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

An introduction to Mind Works Learning Circles

Mind Works is an writing theme designed to enhance creative and expository writing as well as develop different forms of self-expression. Student work in this Circle involves reading, writing, editing, and evaluating the work of other students. These critical language skills are developed in the context of meaningful writing activities.

Mind Works promotes creative problem solving as a part of writing. The potential projects for this theme are diverse but there is a similar goal to all of them: to help student learn how to communication their thoughts and feelings in writing, then share and compare them with other students from distant places.

The Circle publication for Mind Works is a literary magazine that might be called Creative Mind Works. The sponsored projects could be a specific form of writing such as: personal narratives, place poetry, city dialogues, school fables, local myths or personifications of local products. Or students can select a topic to sponsor and request different forms of expression on subjects like the family, jobs, schools or cities. A popular project is "circle" stories or poems. In these projects, one school begins a story or poem and each group adds to it. This theme allows for a wide range of writing projects.

Overview of Mind Works Theme Section

The material in this section parallels the Teacher's Guide and presents suggestions or ideas that are specific to the Mind Works Theme. This is an outline of the content in this section related to the different phases of Circle interaction. This file can be read from beginning to end to understand the Mind Works theme. Or, using the "hypertext" links from the phase structure of Learning Circles, it is easy to move back and forth from the general phase structure of a Learning Circle to the specific theme examples. At the end of each set of Mind Works examples and ideas, there is a button to make it easy to return to the phase structure of Learning Circles.
(Remember the backgrounds of the phases are shaded in the colors of the rainbow while the themes have a white background with the theme icon.)

Introduction to Learning Circle--Mind Works

Phase 1: Getting Ready--Mind Works

Phase 2: Opening the Circle

Phase 3: Planning the Projects--Mind Works

Phase 4: Exchanging Student Work--Mind Works

Phase 5: Publishing Mind Works--Mind Works

Phase 6: Closing the Circle

rainbow line


Mind Works Learning Circle

Joining a Mind Works Learning Circle makes you and your students a critical members of a team experience that will help develop reading, writing, and communication skills.

Learning Circles recognize the critical role played by teachers and students in developing innovative uses of new technology. You, together with each of the teachers and all of the students in your Learning Circle, have a responsibility to learn from and teach your Learning Circle partners.

Educational Goals

Education goals for Mind Works

Your interaction will revolve around producing a Circle publication called Mind Works: A Student Literary Magazine. Your class will have the opportunity to sponsor a section of the magazine as your Learning Circle project. You will solicit articles from your partner classes and edit them to create one section of the journal. Your section will be combined with the project sections sponsored by other classes to form the complete magazine.

Learning Circle Task

Task of a Learning 
Circle--Collaborative Publication

The purpose of this guide is to establish some common goals, to share ideas and suggestions from other teachers, and to support you in your teaching and learning. To accomplish these goals, teachers and students share a task-- the creation of a Learning Circle magazine featuring the project sections sponsored in your Learning Circle. This task will help students develop technical and computer expertise as they use the technology to accomplish important educational goals.

Computers and computer networking are very efficient tools for the task of creating a literary magazine. However, they will never replace teachers and the valuable role teachers play in organizing learning experiences. Computers do not evaluate the quality of a student's writing, nor do they deal with the human emotions that are a vital part of the writing process.

The Mind Works Learning Circle creates a motivating context for students' writing by providing communication goals and a diverse audience. When teachers and students work together in Learning Circles, everyone shares in the excitement of exchanging news with people in distant locations. Students read each other's work for content on the Learning Network. This helps students learn that writing involves communication and not simply the placement of words in grammatically correct positions. The importance of grammar and mechanics becomes apparent, however, when students have difficulty understanding articles from other students which lacks standard writing conventions.

The Mind Works Learning Circle is a rich, diverse, network of human resources. When teachers and students from different places work side by side to create a publication, they create a unique vision of the world. In doing so, they acquire a new level of understanding of the process of writing and a new level of understanding of the rich diversity in our modern world. The recognition that students receive from having others read their writing and share their ideas can increase their motivation for future writing.


The Learning Circle Timeline

A general timeline serves as a guideline of how the sequence of phases might bew arranged in a Mind Works Learning Circle. The timeline for the current Learning Circle session is posted on the Learning Circles web site on iEARN.

The timeline is arranged by phases of Circle interaction.

