Magic Circles : Self-esteem for Everyone in Circle Time. Second Edition

In 1989 Murray White wrote a hugely influential article on the benefits of Circle Time in schools.  In that article he wrote:

Affective education through Circle Time helps children think more positively about themselves, gives them greater opportunities to be more responsible for themselves, and encourages and gives them skills to make better and wiser decisions.

In his most recent book White has expanded on his original ideas, adding resources and activities that are designed to work alongside SEAL and other recent UK programmes and initiatives.  White calls his circles magic because of their “transformational effects” with regard to children’s self-esteem.
This academic year we have been developing our use of Circle Time at the ABC, and I am hoping that White’s new book will be a welcome additional resource.  Particularly useful for us is the chapter entitled “Circle Times for All”, which describes a number of activities:
  The Special Day

  • Rounds
  • Discussions
  • Brainstorms
  • Games
  • Activities
  • The Group Yell
  • The Circle Squeeze
  • Visualisation
  • The Lighthouse

Some of the above, particularly rounds and brainstorms, are already very familiar to teachers and children at the ABC.  However, others such as the Group Yell and Visualisation are more specific to Murray’s Magic Circles, and are less well known.
Over the coming months we will be introducing many of Murray’s ideas into our classes and curriculum.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how our Circle Times develop, so that they become more exciting and ”magical” for our children

From the ABC School California Primary Curriculum Blog Jan 11 2010

This is an ‘upbeat’ book.  White is convinced that self-esteem impacts on people’s behaviour and that it is something which can be developed. In his book he seeks to define it; show how the reader can develop a healthy self-esteem; look at the wider use of Circle Time ( for all ages and in all contexts) ; and demonstrate how Circle Time can be run with structure and purpose. He includes outlines for circle Time sessions, photocopiable material and an audio CD with guided imagery.
This book is at its strongest when it is dealing with the practical side of setting up and running Circle Times. there is good advice about: being in a strong place yourself if you are leading a Circle Time as it involves modelling expected behaviour; and , it being a whole school approach , going beyond Circle Time and embracing the quality of relationships across the whole community.
As Circle Time is common in schools a copy of this book should be in each EP school service library. It has everything needed on a practical level to support a school in using Circle Time as  a whole school approach enhancing self-esteem.

Extracts from a review by Robin Scott, Senior Chartered Educational Psychologist in Educational Psychology in Practice : theory, research and practice in educational psychology Volume 27 Issue 1 2011

Murray White’s Magic Circles is a wonderful book that clearly demonstrates the importance of self-esteem in the life of every human being.  Lack of self-esteem, in my opinion, is the fundamental cause of all the world’s problems.  I do not believe that there is any more important educational undertaking than assisting children develop healthy self-esteem. If this book‘s theories, processes, and activities were incorporated as an integral part of every child’s school experiences, commencing in elementary school, I am sure that there would be genuine hope for the perpetuation of life on this planet.  
The book is really about promoting true democratic principles.  As the author points out, its benefits expand beyond children. He is passionate about self-esteem and must be a very loving person. The book is very readable and offers the layman many practical and easy-to-follow suggestions for implementing his theories.  Therefore, as a retired educational and clinical psychologist of over 20 years, I highly endorse this book.

Robert Oberheide Ph.D Canada October 2009

Now in its second, revised edition, Magic Circles . . . (Murray White, U.K.) has been devised to enrich student self-esteem within programs of Circle Time. The new presentation maintains a student centred approach - embracing the child as a thinking and feeling individual, of imagination and spiritual depth. Working as a supportive reference, resource manual and catalyst, the text affirms the partnership between school, family and community. It highlights the role of Circle Time in establishing balance within the soul - together with a sense of belonging and purpose. Nurturing of the fragile mind, and encouraging to all others - Magic Circles . . . . will boost the effectiveness of Circle Time - as a respected program in social / emotional learning, and tool for empowering youth. . . .

Jacqueline Perryman bendigoweekly Australia June 2009

'This is an excellent book full of practical circle time activities and experiences that will help build self-esteem......The benefits of the potential life skills acquired thought he use of this resource are immeasurable ...There are certificates and photocopiable resource pages among the clearly laid out, and easy to follow, activity pages. '

- Book of the Month, March 2009 EYE magazine.
Review by Martine Horvath


Circle Time, as taught by Murray, is an activity which addresses every individual in a group. No participant leaves the session feeling neglected or left out. The beauty of this book lies in the simplicity of the activities. Anyone can follow the instructions and get amazing results. Individuals who have developed walls around themselves as a defence to cover up their low self esteem also react with wonder and bewilderment during these activities. A good self affirming experience during Circle Time goes a long way in helping us manage the darkest moments of our lives. Even the most reticent people open up in these circles. Many magical moments for individuals, during my sessions with them, come to mind while I write this.

-  Aroona Sharma,
ex Head of PSHE The British School, New Delhi, Counsellor, Psychotherapis

In this book, Murray White, who was instrumental in introducing the concept of Circle Time in the early 1990s, sets out very clearly the principles and practice that underpin the use of Circle Time with children of all ages. It provides practitioners with clarity on the process of Circle Time. ’Circle Time is like the scaffolding which is erected to support a building while it is being built. The teacher is the architect who plans and devises the activities and uses all her skill and experience to give information and assurances at the level the children need.’ The book is an essential starting point for practitioners new to Circle Time as it includes activities specifically for adults, helping to familiarise themselves with the process

Teachingexpertise April 2009

Raising Self-Esteem :- 50 Activities

A rich treasury bound in loose leaf format. The activities apply to all age groups covering communication and relationship building skills, self-knowledge and emotional awareness, risk taking and creativity, art, craft, drama and relaxation and guided imagery. The material is presented with verve and humour and meticulously laid out including notes and guidelines for verbal presentation and peppered with sobering quotes and comments.

