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Circle Time – The Do’s and Don’ts

Let’s talk about circle time, shall we? Do you love it? Or do you loathe it? Some of us have mixed feelings about circle time. And depending on how you structure yours, it can lead to like a great, wonderful group experience or a chaotic and frustrating episode.

Today, let’s go into some do’s and don’ts of circle time!

DO: Do have some consistent activities during circle time.

I really like to make sure that we keep some consistency. Consistency is what helps make circle feel familiar and comfortable. Some things we might do at circle time to keep it consistent might be a greeter, weather, calendar, a song or just something familiar that children know, and they look forward to. However, I encourage you to keep the consistent part short.

DON’T:  Don’t let your circle time get stale. See if we keep doing just the consistent activities during the whole entire circle, it gets too mundane. And we as educators even find ourselves not wanting to go to circle time, because it’s the same old, same old.

This is where I think a lot of educators get caught up – I definitely did! In trying to find that balance of consistent familiar activities and newness. I found the need for some newness in my circle time. And I also wanted to focus a little bit more on some skills in this timeframe too. So we started putting in some circle time games. S,o these are whole group games that we can play that are short and sweet. But still fun and engaging, that promote a skill, but also, they help us add variety to our circle because they know there is a game but they don’t know what game it is. So that makes it new and exciting.

We also do some things throughout the year, where I cycle through all the children. And they have a job or something they get to do with me. So for example, they might be the news reporter. And so I will do some shared writing. And they are telling me what’s been going on in their world. I might even grab like a pretend microphone. And every day a new child gets a turn being the news reporter. But then after that cycle is done, we try something new. 

Adding newness to circle time is engaging because they never know what’s coming up. So having that balance of creating something familiar, but also keeping it spicy and new works extremely well.

DO: Create sitting choices and boundaries. For a lot of teachers, the biggest struggle is getting our children to circle time physically, and getting them to sit in a way that isn’t disturbing others. Teach the sitting choices to them at the beginning of the year and I even remind them at the beginning of most circle times. 

We have the choices: sit crisscross, sit long sit with your legs in front of you, you can sit side sit. But, I do have them sit on their bottoms, because that’s something I want them to practice. And then sometimes depending on the activity, they get a belly choice where they can lay on their belly.

Giving children choices makes it easier for them to sit longer because they get to decide how they want to put their body. Also, if need be – create some physical boundaries for children who are struggling to be contained. Maybe some of our friends just need that visual of tape on the floor or maybe even using a laundry basket. Sitting choices will take your circle time a long way.

DON’T: Don’t forget about movement. So along the lines of sitting choices, we know young children aren’t built to sit very long. So it’s important that we just go ahead and plan for breaking up our circle time with a movement song or yoga or something to get them moving. We just keep hearing more and more research about how movement is connected to the brain, and activates the brain. 

Go ahead and build movement in, so you don’t regret not doing so later! Because then once they’ve done that movement activity, you can go on a little bit longer with what you’re wanting to do.

DO: Do change the length of your circle time throughout the year. Here’s what I mean by that: at the beginning of the year, we know that attention spans – they’re extremely short – so circleshould be shorter. But, when our children build up stamina to sit longer and stay engaged for longer, we can lengthen the amount of time spent in circle time.

DON’T:  Don’t always stick to the script. Give yourself a little bit of grace. We work with, in my opinion, some irrational humans sometimes. And we work with some very excitable humans sometimes — that’s what makes them so fun!

Sometimes our days don’t go as planned and we have to ditch that normal circle time or stop early.  Give yourself some grace in that you don’t always have to stick to the script just because it’s on the lesson plan. 

DO: Consider bringing classroom jobs into your circle time. This is something that I had done a very long time ago and I absolutely love it. By allowing your littles to have a little responsibility within their circle time routine even more engagement is a result. Students buy into it even more, because it includes them. If they have a job, it is about them.

So let me give you some examples of how we do this. We have different jobs throughout the day, some of them, they go into circle, and they do their job during circle time. Others are just a daily job. So some of our daily jobs might be… line leader, the caboose, the light helper, help with a recess backpack, all these different types of things. But then we also have some that feed directly in to circle time.

Jobs that we keep around the whole entire year include the greeter, the well-wisher, weather and calendar. Jobs we have that come into circle time for just a specific amount of time might be…  the survey taker, the news reporter, the mystery bag, the estimation helper. See more about classroom jobs here.

DON’T: Don’t assume your children know your expectations for. Teach, teach, teach, remind, remind remind.  Just because we have said it and we know our own expectations doesn’t mean that it has gotten through it.  Because with children, when we don’t express what we expect out of them, they don’t always know. If we are clear cut before we even start circle, then the expectations are already front of mind.

So, just remember that they are little they are new to this and give them a little grace. And just go ahead and build in reminding of expectations that on your circle time lesson plan.

Let’s review our do’s and don’ts of circle time!

DO have some consistent activities to create that familiar ‘Oh, I love circle time’ type of feeling.

DON’T let your circle time get stale, by not bringing anything new in.

DO create sitting choices and boundaries. Allow children to have choices on how they sit, knowing that you still are expecting them to sit.

DON’T forget about the movement. Get them up and moving and make sure that we you account for their busy little bodies!

DO change the length of your circle time throughout the year because our children and their attention spans change throughout the year as well.

DON’T always feel like you have to stick to the script. Sometimes it’s just better to scrap it and move on if it’s not working. Because it’s not beneficial to anyone just to make it through the lesson.

DO consider bringing class jobs into your circle time to create that sense of value and meaning among the children that they are important part of the class.

DON’T assume that children know your expectations for circle time. Just teach, teach, teach, remind, remind remind.

That’s it! Some do’s and don’ts to help make circle time as engaging and fun as possible!

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