Return to "Introduction to Learning Circles"


Thinking about Literary Magazines

You will be introducing your students to the idea of working with other classrooms to create a literary magazine that will be widely circulated. They will all be writers and editors. You might want to do some classroom activities before they begin exchanging messages in the Learning Circle to help them understand the role of literary magazines in the community. The literary magazines they create will be shared with a wide audience of people who will not know them personally, but will learn about them through their writing. Urge them to take pride in their work as it will be a form of "self expression."

You might want to do some classroom activities to introduce the topic of creative writing to your students before they begin exchanging messages in the Learning Circle. One way to help students learn to express themselves in writing is to have them read the writing of others. Discuss how writers help us learn more about ourselves and others by finding words to express hard-to-describe feelings. In creative writing, authors experiment with humor, metaphor, rhyme, tone, style and other aspects of writing to communicate their ideas. One of the following ideas might help your students prepare to write.

Return to "Phase 1: Getting Ready"


How to select a Circle Project for Mind Works

Involving the students in the planning phase gives them a sense of ownership that often results in higher motivation. Integrating the network activities with something you already have planned in the curriculum gives you the advantage of extending the learning by using your own teaching materials.

Project ideas are listed in this guide to help you think about organizing a project, but you are welcome to select any topic that interests your students or fits your curriculum.

Classroom Activities for Your Sponsored Project

The sponsored projects take place both in the classroom and on the Learning Network. If your students are sponsoring a section on poetry, you might want to arrange for a classroom visit from a local poet. If your project is to sponsor a writing theme on AIDS, peace, or race and human relations, you could contact local agencies like the Red Cross, peace groups, or the American Civil Liberties Union for speakers or materials. Your students will want to share what they learned from these activities by sending messages on the network. However, it is not realistic to expect other classrooms to be involved in your project at this level, since each classroom will be actively involved in developing their own project.

Network Activities for Your Sponsored Project

Your class should send a Learning Circle project planning message describing the section of the magazine they have selected as their Learning Circle project and providing some examples or general guidelines for the type of participation they want from their partners on the network.

Remember that you cannot expect all of the students in another class to write for your section. In fact, you would have too many articles to evaluate if all of the students did write! Your section will not be long enough to accommodate more than a few contributions from each classroom. Your request for writing should be reasonable considering the total number of projects sponsored in your Circle.

Example of Class
Network Activity


Mind Work's Circle Project Ideas

Teachers are encouraged to sponsor a project that is integrated with the curriculum. Your students are likely to have many ideas. If you want to look beyond these sources there are descriptions of projects that have been done over the network in this guide. The Internet is another great source. You might want to start with Ask Eric Lesson Plans in language arts. The Ask-Eric librarians can point you in the direction of other resources.


Ideas for sponsored sections are listed by grade level. However any of the projects could be adapted to be done by either older or younger groups.

Project Ideas

If you cannot download project graphics, a text only version of project ideas is also available.

Listing Your Ideas for a Mind Works

Learning Circle Project

Now that you have read through these examples of Learning Circle projects, take a few minutes and list some of your own ideas. The most successful projects are those that are integrated with the classroom curriculum. Your Learning Circle Facilitator will be able to help you link what you do in your classroom with a network project.


Introducing your Mind Works Project Plan Online

Here are examples of message that you might send to your Mind Works
Learning Circle during the Project Planning Phase:

Teacher Planning message

Student Planning message

"Circle Update" Message from a Learning Circle Facilitator

Return to "Phase 3:Planning the Circle Project"


Student Work for Circle Projects

Organizing your classroom response to involve each student in at least one Learning Circle project can ensure the success of all projects sponsored in your Circle. Here are some ideas to help you organize classroom writing for the Mind Works Literary Magazine.

Return to "Phase 4: Exchanging Student Work"


Selecting Articles for Your Section
of the Mind Works Literary Magazine

A very effective way to make decisions about what to include in your section of the Mind Works Literary Magazine is to set up Editorial Board meetings. These groups make decisions about which articles to accept, reject and revise. They develop a very strong sense of the characteristics of good writing.

Example of a Sponsored Section for
the Mind Works Literary Magazine.

Here is the first 3 pages of a section called the Poet's Corner from The Mind Works Literary Magazine edited by Kay Bryan and the students at Stanley Junior High, San Diego CA.

There are also examples of projects on the web.


Phase 5: Publishing Circle Work




Return to Overview with List of Themes



This Web guide was written by Margaret Riel and is based on the
Mind Works Learning Circle Curriculum Guides she developed
for the AT&T Learning Network. Some of the projects
ideas in Mind Works were originally developed by Michael Blyth
from Concord High Mind Works School. Report all problems to

Margaret Riel ([email protected]).


Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret Riel