Open Circle Curriculum

An Effective Practice


Open Circle Curriculum is a classroom primary prevention program for elementary schools students (kindergarten through fifth grade). It is the classroom component of the Reach Out to Schools: Social Competency Program (SCP, or the Open Circle Social Competency Program). In fortnightly lessons lasting 15 to 30 minutes, teachers conduct "Open Circles" with their students. These meetings are the setting for the 42 regular and 33 supplemental curriculum lessons on topics, including communication, self-control, and social problem-solving. The Open Circle serves as a forum for providing students with opportunities to develop and practice their social competency skills, for building positive relationships among students and teachers, and for creating a strong sense of community in the classroom. During these meetings, topics such as being a good listener, including one another, speaking up, calming down, and problem-solving are discussed. Then students join in an activity, such as a role-play or a game, that reinforces the topic discussed. Students are also asked to identify and resolve conflicts. The Open Circle structure provides an opportunity for troubled or excluded children to feel more connected to their classmates and teachers and less alone to face their problems. This process creates a safer, more inclusive classroom and school community.

Goal / Mission

This program has three goals: (1) to strengthen students' social competency skills in communication, self-control, and interpersonal problem-solving; (2) to promote the creation of growth-fostering relationships among students and between students and the adults in their lives; and (3) to build a sense of community in classrooms and schools by providing a common "language" that fosters communication among students and between students and their teachers and other adults.

Results / Accomplishments

The evaluation was designed to assess the effects of the program on students as they enter middle school (sixth grade). The sample included 277 sixth grade students in a community where children have participated in SCP. Findings from this evaluation suggest that 2 or more years of exposure to SCP has an impact on social adjustment even after participation in the program ends. Statistically significant effects were found for girls in middle school adjustment. Girls who had received 2 or more years of SCP were less likely to report adjustment problems than those who had less exposure to SCP. Teacher evaluations of girls mirrored this trend. There was a statistically significant effect for boys with regard to the single survey item on fighting behavior--those who had received 2 or more years of SCP were less likely to report physical fighting than those with less exposure. There were also positive outcomes in social skills. Girls with more exposure to SCP exhibited higher levels of self-assertiveness than those with less exposure.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Open Circle Program
106 Central Street
The Stone Center, Wellesley College
Wellesley, MA 02481
(781) 283-3277
Education / School Environment
Social Environment / Children's Social Environment
Open Circle Program
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
Target Audience