Instructional Strategy: Circulation

Purposefully moving around the room is an important part of instruction that has a strong impact during all parts of a lesson. Circulation helps you to engage students, gather important information about their leaning, and build relationships with them. To incorporate circulation more effectively, take a look at the strategies below.

  • Break the Plane. “The Plane” is the invisible barrier that runs across the front of your classroom — about 5 feet in front of the screen, usually where the first student desk starts. Breaking The Plane in the first five minutes of the class session sends the message that you are in control of the learning environment. Students will begin to see you less like a presenter and more like the teacher that you are. Since the feeling that they may “interrupt” your presentation is eliminated when you break The Plane, students will more readily ask questions and contribute their ideas. It will also keep your movements unpredictable so that students have less of an opportunity to get distracted by the internet because you may walk past them or behind them at any moment. Additionally, you get the chance to see what students are writing down and listen in on their conversations so that you can respond to misconceptions that they may have as well as capitalize on concepts they’ve grasped.
  • Total Access. In addition to breaking The Plane, you should also to have full access to all parts of the room. Your instruction and guidance will be most effective if you can stand next to any student to support his/her learning. Think about room arrangements that allow you to move about freely without interrupting your teaching to get to any space at any time.
  • Engage When You Circulate. Moving around the room has many inherent benefits, and can be even more powerful when you are purposeful about how you engage with students as you move. You can provide both verbal and nonverbal signals to students to direct their learning as you circulate. Think: “You’re missing one key piece here…” / “Tell me more about how you came to this conclusion.” / “Your work is exactly on point with what we were talking about during the lesson.” And: thumps up / point to missing information / a-okay sign / tap on the shoulder to help refocus.
  • Make Yourself Available. As you position yourself in the classroom, your goal should be to face as much of the class as you can. This means that when you sit down to work 1-on-1 with a student, position your body so that you face the majority of the class; when you work at the front of the room, make sure to turn around frequently to address the class. This will allow you to be open, approachable, and have a strong sense of what’s going on in the room.