Cooperative Learning Strategy: Inside Outside Circle

Inside outside circle is a great cooperative learning strategy for sharing student writing, opinions, or answering short questions. Students love it!

About Inside Outside Circle

The cooperative  learning strategy inside outside circle is a sharing or discussion based learning strategy that allows students to work with multiple partners. Inside outside circle works best when used with the whole class, or a large group.


Inside outside circle is a unique cooperative learning strategy in that no materials are really needed. Instead students can share their work or respond to a prompt that is given. 

How to Use the Cooperative Learning Strategy Inside Outside Circle

  1. Students are divided into two equal groups.
  2. The first group forms a circle facing outward. 
  3. The second group forms a circle facing inward, the outer circle, and across from a member of the inner circle to make partners. 
  4. The teacher prompts students to answer a question or share something they have done. 
    1. The inner circle partner goes first, followed by the outer circle partner. 
    2. Partners that one another for sharing their responses.
  5. The teacher gives directions on how to rotate.
    1. I like to mix up rotations. For example, one time I may tell the inner circle to move three partners to their left or the outer circle to move one partner to their right.
      Pro tip: only have one of the circles rotate after each turn, but vary which circle it is.
      Pro tip two: when asking students to rotate a certain number of partners, have the whole class count aloud as they rotate. 
  6. Repeat the process for as long as time allows or until out of prompts. 

When to Use Inside Outside Circle

Inside outside circle is a great strategy for sharing. This might mean sharing student writing as discussed in this post, sharing opinions on a matter, or sharing about what a student did over a school break.

Inside outside circle can be combined with other strategies such as quiz quiz trade with task cards to include more content in the strategy.

Inside outside circle is NOT a strategy to use when students need to show their work or write down answers.

What is the Teacher's Role in Inside Outside Circle?

During the use of the inside outside circle strategy the teacher is the facilitator. You work to manage the rotations as well as keep and eye and ear on when students are finished sharing to begin the next rotation.

Occasionally, if there are an odd number of students I have participated in the structure myself to make the circles even.

Are you looking for more information on cooperative learning strategies? Check out The Ultimate Cooperative Learning Strategies Guide

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  1. What a helpful resource for teachers who want to incorporate cooperative learning strategies in the classroom! We just included it in our curated list of useful links for our peer tutoring / collaborative learning audience of k-12 teachers at the Peer Tutoring Resource Center. What's a good way to contact you about a proposal we have in mind? Looking forward to hearing from you, thanks -


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