Introduction Getting Ready
Learning Circles Teachers' Guide
Open Circle Plan Projects Share Work Publish
Close Circle Overview

Phase 5: Organizing the Circle Publication

The Circle Publication

Many interesting projects in classrooms fail to make a lasting impression on students because the time was not taken to look back and review what was learned. The Circle publication plays a critical role in motivating students to organize and evaluate the information that they received from other students. Adults have a sense of the whole task from the beginning and can often anticipate the overall structure. For students, the project unfolds slowly and early messages are often forgotten as they proceed to the end.

Analyzing Project Information

Each class organizes the information they received for their sponsored project into a section for the Circle publication. This process will help them learn how to review, summarize, evaluate and arrange information. Preparing the information for other participants in their Learning Circle and for parents and educators who will read their Circle publication gives students a clearly defined purpose and audience for their writing.

Your students' contributions to the other projects give them a very personal reason for wanting to read the work of their partner classrooms. In this way they will benefit directly from the educational activities that took place in the distant classrooms.

Editing Student Writing

Each class organizes the work they received for their sponsored project into a section for the Circle publication. This process will help them learn how to review, summarize, evaluate and arrange information. Preparing the information for other participants in their Learning Circle and for parents and educators who will read their Circle publication gives students a clearly defined purpose and audience for their writing.

Your students' contributions to the other projects give them a very personal reason for wanting to read the work of their partner classrooms. In this way they will benefit directly from the educational activities that took place in the distant classrooms.

Teacher's Role

During this phase your students will need to plan and organize their project summary or section and then print and mail it to the other classrooms. All of the completed project summaries or sections will then be assembled to make up the Circle publication. As always, it is important to use subject headers as well as online conference structures to make it easy for your partners to locate your messages.

As the students begin working on summarizing their project, it is a good time for you to work closely with the other teachers to plan for assembling your publication.

Planning for Your Circle Publication

As more teachers and student have access to WORLD WIDE WEB it will become easier to create their final publication in electronic format and post it on the Web. This will reduce the cost of printing and allow for a wider online distribution. However, in some communities it will make it more difficult for students to share their work with their parents and other people in their local community. Your circle will need to plan for either online or print publishing. Some Circles may attempt to do both.

Circle Publication Production Manager

Some Circles have found that it is helpful to identify a teacher as the Circle Publication Production Manager. This teacher would oversee the printing or assembly of the Circle publication. In some cases this person will have special resources for printing or will have access to a site on the Internet for publishing. This person may offer to post or print the whole publication, but this is not necessary.

The Production Manager takes on the responsibility of checking with the other classes to find out when each of the project summaries will be ready to mail or post and creates the table of contents for the publication. While the Learning Circle Facilitator sometimes offers to also manage the Circle publication, this is a chance for another teacher to take on a special role in the Learning Circle.

Distributed Expertise

If no one volunteers to take a lead role as production manager, the task can be divided up so that everyone participates in the publishing and no one school has more than a small number of pages to publish. The most common procedure is for each class to create a print version of their project summary and send it to the other sites through postal mail. The summaries (varying in style, materials and print quality) are assembled into the Circle publication at each site. In this way all of the students are involved in the final printing and there is no duplication of effort.

Some teachers have found it productive to team up with teachers in their school or a nearby school who teach desktop publishing. Students from these computer classes take on the task of publishing the summary as a special project. In a few cases, teachers have found parents with compatible equipment who were willing to volunteer their help with the printing.

Once you have a plan for how your class will publish your project summary, you will want to share the plan with the other people in your Learning Circle. This will help others as they make similar decisions or suggest alternatives.

Organizing Your Section of the Circle Publication

It is very important to save the messages that are received on disk and in print. Often a bulletin board with a place to post current messages and folders for filing last week's messages are helpful. Your section may involve analyzing information or evaluating, selecting and editing student writing.

Analyzing Requested Information

You and your students will need to develop strategies for recording, examining, and summarizing the information that you requested. Students can help plan how they will save, store, and compare the messages. If they requested student essays or other writing forms for their project, they will have to evaluate those received and select and edit the ones to include in their project summary. Some information may need to be integrated. If they asked all sites to collect data or respond to a number of questions, it is not always informative to just list all the responses by each site. Sometimes a narrative summary of the responses is effective. Or students may want to compare the responses from all sites to a single question. Sometimes listing the schools on a continuum or grouping schools with similar responses will help students understand the relationships.

There is no way to provide the perfect format for the presentation of the different types of information you will be collecting. The important thing is to help students think about how to best display the information and explore what they have learned from collecting the information. This last step is essential. Students need time to reflect on the activity as a whole. Here are some ideas on how to organize this in the classroom.

