At the beginning of every school year, I am often asked, “How much time should I plan to spend in circle time?”

My quick answer is always the same: Circle time should last as long as the children are interested in the process and not one minute more.

Before I continue, I should tell you that my students have asked me, “Mrs. Stewart – why do you call it circle time when our carpet is a rectangle?” Let me say that when I use the term “circle time,” I am referring to…

Anytime your students gather with you as a whole group.

To simplify things, when I say circle time, I am also referring to community time, large group time, rectangle time, or any other title you wish to call it.

All Kinds of Opinions

If you ask around, you will get a lot of differing opinions about circle time and what is considered developmentally appropriate for young children when it comes to how long children should sit or can sit. A popular answer is that circle time should be “one minute per age” and then there are those that have concluded that circle time isn’t developmentally appropriate for preschool age at all.

The Heart of Circle Time

I believe circle time offers a valuable opportunity to foster the whole group sense of community and I keep that at the heart of every circle time I share with my students. I also believe that circle time needs to be an interactive experience. In other words, the children are not passively sitting and listening to the teacher but rather are invited to take part in discussion, story-telling, passing objects around, singing together, and playing games.

When circle time invites the children to be active participants AND fosters a sense of the whole group community, then how long circle time should last will be guided by student interest and engagement rather than a set standard that can’t possibly work for every group of children. With this in mind, I come back around to my original answer to the question…

Circle time should last as long as the children are interested in the process and not one minute more.

What to Consider

  1. Rather than focusing on time, just focus on keeping your circle time interesting and let the time take care of itself.
  2. If your students lack interest then move on and come back next time with a new and improved plan.
  3. Remember, young children are active learners and that includes learning in circle time.