Archives for December 2014

Knowledge Building Circles in Action

One of the structures that support inquiry-based learning in classrooms is the Knowledge Building Circle. Natural Curiosity ( has been leading pedagogy in inquiry based learning, and those educators (K-6) use the Knowledge Building Circle (KBC) as a central means to have their learners come together to mobilize knowledge, pose and revisit theories, improve ideas, share wonderings, and negotiate. While students share their theories and engage in discourse, the teacher documents the conversation, in order to reflect upon the discussion and determine what new or unresolved questions or theories are emerging, which in turn serve as entry points for further investigation (Natural Curiosity, 11).

Recently, a kindergarten teacher noticed that the children were not always dressing warmly for the weather. She wondered if they understood how to keep themselves warm and what heat meant to humans. In order to provoke the thinking, we tried a knowledge building circle (KBC) to try to establish what the children’s theories were about what heat is and where does it go?

The children had already used the terminology of “Theory” and “Wondering” and “Adding On” so these were reviewed. When the first question was posed, “What do you know about heat?” the children’s theories revealed that they associated heat with summer and beaches and coming from the sun. When asked “Where does heat go?” they theorized that it went away with the sun, down low or across the water. The children were engaged in sharing their theories, so we asked one more question, “Where does cold come from?” The children shared theories about wind, clouds, and the sun going away.

After the KBC, we further reflected on the transcript of thinking, which was documented as the children shared their theories and wonderings. We realized that the children had limited working theories on where heat comes from or where it goes, relying on their schema of the sun impacting the temperature. Through discussion, it was determined that another provocation could serve as the next entry point into the investigation. Two essential big ideas were decided upon, that heat goes away from people or objects, and that there are materials that can hold heat in. An experiment was devised, serving as the provocation for a guided inquiry. The children will engage in the inquiry process for that first experiment, and then the Knowledge Building Circle will again play a critical role in the next steps of the learning…”Why do you think this happened?” Their revised theories will become visible based on the evidence from the experiment, and their new wonderings will drive the next steps.

Partial KBC Transcript: Where does heat go? (names changed)

Thomas: Behind the snow clouds.
Aaron: To the beach.
Denise: From here to the beach to the end of the water. It stops right where it is dark.
Dana: I think the sun goes to where it is warm, like past the ocean, where it is warm.

Why not try a Knowledge Building Circle with your class?

Check out for teacher videos and more descriptions of the KBC.