Student Engagement Series: Inside/Outside Circles

Are you looking for a way to have your students practice academic vocabulary with one another in an engaging and interactive way? Watch or read below about one of my favorite vocabulary strategies for a whole group setting.


The Inside/Outside Circle is one of my ”go to” strategies for vocabulary practice! It is a great way for all students to be active participants and bring their own ideas to the discussion.


-Vocabulary Notecards

-Expectation Poster

-Observation Form

How it works:

This strategy can be used after any lesson, when you want to reinforce ideas and vocabulary that was taught.

1.After you finish a lesson, pass out a blank notecard or the vocabulary notecard template provided.

2.Give the students a few minutes to write or draw a vocabulary word that connects to the topic just discussed and then have them write it in a sentence.

3.Have the students bring their notecards and gather with half the class standing in a circle facing out, and the other half of the class standing in a circle facing in. They will each have a partner across from them.

4.Then give the students 1 minute to each share their vocabulary notecard. When the students have each shared their notecard, they will switch notecards. Then the inside circle will rotate one person to the right and the students will share their new notecards.

5.What I love most about this, is that the students share their idea originally, but then have to listen and learn from their partners because they will be responsible for sharing their notecard next.

6.Keep switching notecards and partners until the original partners are face to face again!

Tips and Tricks:

Here are some thinks to think of ahead of time.

•It might help the first time to show an expectation of the vocabulary notecard.

•It also might help to explain how the rotation works in the circle with a few students before you have the whole class come together.

•Take it a step deeper by having the students complete the reflection sticky notes after to see what they learned from their peers.

Benefits for ELLS:

This strategy is so easy to implement, and comes with so many benefits for ELLs. It allows the affective filter to be lowered so that they feel more comfortable thinking and sharing about the topic. It also helps them feel confident speaking because they are sharing other student’s ideas, not just their own. ​

Watch the video below to see how to use this in your class and don't forget to grab your Strategy Pack FREEBIE below!

Ready to get started? Just click the picture above, and download your free strategy pack!

I'd love to hear how this worked in your class! Take a picture of the strategy in action and tag me on instagram at inspiringyounglearners!

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