Circle of Voices Teaching Technique

talking circle2.png

I am in the process of finishing my final assignment for my PIDP course and came across a teaching technique in Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth F. Barkley called Circle of Voices.  Now this is something I am very familiar as the Talking Circle.

The Circle of Voices activity focuses on students sitting in a circle, listening to others respectfully, absorbing the information, using all the information and applying to their own ideas.  Each person takes a turn talking and does not talk or interrupt others.

The SET gives step-by-step instructions to follow, examples and variations and extensions.  It is noted this is a variation used by Native Americans or in Canada First Nation people.

You will also find a link here on a teaching technique by Brookfield and Preskill (1999) around the Circle of Voices.

I use Talking Circles regularly when I work with students and staff.  Having individuals sit in a circle is a great way to see everyone as the activity proceeds.  It is also allows individuals to contribute to the discussion.  Below I have attached protocol around the talking circle.



In my classroom the Talking Circle gives me the opportunity to hear each person as the talking stick is passed around and an opportunity to expand on the topic if needed on the next round.

I will be go more in depth at a later date – final assignment for my course.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all my on-line classmates and the wonderful blogs throughout this course.  Sonja, Hong, Vrindavana, Keith and Eddies’ blogs inspired me to take a bigger leap into the blog world and explore.  Hong’s blog, here on Kindness and Leading by Example resonated with me to be a good role model to students and in my community on a daily basis.


Barkley, E. (2010), Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Brookfield S. & Preskill S., (1999) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools & Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, Jossey-Bass




Learning Techniques

This course has been challenging to me for I do not have a class to develop a program or students to implement any of these techniques to.  What I am finding is this course is giving me a better understanding on how to engage with the adults I am working.

As I was searching the web to learn more about proclamation techniques for my final assignment I came across an article by Ransom Patterson on CollegeInfoGeek created by Thomas Frank.  Patterson’s article talks about Why the “Learning Styles” Concept is Wrong (And What to Use Instead).   Patterson pointed out the three learning styles; audio, visual & kinesthics are myths and focuses on learning techniques instead.

Of course I started thinking of the theory around multiple intelligence (Gardner, 1983) and how these other learning styles are still not recognized in the education world.  Garner’s Dec 2010 TedX Talk is around rethinking the keys to success which focuses around MI (mulitiple intelligences).

So, as I prepare for my final assignment I will focus on reminding students about different learning techniques to help support learning styles.




Gardner, H., (2010 Dec) Beyond Wit and Grit: Rethinking the Keys to Success, TedX Talks.

Patterson, R., (2016 Oct) Why the “Learning Styles” Concept is Wrong (And What to Use Instead. CollegeInfoGeek by Thomas Frank website


Promoting class civility

As I was scanning through my course book, Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley I came across the above in Chapter 9 Tips and Strategies for Building Community (p. 111, 112).  Creating a classroom environment where students and educator respect one another and how crucial it is to everyone.  It reminded me of one of my cultural programs many years ago when I asked the Aboriginal students what respect looked like and had them do an activity writing down words down around a large circle.  I broke the students up in two groups and gave them 20 minutes to create their masterpiece.  This was the start of the school year and I had a large group of intermediate students and I wanted them to understand respect among each other and to know the room was their safe place to speak from their heart without any repercussions.   Several years later I had one of the students bring it up and said it was one of the favourite activities.

Being back in my home territory I have the opportunity to attend band meetings.  The band & nation has created a policy with expectations and consequences for unacceptable behaviour among the community members and is read before any meeting in our language.  Incivility is not acceptable and I know with the presence of lateral violence among the community, it can be very difficult in these meetings.

Here is a great You Tube video I found about incivility shutting down your brain at work.  Same can be said at school.  This video resonated with me.  I experienced incivility in a previous job.  The results of that experience still impacts me today…



Barkley, E., Student Engagement Techniques, A Handbook for College Faculty, (2010) Jossey-Bass

Porath, Christine, (2016, May)  How incivility shuts down our brains at work, re:Work with Google

Building Community in the Classroom

Chapter Nine in the book Student Engagement and Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley talks about tips and strategies for building community in the classroom.  She says students who feel they have something to contribute to the class will be more engage.

