For those of us that have been early years teachers, we might have had to observe circle time with our children as part of our timetables either with a sense of obligation or with great excitement. This is because some days appear brighter than others with everything flowing in sync; children are settled, no hassles or run off with a parent, no case of forgotten water bottles, no reports to hand in or last minutes assemblies to organise. On some other days however, with targets to meet, reports to hand and assignments to organise for the children to take home, circle time might not just be the first thing on our minds.
Therefore, a proper understanding of circle time and a few tips of how we can get the most out of it might just be what we need to give our special moments with our pupils a boost and also give us a break from the monotony of routine.
Circle time is that time or period where everyone in the classroom; teachers and pupils come together as a group and get involved in activities that foster communication and a sense of togetherness. This to an extent is teacher initiated which involves everyone seated in a circle on a mat or a rug. As fun as this sounds however, it is easy for circle time to become a routine where everyone goes through the motion without necessarily making the most out of it.
Nevertheless, circle time when properly planned and prepared for can be a time for teachers to build a sense of community, revisit old concepts and introduce new ones. Here a few tips on how to get the most out of your circle time.
While there are moments where the children need to sit still and listen to us (not for long though as we know our children love to move about), encouraging them to interact with us as well as with one another should be a part of the circle time. A helpful tip is to look out for activities, songs and games that will encourage the children to interact with each other. For example, fixing a large piece puzzle as a group, singing action rhymes that entails physical contacts or playing a simple game of catch.
Make it a Community Experience
This is an important part of circle time and sets the tone for the children’s learning. Therefore, one of your priorities during circle time should be creating a community experience. This can be done by encouraging the children to share their views, experiences and feelings; listen to one another and get involved in the activities. Although, we might sometimes be tempted to “hush” the children up and move on to more “important” things. We should understand that providing a learning atmosphere where the children’s opinions, experiences and ideas are listened to and valued is important to their learning and emotional well being. An activity such as “show and tell” can be used to achieve this. Also, welcoming children’s input during circle time and beyond is usually helpful.
Providing a learning atmosphere where the children’s opinions, experiences and ideas are listened to and valued is important to their learning and emotional well being.
Provide hands-on activities
We know how jittery our pupils can get when they have sat down for a while. Introducing a hands on activity might be just what you need to break the monotony or get the children excited about the topic of interest. This is especially important when reinforcing a concept or introducing a new one. Furthermore, these activities can be carried through to the next lesson.
To make circle time a fun and an engaging experience, introduce a bit of movement either through action rhymes, dance or a bit of exercise. These movement activities may be random or a teacher may plan ahead of time to include an action rhyme or an exercise that reinforces the theme of the circle time.
Read a book
Circle time could provide a great reading experience for the children especially when the books have been properly picked out to suit their age group and interests. Additionally, using interesting storytelling techniques and providing objects that they can touch and hold; which brings the story to life can add to the richness of this experience. This can also extend the conversation between teacher and the pupils and help the children make the link between the story and real lives.
Another important tip is to provide visual stimulation to the children. As teachers we know how important visual aids are to our daily practice. So what do you have in your circle time bag?
- Flash cards
- Old magazines clips
- Post cards
Whatever it is you have decided to use, let it be colourful, interesting and something that can capture their young and inquisitive minds.
This for me tops the chart of my tips. How else can we respond to the needs of our pupils if we do not listen to their voices? Like I mentioned earlier, it is easy to get caught up in trying to meet our targets for the day thereby ignoring or quietly hushing the children up. However, I dare say that our overall success as teachers is dependent on how well we listen to their voices, their body languages, facial expressions and our response to them.
I dare say that our overall success as teachers is to a large extent dependent on how well we listen to the children’s voices, their body languages, facial expressions and our responses to them.
Make a tradition out of your circle time activities. Routine might have been a better word in place of tradition but for the fact that we sometimes get caught up in carrying out our daily “routines”.
So do you have a special song that marks the beginning of circle time? Do you have a special place for that or would you rather have fun picking out random spots within and outside your classroom for your circle time? Do you have particular activity (ies) and/or game(s) that must be part of your circle time? Whatever it is, create a tradition and watch your pupils grow into it and start it in days you forget to do so. The idea remains to create an engaging and fun filled circle time.
In conclusion, while it is important to plan our circle time, remember to always remain flexible and responsive to the needs of the children. They are the focus and should remain so.
I will love to hear from you about any tips you have used during circle time before…