Fishbowl is a strategy for organizing whole class discussions. Students are seated in either an inner or outer circle. In the inner circle, or “Fishbowl,” students discuss content; students in the outer circle listen to the discussion and take notes on the content and/or the process. The students in the inner circle practice active listening and are given the opportunity to hear and respond to multiple viewpoints. This structured student to student dialogue strategy includes students responding to questions and asking informed questions about the content.


  1. Choose a central topic or text that is open-ended to provide responses from multiple viewpoints. The strategy can be used as a before, during, and after reading strategy. If students are being introduced to new content or discussing familiar content, they should come to the discussion prepared to actively engage in the  strategy.
  2. In the inner circle, four to five students will be seated in a “fishbowl.” The other students will create an outer circle around the inner circle. Only the students in the inner circle are allowed to talk. It is important that students in the inner circle interact with the other circle members with respect and interest in the content discussion.
  3. The outer circle will be instructed to demonstrate reflective behaviors using Writing to Learn to support both comprehension of the information and to make note of the student behaviors during the process.
  4. A facilitator (teacher or student) will pose questions during the discussion to support comprehension of the content and to model how to ask informed questions about the content. The facilitator does not participate in the actual discussion itself.
  5. Students will rotate in and out of the fishbowl throughout the discussion. This may be teacher directed or student directed. A person in the inner circle may indicate they are ready to transition into the outer circle and vice versa. Monitor accordingly.
  6. Once the discussion is over, provide time for students to reflect on the process and their participation as an observer and a discusser.



  • What observations did you make as you observed the strategy in progress?
  • How did you feel as a member of the inner circle?
  • How did you feel as a member of the outer circle?
  • What was something you learned as a result of the strategy?
  • Students may be given the opportunity to use Writing to Learn to respond to the topic and to generate additional questions prior to engaging in the strategy. 
  • Students may be grouped in smaller inner and outer circles for simultaneous discussions.
  • Students may need to hear example questions and responses so that they can actively engage in the activity and at high levels.
  • Students in the outer circle may use a rubric or checklist to provide feedback to participants in the inner circle.
  • Students in the inner circle may conduct a demonstration to explain to the outer circle how something works or is performed.



Before reading an article on natural selection, students will discuss the question “Why do some species survive while others cease to exist?”


After listening to a motivational speech, students will discuss the question “What made this speech effective?”


After watching a video about demonstrating culturally appropriate behaviors while traveling to Spain, students will discuss the question “Why is it important to demonstrate culturally appropriate behaviors when traveling?”


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Coming Soon. 


Before a study on poor nutrition and health risk factors, students will discuss the question “What responsibility, if any, do fast food companies have to their consumers about nutrition and health risk factors?”