WHAT ARE THE KEY INGREDIENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CIRCLE TIME?
KEEP IT SHORT. As important as Circle Time is, we get the best results when it is brief. Likewise, we don’t necessarily have to start the day with Circle Time. In fact, there can be several group meetings throughout the day.
START WITH THE CHILDREN. Take cues from careful observation of the children. When we see children losing interest in our planned activities, it’s time for us to do something different. When we discover a new interest, Circle Time is a great place to begin a project that builds on it.
BE READY TO GO. Circle Time stays dynamic when we are prepared and have the materials ready. If we are going to dance, we can have streamers on hand for everyone and all the songs cued. Reducing the amount of time that children have to wait for activities or materials contributes to our success.
STAY CALM DURING CHANGE. Transitioning in and out of circle time can sometimes be chaotic. To get children’s attention, we can whisper or talk quietly. If we want to help children calm down before a story, we can sing a song that starts off energetically and then ends more slowly or quietly.
BE PROACTIVE WHEN A CHILD HAS A HARD TIME. If a child has trouble adjusting to circle time, we can ask an assistant to sit nearby. A gentle touch or encouraging smile may be all that is needed. We might involve the child in passing out materials or singing a song. It’s okay if some children don’t want to participate in some activities. By offering that child a choice to join in or to read a book quietly, we help him feel in control within our limits.
BE FLEXIBLE. By aiming for a balance between repeated and novel activities, we can maintain a dynamic learning experience. While we can always make room for the children’s favorite songs and stories, we can make it a goal to introduce new topics to expand the children’s world.
Above all, we can make Circle Time a safe place to be, a place where children feel safe to say something and know that no one will tease them, a place where children can explore, learn and grow in a caring community.
HOW CAN CIRCLE TIME BE USED EFFECTIVELY WITH CHILDREN OF DIFFERENT AGES?
Circle Time will be different across age groups in both the amount of time spent in the group and the complexity of activities. It is important that we know where children are in their development, for each age group has its definite patterns:
Infants can be brought together for a short period, a song or short game. The best activity with infants is a more individualized experience with an emphasis on repetition, such as Peek-a-Boo.
Toddlers can be engaged in Circle Time for a few minutes, sharing participatory activities such as a song or story.
Preschoolers might spend fifteen minutes in Circle Time, especially if there is a mix of listening to a story and then responding to some open-ended questions. Engage preschoolers in a music or movement activity or become the scribe as the group invents a story.
Kindergarten children may spend 25 minutes playing language games, singing, creating a graph, anticipating in a shared reading or writing activity, or planning a project or a study. All children can participate in activities such as taking apart toys to learn something about the science of wheels and motion.
The size of our group tells us a lot about what we can do in Circle Time. When we have a group of five instead of twenty, we can customize experiences to challenge children individually. If Circle Time is going to be with a larger group, we can make it our goal to have total participation. For example, if we are learning about rocks, there should be enough rocks for everyone to explore. Being prepared and having the materials at hand for this larger group will make Circle Time an active experience for everyone.