Student-led Circle of Power and Respect

Advisory meetings foster leadership, confidence, empowerment

For Middle Level

This spring, as part of a video-recording project with Origins, I observed two groups of students leading Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) advisory meetings in Minnesota schools: ninth graders in Sarah Zosel's advisory at Community of Peace Academy in St. Paul, and sixth graders in Karla Bisco's classroom at New City School in Minneapolis. Afterward, I asked both teachers and several of the students to reflect on the experience. The following article summarizes their responses.

One of the most effective ways to help students endorse and gain the most from CPR is to allow them to lead a meeting. Student-led CPRs appeal to a compelling adolescent need: the desire to be in charge of something they can do with competency and with their peers. A sixth grader said, "I think it is a good idea to let kids lead the meeting because you prove to yourself that you are a responsible person." As teachers begin to implement CPR meetings this fall, they can tell students that one of the reasons they are learning the routine is eventually to lead the meetings themselves.

Both teachers agreed that students would be more invested in the meetings if they were involved in planning and leading CPR. Sarah observed that student participation in activities is higher when students are in charge. Students are able to get their peers to play more challenging games. She was initially amazed that students who tended to be quiet in class were clear and articulate leading CPR: "They talk more in those 20 minutes than they do any other time in class!" Students also notice that their classmates are respectful of each other when they are leading the meeting. One sixth grader reflected, "I learned that my classmates listen to the speaker and are on their best behavior."

The Circle of Power and Respect
The Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) is a daily, wholegroup gathering designed to build community. CPRs format of greeting, sharing, activity, and daily news is a friendly ritual that helps make a classroom a safe space for middle-level students to meet each other and build trusting relationships that facilitate learning

Timing is everything
Choosing the right time to turn over control requires careful teacher observation: Are students generally comfortable and successful with CPR? Are they generally competent with each of the four components (greeting, sharing, activity, and daily news)? It may take half the school year to get to that point. As one student said, "You have to be ready to not go crazy with all that power."

Scaffolding for success
Teachers can help student leaders succeed by guiding them through a planning process to map out each component. Karla started by having students practice leading just one component before allowing them to lead an entire meeting. Both Sarah and Karla have students lead in pairs, and they provide them with planning sheets to complete prior to the meeting. The planning process requires careful thought about what activities they will use and what they will say and do to facilitate a safe and fun meeting. The teacher then reviews the plan and helps make any necessary adjustments.

Teacher support
When Karla's students lead CPRs, she defines her role as a coach on the sideline. Sometimes she reminds the group to allow their classmate this moment in the spotlight, and to empower his or her leadership. Sarah said she has to be careful not to interrupt too much when students lead. She handles discipline during student-led meetings, and defines her role as a referee. Karla the coach leads the team and gives strategic assistance related to strategy; Sarah the referee makes sure everyone follows the rules.

Student Comments about Leading CPRs
  • "It gives us a chance to be leaders, forces us to practice
    being assertive, puts us in the spotlight, and lets us show that we can lead others."
  • "Something I learned about myself is that if you make a mistake, the class will be respectful."
  • "Seeing a student control a meeting makes me feel like
    I could lead one myself, and when the teacher leads one I
    don't feel as confident that I could lead one."
  • "When leading a meeting, you feel like a leader and have a responsibility to share with your classmates."

The Loop
Among the benefits of students leading CPRs is that they use the planning and reflecting language of the Developmental Designs practice, the Loop. The leader asks questions that prompt his or her peers to think about prior experiences with a game or to reflect on how an activity might be improved the next time it is played. Karla also observed that her students are open to constructive feedback from peers about how the meeting went, looking for improvement for the next time. She said that she and her students consistently use the Loop in advisory and during class periods.

Erin Klug is a Developmental Designs consultant and writer for Origins.

Published September 2011

Create a student-led CPR meeting with this guide from The Advisory Book.