Below are some tips for educators from Amy McKinney, M.Ed., on the website TeacherVison, called the Importance of Building Community in the Classroom.  She emphasize starting this connection the first day of school;

  • Build students trust to take academic risks
  • Establish clear expectations to limit behaviour issues
  • Ownership of their learning and classroom
  • Building a relationship between teacher and student

Even though this article is focused on K to 12 students I can see it is still relevant in post secondary institutions.

Some of the tips and strategies in Chapter 9, I will be using in the future.  I love T/S 29 Reduce anonymity: Learn students’ names and help students learn each other’s names.  Suggestions are; photo rosters/seating charts, student info cards, name games and interviews and introductions.  One of the things I use with students (k to 12) is talking circle introductions.  I instruct students that an eagle feather or talking stick will be passed around clockwise (lesson is given why) and each person takes a turn (they can pass if they are not comfortable for the first couple of times).  The student is to say their name, ancestral name, nation/country and something about them.  It is a great ice breaker and everyone participating gets to know about each other.

Dr. Isabel Grayson, below, reiterates the importance of getting to know students and talks about a similar circle to get to know student’s names.


Barkley, E., (2009). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass



Dr. Isabel Grayson, (2015, June) Building Community in Classroom: A Teaching Philosophy, Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning,

McKinney, Amy, (2017, August) Importance of Building Community in the Classroom, TeacherVision, Website.


Course blog 2 – Active Learning



My weekly submission to the my course.

After reviewing several online documents and videos for my writing for my discussion forum, I have decided to stick with the forum on Debate.  Doing more research and making connections with the book Student Engagement and Techniques by Elizabeth F. Barkley I had the “aha” moment that Debate is part of the activities used in an active learning classroom (yes I can be slow to make the connections).  With my Aboriginal background and being in the public school system for nearly two decades, I have made the cultural connections to the present day techniques and theories.


Barkley, Elizabeth F., 2010. Student Engagement Techniques, A Handbook for College Faculty.

Please find several videos below regarding debate.



Student Engagement and Techniques Course – Blog 1

First blog since my last course 2 years ago.  Life got in the way and I didn’t follow through with “my world of blog”.  Well I am back… so here we go.

The other night I sat at a Community Education meeting with my First Nation Band.  I recently moved back to my home territory and decided it was time to give back and be an active member with the band especially in the field of education.  I am lucky and have been working in the public education system with Aboriginal youth for nearly two decades.  During our round table discussion we were asked to say one word we would like to tell our youth about the future of education.  A man sitting a couple of seats down from me talked about he’s experience in the education system.  He talked about the feeling of helplessness, racism, discrimination and wondered if any adult cared.  He said “If I felt that way, what do the youth today feel?”  As he was talking I was jotting down notes because I was remember the first couple of chapter of the book, Student Engagement and Techniques by Elizabeth F. Barkley (2010) on intervention techniques, especially the part about ‘At Risk’ students and disengagement.  I thought about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and where the basic fundamentals like sleep and food need to be met before higher levels needs can be met.

Tamsin McMahon (2014) talks about the horrifying facts of Aboriginal children and youth living on reservations in Canada.  In her article she outlines the unfair distribution of education funds from the federal government to on reserve schools, the conditions of the these schools and the lack of curriculum needed for students to get their education.  But these aren’t the only barriers to the young people on reservations.  Poverty, isolation, drugs and alcohol, lack of proper housing and adequate drinking water are just the tip of the iceberg.  When Tamsin interviewed a former at risk youth, Mike McKenzie said he felt there was hope for the young people and future opportunities.  He says… “You don’t have to be condemned from day one just because you were born on a reserve.”

Victor Rios (2015) on Ted Talks brings to the forefront how the education system ignores the most vulnerable students.  He says there are three strategies the education system needs to mindshift when it come to working with ‘At Risk’ students;

  1. Deficit perspective of education.
  2. Value the student’s stories – welcome into the classroom.
  3. provide more adequate resources to youth ie., job training, counseling, mentorship programs.