Evaluation Strategies

The goal of these strategies is to help students learn how to evaluate writing received from partner classes. The role of the teacher is to help students learn the importance of constructive evaluation. For example, if a student says, "I think this article should be rejected because I don't like it," the teacher needs to help the student specify what features led to that overall assessment. One way to do this is to say that "not liking it" does not help others know how to improve their writing. Then the student can be encouraged to think about the reason that led to the assessment. Was the article poorly written, badly organized, or about a topic that was not of general interest? Was there too much or not enough information? As students begin to form evaluation standards to apply to the writing of others, they also begin to apply these same criteria to their own writing. This internalization of writing standards is the real value of the editorial process.

As you receive articles that have been written for your section, you will want to help students develop a system for rating them and a way to classify them. There are many ways to do this. The editorial board review that was described at the opening of this section is one way. If done early enough, there may be time for the distant authors to revise their submission based on the comments of the editorial board. Here are some other ways to organize the review process.

Length of Your Project Summary

Teachers often want to know how long their Learning Circle project summary should be. The length is something you will want to discuss with the other teachers in your Learning Circle. It will also be different if you are creating a web or print publication. Here are some general guidelines for a printed section.

You will be working with a group of classrooms. If your group is small, your summary can be longer or more detailed; but if you are working with 9 classrooms, you will need to be more selective. Making student copies of a long publication can be costly. It is a good idea to discuss the overall length at the beginning of this phase. In some cases groups have set limits, like no more than 8 pages per project or 3-5 pages per project. In other cases, they leave the decision up to the classroom sponsoring the activity. There is no need for all the project summaries to be the same size.

Each classroom should prepare a title page for their project summary. It is important to give credit to each class that participated in a project. This can be done by either crediting students' work in the project summary or listing names of the participating classrooms in an acknowledgement box.

Printing Your Section of the Circle Publication

You may already be familiar with a word processing or desk top publishing program that allows for easy layout and printing of the information that you have selected for your section of the publication. If you have never used a desktop publishing programs, you might find that learning to use it now will be too time-consuming, especially with younger students. It is often much quicker to do the layout by cutting and pasting the printed text.

Web Publishing

Publishing online or creating an online summary of your Learning Circle Publication provides an alternative way of distributing your student's work. As the tools for this process become easier, this will provide an efficient way to share student work. If each school has a home page, you could each publish your section on your home page with links to the other sections. Another way to accomplish this is to find a site that is willing to post the whole the document with pointers to each of the school's home pages.

There are some examples of project and the outline of web publications as school are beginning to explore this way of creating online publications.

Assembling the Circle Publication

You and the others in your Circle will have created a plan for exchanging the project summaries. If you have a Production Manager who has agreed to print the whole publication, then you will be sending your edited summary electronically to this person. He or she will be setting the deadlines and will take responsibility for assembling and mailing and or posting the Circle publication.

If each class prints and sends its own project summary to all of the other participants, here is what you will need in order to assemble the Circle publication.


A Cover Page (or Web Page)

An Opening Letter

A Table of Contents

Meet the Classes (or Links to School Home Pages)

The Learning Circle Project Summaries or Sections

Once you have received all of these parts from the other schools you are ready to assemble the publications. If these are printed documents, it will involve physical assemble. If these are online links, it may require some online work. You can see examples of these sections in one of the web publications.


Tell your Circle partners when you will mail the project section from your school. Students from other locations will be waiting and watching the mail and it can be very disappointing if nothing appears. If you let the others know when you mail it, they will be able to predict when it will arrive.

Teamwork and Success

You and your students are working together in a complex team which extends across great distances. Sometimes one or more members of your Circle will not be able to complete their work. This can provide a valuable learning lesson for your students. What will they do when they have jobs that depend on the work of others and a member of the team drops out or is unable to complete their work? What are the range of possible strategies and the reasons for selection one strategy over another? What is the group responsibility for each of the members of the group?

These are not easy questions to answer and the solution to any problems will have to be decided on a case-by-case assessment. But remember that how you handle any surprises and or disappointments can provide a valuable lesson for your students. Throughout the Learning Circle, all of the student work for all of the projects is sent to everyone in the Learning Circle. This is so that everyone will have the opportunity to use information that is sent to a school that for some reason does not complete their work in the Learning Circle. But how this is accomplished but in Circle interaction and in the printed document is a valuable part of the group dynamics.

Teacher Comments...

Here are comments from teachers about their experiences as publishers.

Phase 5 Checklist

The Phase 5: Organizing the Publication Checklist will help you see if you are ready for Phase 6: Closing the Learning Circle.


Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret Riel