" from the introduction useful. Creating an image of an electronic classroom is another way to explain Learning Circles to your students. Once they know the location of your partners, you might want to explore their expectations about their partners.

Informing parents is a way to encourage their involvement in their child's education. A sample letter to parents is included which you can use or modify to suit your needs. Students can take the letter home to their parents when you introduce the Learning Circle concept to your class. This letter also serves to invite parent participation in the Learning Circle activities. Engaging members of the community in your Learning Circle project will enrich the learning environment for everyone.

Finally, you can begin work on the Class Survey so that you will have this ready to send when the Learning Circle opens.

Your Learning Circle Theme and Project

Students in your classroom will be working on a common theme that defines your Learning Circle. It might be helpful to begin by thinking about what community and network resources you can draw on to help your students in the specific theme you selected. These ideas are arranged by Learning Circle theme.

Classroom guests and field trips can broaden your students' perspectives on your Learning Circle theme. There are many social services, businesses, and community programs that have speakers who would be happy to come and talk to your students. There are also likely to be many places in your local community that could become interesting sites of field trips. Developing relationships between the school and community organizations can result in many positive benefits for everyone involved.

There are also many places and people that can be found online using computer networks. These resources are arranged by Learning Circle Theme.

Classroom Guests, Field Trips and Online Resources for Learning Circle Themes:

Computer Chronicles ....  
Places and Perspectives ....  
Mind Works ....  


As you think of ways to help students explore your Circle theme, remember to share them with your Learning Circle. While your local resources are likely to be different, your explorations may give ideas to teachers in other locations about how they can use their local services to enrich their students' experiences.

It may help to think about the following as you prepare for your work in Learning Circles.

What do you think your students will want to know about their peers?

What do you want to know about the teachers and their schools?

For more information and ideas about projects for each of the Learning Circle themes, seeicon Phase 3: Planning the Learning Circle Projects.

Managing Electronic Mail

Now is a good time to decide how you will be handling the mail that you receive from the other schools. There are many different strategies and you will find the one that fits best within your teaching style within the structure of Learning Circles that you have selected. Most likely your messages will be distributed by a maillist or posted within a conference structure. If you are participating in Learning Circles through the International Education and Resource Network, (iEARN), you will be have the opportunity to select online conferencing and email.

Teacher Comments...

Teachers comment on their experiences in Learning Circles.

Getting Ready Checklist

The Phase 1 Getting Ready Checklist will help you see if you are ready for phase 2: Opening the Circle.


HINT: You may want to print copies of each of the phase checklists as a reminder of what you need to accomplish by the end of each phase.

Go Back to Overview


Copyright © 1997, 2006, Margaret Riel