For every teacher you ask about how to run circle time, you will get a slightly different answer.
Today I want to share with you a little bit about our circletime process along with ten tips for making circletime more than just a routine experience but instead an engaging and interesting experience in the preschool classroom…
A Community Experience
In my classroom, circletime is a time when our students come together as a community of learners. As a community, we share our thoughts, listen to one another, actively participate together, introduce new concepts and ideas, read together, sing together, and build a sense of respect and support for one another…
Circletime Tip #1: Think of circletime as a way to foster a sense of community where everyone is a valued member of that community.
An Interactive Experience
When planning for circletime, I am always thinking of ways I can invite the kids to actively participate in the experience and not just be passive observers of the experience. An interactive experience means that the children are being invited to actively get involved. Whether it is simply passing an object around the circle to take a closer look, singing a song together, playing a game, or retelling a story the children are constantly being invited to interact with me, with one another, and with the materials I bring to the circletime experience…
Circletime tip #2: Make circletime an interactive experience by seeking out ways to keep your students actively involved in the circletime experience rather than passively sitting while you do all the talking.
A Hands-On Experience
When planning for circletime, I also spend time gathering tools and materials that the children can physically touch and manipulate to further their understanding of a concept I hope to promote or introduce. By spending a few minutes working with simple tools and materials as a whole group, I am able to give guidance and insight to the children about the tools or materials and then confidently send them off to the centers later to work with the tools or materials in their own way…
Circletime tip #3: Gather tools and materials for the children to physically touch and manipulate during circletime. Make circletime a hands-on-and-do experience rather than just a hands-in-your-lap experience.
A Movement Experience
Throughout my circletime experiences, I make sure to integrate time for physical movement as well as time for sitting. To get the children moving, I tend to rely on lots of music and movement which means I have spent a lot of time learning songs and action rhymes that I can whip out anytime I need them. Some of the music and movement actions may fit along with a book I am reading or a theme we are exploring and some of them may just be something the children love. Don’t get stuck on the idea that every music and movement activity has to be related to a letter of the week or some kind of theme. The better you and your students know the movements to a familiar song or action rhyme, the more confident you will be and the more engaged your students will be…
Circletime tip #4: Keep circletime fun and engaging by adding movement into the mix of your experience. Focus on developing your own rich library of music and movement songs or action rhymes that you can pull out and use anytime you need to get the children up and moving…
A Read-Aloud Experience
The books we choose to read to our students is an absolute critical part of our circletime experience. Mrs. Courtney and I spend more time than I can express carefully reviewing the books we will share with our students. We are always considering whether the books will be engaging, interesting, age appropriate, and a bridge to other types of learning in our classroom. We also read the books on our own time and ahead of time so that we can be effective in how we read aloud to our students…
Circletime tip #5: Be selective and purposeful in the books you choose to read aloud to your students during circletime. Make sure the books you choose are a right fit for the age of children you are reading to and will be a book your students will enjoy. Spend time getting to know each book before reading it – you should have a good grasp on each page of the book and what approach you will take to reading the book well before you sit down to read it with your students.
A Touching Experience
For just about every book we read, I try to find a simple way to put the story into the hands of the children. In other words, I look for something that the children can touch or feel or smell that takes the story from the page and puts it into the hands of the children. My goal is to give the children something that will help them connect with the story or remember the story…
Circletime tip #6: Make the circletime story more meaningful by giving the children something they can touch and hold. Choose simple objects that will spark conversation and help the children draw connections between the story and real life.
A Visual Experience
Not only do I want to provide objects for my students to touch but I want to also create a visual experience so that my students have something they can look at as we build on concepts or hold group discussions. To create a visual experience, I pull from a variety of materials or tools like a large group graph, flannel board, magnetic board, big books, and charts on a wall. For every visual, I am also visualizing how my students can participate or interact with the visual rather than just look at it. Perhaps they will guide me through a process or perhaps my students will participate by adding something to the visual but in any case, the challenge is to make the visual more than just a poster on the wall but instead an engaging part of the circletime experience.
Circletime tip #7: Keep preschoolers engaged in circletime by having different kinds of visuals that promote conversation and invite interaction.
A Responsive Experience
No matter what agenda I may have for circletime each day, I have to remain responsive to the needs and interests of my students. Taking a responsive approach to leading circletime can be challenging but it is by being responsive that I can tell when it is time to move on, slow down, do more, do less, get up an move, or sit down and listen. I try to be aware of how often I am telling my students to listen and wait versus how often I am reminding myself to be the one who needs to listen and wait. I try to balance what my own agenda actually is versus what my agenda should actually be…
Circletime tip #8: Be responsive to your students by being willing to modify your agenda to meet their needs and interests.
A Routine Experience
We have a circletime routine that we pretty much follow which gives our students an order of the things we will do during circletime. However, within our routine – the books, materials, tools, games, and other experiences (as described above) change each day. An example of our typical morning circletime routine would be…
- Hello Song
- Helper of the Day
- Action Letters (phonics)
- Book (along with any additional materials or tools for extending the book)
- Interactive graphing, story telling, music and movement, and other experiences as already mentioned above.
Circletime tip #9: Having a circletime routine that the children can become familiar with helps the children to know what to expect and to be a more confident participant in the process. However, within any routine it is important to be responsive to the needs and interests of the children. If a routine is not working well, then it will be necessary to adapt, change, shorten, rearrange, or somehow modify the routine.
A Sensitive Experience
Above all else during circletime, I try to be sensitive of my students’ needs to have their ideas respected, heard, understood, and acted upon. Finding a balance between what I believe is best for the whole group experience versus taking the time out to listen to one child tell me a rather lengthy story about going to the beach isn’t easy to do. But I have learned that my role in the preschool classroom is to build my students’ confidence to share their ideas, seek understanding, and build knowledge. I have learned that to play the teaching role successfully, I have to remain sensitive to the needs of my students and stay aware of how my own responses affect their little hearts and minds.
Circletime tip #10: Make sure that your approach to circletime and your handling of the children during circletime leads young children towards feeling confident in their knowledge and abilities.
A Successful Experience
Ultimately, I want circletime to be a successful experience for my students. It is for this reason that I use the word experience in connection with the word circletime. After years of teaching, I have learned that circletime is more engaging to young children if it is built around simple, brief, interesting, and engaging experiences that invite conversation and interaction rather than being nothing but a sit-still-and-listen experience. There are times during circletime that I ask the children to give me their very best attention but this is balanced with making my own effort to give them my very best effort and attention in return.
If you have circletime tips to share that work well for you or if you have questions for me about our circletime experience, please do leave me a comment below and we will continue this discussion as you do…
Available on Amazon
Links to Grow On
Free Activities from Dr. Jean Feldman
Circletime Songs that Teach by Nancy Kopman
Morning Message by Pre-K Pages
Using the Book Cover in Circletime by Teach Preschool