- Human Scale Education

I am a facilitator in self growth and development teaching self-esteem. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Raising Self-Esteem is in fact a workshop in itself or it could be condensed into a smaller / shorter workshop too. Your material is copiable and I would like to teach it in part or perhaps as a workshop in itself run over a number of sessions.

-Carol van der Berg, South Africa

It contains a fascinating wide variety of activities, some supplemented by super worksheets, that have helped my children's esteem building enormously. It is well planned, was easy to use and has lots of valuable suggestions

- Jeanette Carlyle, Fort Primary School, Edinburgh

I used several of the activities with a group of PGCE students. They found them both enjoyable and useful and readily saw how they could be used with benefit with their pupils

- Peter Lang, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Warwick

Magic Circles: Building Self-Esteem through Circle Times - 1st Edition

Magic Circles is an important contribution to the quantum leap in awareness that many people are making. It is the most hopeful thing to happen in education in a long while.

- Don Ferris

I have read Magic Circles and Raising Self-Esteem; 50 activities. I love the way they are written. you have raised all the issues and put them across in a practical way. Excellent and thank you for providing such brilliant resources to support the hassled classroom teacher.

- Elaine Delay, teacher, trainer, consultant

Picture This For Families: Guided Imagery to Build Self-Esteem for all the Family

�The kids have been asking more and more that we listen to the CD, it has become part of the bedtime ritual.�

�My favourite was sliding down the rainbow and finding the box. I chose to find diligence. It's shaped long and thin �cos it starts and doesn't stop for a long time until the job is done.�

- From a parent and child who have used the programme

This cd provides a very clear developmental introduction to guided imagery. From the beginning of the first side Murray provides a "childspeak"' definition of what the imagination is and how it can be enjoyed. By gently introducing imagery skills such as relaxing and listening Murray quickly captures the confidence of the listener...... the stories take the listener through a number of journeys, building the complexity of each one. I would recommend this tape.

- Devon Group Work

Your tape is wonderful. I am very much looking forward to using it with my friends and students.

- Eva Hava Jonai, Budapest

What's So Silly about Self-Esteem

Sound approach to self-esteem are based on realism, not inflated self-images. It is not the intention to promote groundless feelings of euphoria, but certainly to encourage an optimistic outlook. Self-esteem is concerned with children not merely feeling good about themselves, - but also about becoming more positive, taking pride in themselves, and consequently developing a sense of personal compentance.

If teachers examine the causes of bullying and other chronic misbehaviours - the showing off, the fighting and the failure which some children have adopted - they will discover that low self-esteem is at the root of it. These children behave as they do because of strong feelings of inadequacy and internal blame, a belief that they do not possess the ability or intelligence to succeed

Low self-esteem causes untold turmoil and misery. Studies have found links with low achievement, truancy, crime, violence, alchol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and suicide. Dr. Neil Smeizer, co-auther of The social importance of Self-Esteem reviewed over 30,000 studies and concluded that low self-esteem was a root cause of many social problems. He believes that self-esteem is central mechanism through which these problems can be mediated.

A small scale investigation by member of Manchester university's School of education which reported last year, found that levels of self-esteem decreased in children over a four year period from when they were in Year 2 (aged around six) to Year 6 (aged 11). Significantly too, the scores of the 11 year-olds were considerably lower than those of children the same age tested 13 years previously.

If we consider the appalling rise in exclusion, the link between the increase in one and the decrease of the other is too obvious to be ignored. Self-esteem is essential to normal and healthy development.

Teachers are in a powerful position to influence a child's esteem. Where schools adopt practices and policies which promote it (among staff as well as children), discipline problems and all the associated tensions and stresses diminish considerably. The consequences can be dramatic. When self-esteem is high, the ability to be successful in learning, human relationships, and all the productive and creative areas of life is unlimitied.

Given what we know about its effect, head teachers should not be deterred. Ridicule is a classic initial response to any new idea. I have seen it change, slowly to the trivial stage where hesitancy still remains. From there people will move, eventually, to acceptance when everyone understands its value and becomes champions of it.

Eight years ago there was an article in The Lancet which said that doctors' surgeries were full of depressed people, that the nation was suffering from an epidemic of low self-esteem, and appealing to educationists to help. I would be delighted if i could write with confidence that the need had now bee recognised in every school, for the of good of every child.

Murray White - April 26th 1996 Copywright

[ Home ] [ Bio ] [ International Council ] [ Circle Time for Everyone ]
[ Keynotes & Seminars ] [ Publications & Resources ] 
Magic Circles ] [ Book Reviews ]

[ A. Circle Times for Teachers, Youth club leaders and all Professionals who wish to understand how self esteem impacts on children and teenagers and how to enhance it in their changes and themselves ]

[ B. Circle Times for Parents and those in contact with children and young people in a home setting to explain their influence on the self-esteem on those growing up and to offer many practical ways they can raise self esteem in them while nurturing their own ]

[ C. Circle Times for All. One or more days spent in the congenial company of other adults experiencing a mixture of serious and fun activities specifically designed to give your self esteem a major boost ]

[ E-Mail Murray ] [ Links ]