Fish bowl tag engages students in carefully constructed discussions and requires effective listening skills. This activity works well in many types of classrooms, including classes with students who have a wide range of skills and experiences, because it draws on personal knowledge and opinions.    


  1. Write down several open-ended questions. Place these questions in a fish bowl or other container.   
  2. Arrange five to eight chairs or desks to form a small circle. Arrange a second set of five to eight chairs or desks to form an outer circle. Arrange the rest of the desks or chairs around the circles.
  3. Assign students to sit in each chair or desk and explain that all students will have at least one chance to sit in each section through the course of the activity.
  4. Explain how the discussion will work:
    • One student from the “inner circle” will choose a question from the fishbowl. Then, all of the students in the inner circle will discuss that question. Once they have contributed to the discussion at least once, they may choose to stay in the circle and continue discussing the question, or, they can tag someone in the outer circle to take their place.
    • Students in the “outer circle” may raise their hand if they want to contribute to the discussion, but they may only speak if and when someone in the inner circle calls on them and switches seats.
    • Students who are in neither circle are assigned the role of “active observer” and should be prepared to discuss what they heard when the whole-class discussion begins.
  5. Confirm that students understand their roles and then begin the first discussion. When you feel the question has been fully discussed, begin a whole-class discussion by asking the “active observers” these questions:
    • What did you hear that was important?
    • What did you want to say that was not discussed?
    • Which arguments discussed were most persuasive? Why?
    • What questions do you still have about the discussion?
  6. After one discussion topic or question has been fully explored and the larger class discussion about that topic has concluded, ask students to switch places. Five to eight students who were “active observers” should move to the inner circle. People who were in the inner circle move out one level, etc. Ask an inner circle student to choose the next question and continue the pattern until all questions have been explored and all students have had an opportunity to join the inner and outer circles.