What is the difference between interruptions and interactions?

When a preschooler speaks out during circletime, is that an interruption or an interaction?

Stick with me on this post for the next few minutes and then decide for yourself!

When I am sitting with a group of young children and someone blurts out a story or a thought, then I have to decide whether that is an interruption or an interaction.  Should I stop and listen or should I cut the child off so we can move on with my story or other agenda?

The problem with stopping the child in the middle of his or her thought is that I now have to interrupt the child who just interrupted me. So the next thing you know, we are going back and forth interrupting each other. I know I can win the battle but at what cost? After all, isn’t gathering as a community supposed to be a give and take of ideas and conversations?

The more I focus my energy on keeping children from interrupting by having the “do not interrupt” mindset, the more it seems I get interrupted. Then I realized, perhaps I need to change my mind-set from a ‘do not interrupt’ mindset to an ‘interactive’ mindset.

Yes, I want to encourage and teach the children to self-regulate and use manners but too much focus on every interruption doesn’t teach us anything. It simply creates a battle that dismisses what the clear need is. There is a need for me to be more interactive in my approach.

So I have been focusing on being more interactive with the students. And guess what? Either we are having less interruptions or I am not noticing them as much because I am too busy interacting.

So the question remains: when students speak out during circletime; is it an interruption or an interaction? I think it is a sign that I need to be more interactive so I don’t keep having to interrupt my students every time they try to interact with me.

More to Grow On…

Bam Radio Show

I participated in a Bam Radio show recently where the topic of discussion was on interruptions. The guest speaker had some suggestions for keeping children quiet and preventing interruptions. I think it is worth exploring all sides of an issue but in the end, I came away with the thought that in preschool, we need to be focusing less on interrupting and more on interacting.  If you would like to check out the bam radio show conversation, you can do so right here…

Managing Classroom Interruptions: Students Gone Wild

With Rae Pica, Janelle Cox, and Deborah Stewart

By |2017-04-06T13:06:40+00:00March 28th, 2017|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Crystal Goodrich-Hodgdon March 28, 2017 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    I agree 100%. Expecting little people to sit silently isn’t developmentally appropriate or realistic. Inviting them to join the conversation changes everything.

  2. NICHOLE MENARD March 28, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I focus on the interactions, but what has happened in my class is that everyone now wants to speak and what they want to say is not on topic. So we created a share time at the start of circle whereby students just share. When we are exploring concepts related to a topic students need to raise their hand and can make a comment or ask a questions as long as it is “on topic”. LOL it took about a month for students to figure-out how to stay on topic. Since everyone is longing to talk and share their ideas we are having some very interesting conversations. Which is now causing my circle time to go way tooooo long. HAHA out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 28, 2017 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      I love your approach Nichole! Our circletime can run a little long too! At least it’s a happy long!

  3. Darla Miller March 29, 2017 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Oh Deborah, what a great topic to share. I recently have been interacting more with my students at circle time rather than trying to keep them quiet. I agree that this only encourages the building of community. I will remind my students to raise their hands if they have something to say. And occasionally my students do need to hold their thoughts otherwise I would never finish circle time.

  4. susan brooks April 2, 2017 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Hi Deborah, I work as an early literacy specialist providing programs for the library and early learning centers and Head Start programs in our rural county. The children are always VERY excited when I come to visit!! I recognize this and talk with the kids about feeling excited. This verbal connection GETS THE KIDS ATTENTION. We talk about being excited and how hard it is to WAIT. Conversation, sharing feelings and acknowledging our shared emotions has opened a world of building self regulation, the ability to listen to others and build vocabulary, ect….We take turns talking, sometimes using what I call a talking spoon ( can be any object) I always “take the temperature” of the group as we engage. If I feel the kids need to have a turn to talk I’ll acknowledge this and tell them I will go a bit faster so we have more time to talk following the story. Interruption turns into interaction and an awareness of self and others. Please, don’t be quiet!!

  5. Gail Multop April 2, 2017 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    I totally agree with allowing interactive group gatherings. I think that one can discern the off-topic idea from on, and teach the difference. I work with pre-K, and the children learn that they can talk about “off-topic” anything during other parts of the day. And the children have amazing observations about storybooks.

  6. Ellie April 3, 2017 at 5:08 am - Reply

    We have a “talk to your neighbor” component of our circle time, not every day, but on days where the kids seem very chatty. We take about 2-5 minutes to talk with our friends sitting next to us on the carpet. I sit in on the conversations, and try to be sure I’ve connected with every student by the end of 2 weeks (we are a 3 day program). This seems to satisfy the children’s need to share off-topic!

  7. Kim April 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    I can’t seem to get the radio show to play any suggestions? 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Kim – if you click on the link then click on “play episode” it should work.

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