The one thing Mr. Rois said that hit home for me was “When you teach from the heart the mind will follow.”

These students have the potential and ability to change and so do we – the educators.

Barkley, Elizabeth F., Student Engagement Techniques A Handbook for College Faculity, 2010, Jossey-Bass

McMahon, Tamsin, Why Fixing First Nation Education remains so far out of reach , Aug 22, 2014, Macleans

Rois, Victor, November 2015, Help for Kids the Education System Ignores, TED Talks Live


Week 9 – Blogging


“Blogging is like the eagles flying high above the sunflowers sending messages to the Creator.”  Faye


So what have I learned in the “Secret World of Blog?”(reference to Pierre Burton’s book “Secret World of Og.”)  I’ve got to say that if it wasn’t for this course I would have never adventured to the underworld or blogging but now I am glad I did it.

The first thing I did when I knew I had to create a blog was search the web and read some amazing references (see below) and great resources from the course.  I noticed most people were using WordPress so I decided I would also.

These are the things I learned about creating a blog;

  1.  It it scary!  OMG!  What is blogging?  First thing I did was ask my daughter… nasty look… figure it out for yourself mom?  Second, the students will know at school.  Wrong!  Third, the young teacher I work with will know.  Yes, help… well a least more than I got from my daughter and the students.  Fourth, research, research, research.
  2. Tackle my fears.  OMG!  OK.  Where do I go?  What is a domain?  What site do I use?  Fear… that knot in my gut when I don’t what the heck I’m getting myself into.  Breathe… everyone else in the course has to do this also.  It will be okay.  What do I say to the students?  Don’t let fear control your destiny and reach for the moon.  Remember my goal.
  3.  I was living in denial.  Hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I can do this.  I did need to get out of my comfort zone.  Now maybe I’ll tackle snapchat… not!  I still don’t understand ‘hashtag’ on my Twitter account.
  4.  I had to get creative.  What do I post?  Why does everyone else’s look better than mine.  After reading Joshua Becker’s blog ‘A Simple, Helpful Guide to Start Your Blog’  I feel better knowing that as my confidence grows blogging, I will become more creative and comfortable with my site.  I am even thinking of blogging on a regular basis.
  5.  I became a better researcher.  I had no idea that the blog world was so big and interesting.  I realized I like reading blogs more than articles.
  6.  I enjoy reading other’s blogs.   A new world of connecting with others.  As a life long learner, I know I will continue to grow reading other people’s blogs.  Maybe I even get brave and reply to some of them.
  7.  I have to be a more thoughtful thinker.  Blogging is out there forever.  In the Cloud, cyperspace as I call it.  Be careful with my words.  I can’t take them back.
  8.  I’m a better person.  Blogging has expanded my horizons has taught me not to limit my mind and extend my imagination.  It has opened the doors to the world without leaving my house.  As I write and read other’s blogs, I have become more inquisitive.  I feel more balanced.

What classmates’s blog did I learn from?

I looked at several different classmates’ blogs and found them intriguing.  Ian’s blog made my mouth water because I could clearly see right away that he was in the food industry.  His blog about learning disorders in adult learners made me think about all the students I have worked with that had learning disorders.  Their challenges would continue through post secondary but their determination to push on will make them succeed.  Kate and Laura’s blogs were similar because they are both in the medical profession and they both had great information about technology in the health care profession and how important it is for new nurses and professionals to be learning it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a partner but I feel that I benefited because it gave me the opportunity to review more classmates’ blogs.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of my blog?

Now looking about other classmates’ blog, I definitely can see I need to reference and link my information better.  Being more creative with my site is going to be the next step.  I have a difficult time with a white background so it must be difficult for others to read mine.  Will be my first priority.  I need to be more open-minded and more confident.



Abdullahi, (n.d.)

Becker, Joshua, (n.d.) 15 Reason I think You Should Blog

Reich, Daniel, (Oct. 15/11) 9 Reasons You Should Blog