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Changes to Circle Time

  • 1.  Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-07-2022 09:01 AM
    Hello Community: I teach in a 3/4 y.o. classroom, and I'm hoping to introduce some changes to circle time. It is just not working for this group of young learners. Has anyone either given up circle time or split up the group and have two circle times? I was thinking if we split up circle time and had 1 group for younger children and 1 group for the older children. We are a team of 3 teachers, so this could work. Any thoughts? And or experiences? Thank you in advance for any insight.

    Leslie T.
    Preschool Teacher

  • 2.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-07-2022 11:57 PM
    What is not working specifically? How long is it? What are your expectations? Without knowing for sure, perhaps you have one but shorten it and make sure you have enough interaction to keep both 3 and 4 year-olds engaged.  You could have a circle time that is a part of choice time as well.

    Best wishes!

    Vicki Nelson
    Moore OK

  • 3.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-10-2022 10:51 AM
    Hello Vicki,
    I do spontaneous circle times meaning I gather 2 or 3 preschoolers who aren't busy and do some stretching and music with movement. It lasts just a few minutes.
    Susan Smith
    Heart and Hands Montessori
    Center for Infants and Toddlers

    office: 303-444-0181
    cell:    720-217-2359

  • 4.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-08-2022 12:18 AM

    First, examine your circle time and what it is like for the children you are teaching. It should not be more than 20 minutes at the most. It can be closer to 10 minutes. Don't fill it with things that are not important, such as don't do calendar time, weather, or show-and-tell. These are hard traditions to break since everyone assumes you have to do these. Read this article on calendar time and why you can retire it or change how you do it (not during circle time): Calendar Time.  Only check the weather just prior to going outside. It can be a class job. One person goes outside and "checks" the weather as the kids are getting on their shoes, etc. Then that child comes back in and gives the weather report as the others listen. Checking the weather just prior to going outside is much more meaningful. Also, be sure not to do a "show-and-tell" time because that puts unrealistic expectations on the other kids to sit and listen. Plus, it becomes a bring-and-brag tradition with kids feeling left out that they don't have that toy at home. If you want kids to bring something to show the others, have them show it at arrival time when they are most excited to talk about it, and the other kids are most interested in knowing about it. You can assign an alphabet letter to each child and have them bring something that begins with that letter or you can give out paper bags with a word written on them, such as "cat" or "ball" and the child needs to bring something the next day that rhymes with the word on their sack. Then they can show it to the kids as they arrive and talk about it then during arrival time.

    Circle time should be filled with things that can only be done with a group, such as talking about the curriculum topic you are studying. For example, we are learning about trees. On Thursday we used some manipulatives to measure some tree parts. We measured the diameter of a tree cookie (a slice of a tree trunk) and also measured the circumference. The kids enjoyed learning these words and using the manipulatives and choosing a tree part to measure. Their choices were things like pine cones, pieces of bark, seed pods, etc. Make sure circle time is hands-on, interactive, and fun. Sing a welcome song that mentions each child's name. We did the name cheer yesterday where each child has a turn to be the "teacher" to help us learn their name. They say, "Give me an S" and the kids call out "S". Then the kid says "Give me an A" and the kids call out "A" and then "Give me an M". The kids call out "M". Then the kid says, "What does it spell?" And the kids call out "Sam!". Then another kid volunteers to do it with their name. By doing that activity, the kids are learning the letters in their own name and are also learning letters in another kid's name because they point to the letter as they say it. It might be good to divide up the group so the older kids can do things that are more appropriate for their last year before Kindergarten, but there are also benefits of having a mixed age group.
    I hope you got at least one idea from these suggestions.


    DeAnn Jones
    Co-Facilitator for the Family Child Care Interest Forum
    Discovery Place Preschool, LLC
    Stanwood, WA 98292

  • 5.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-09-2022 08:23 PM
    I have a couple of rules about my circle time.  It's my responsibility to make it fun.  If the kids aren't interested, don't force it, go back to the drawing board and try again tomorrow. Let them behave like kids.  Involve movement in equal part to discussion.  Put things in their hands when possible. If I get 60% of the kids involved, call it a win.

    Much luck,

    Scott Mitchell
    Silver Spring Nursery School

  • 6.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-10-2022 11:58 PM
    3/4 is a tough age, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  3 year olds are just getting used to some kind of preschool setting where for the first time they are introduced to a school setting.  4 year olds on the other hand are in that transition age where next year they go to JrK and they have had preschool before.

    You are on the right track with splitting your class.  I do it with mine and have much success especially if there might be behavior issues.

    Here are something's to think about,

    1. Don't go more than 30 minutes for your circle time, go less if need be.

    2. Involve music to your circle time, kids tend to retain more if there is music involved.

    Joseph Thompson
    JrK Teacher, Preschool Curriculum Coordinator, Training Coordinator
    Trucks N Trykes Playcare
    Sioux Falls SD

  • 7.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-11-2022 03:32 AM
    I think splitting up the children is a good idea since there are three of you. If you have access to a playground that is either close by or connected to the school, I would suggest that you have the other two teachers take the youngest group to the playground and get the wiggles out while you do circle time with the oldest group. When you are done have one teacher take the oldest group out(if playground is attached to school), and you and the other teacher can do circle time with the youngest group. Another suggestion is to do circle time outside when you can. Hope this helps!!

    Cynthia Stewart
    Pre-k teacher
    Sela public charter school
    Washington DC

  • 8.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-11-2022 08:39 AM
    Thank you all for the great suggestions and advice.

    I'm going to share some ideas with my colleagues this week at our planning meeting.

    Leslie T.
    Preschool Teacher

  • 9.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-12-2022 02:53 PM
    Hi, Leslie.  The biggest wondering I have is what your purpose or goal is for circle time?  Is it engaging?  Circle time is a great opportunity to come together for community building purposes (discuss who is and isn't there, talk about upcoming events, reinforce or change existing rules that aren't working, make group decisions, celebrate a birthday or birth of a new sibling, announce new materials or equipment, etc.).  Some groups of children also love songs, fingerplays, and other activities that allow them opportunties for kinesthetic and/or participatory experiences .  15 minutes is usually enough time!  I enjoyed our circle time with our classroom of 3 year olds. But they were usually brief, loud, and fun!  Good luck!

    Andrea Amari Dekker
    Early Education Specialist
    United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
    Tucson, AZ

  • 10.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-15-2022 03:02 PM
    I think your solution of splitting into more than one group is a good one. There is no one right answer here. Try lots of things. I always limited preschool group times to 15-20 minutes and that included movement songs. I did not include calendar or weather in group time as I consider it not appropriate for preschoolers. Think how boring that gets day after day, year after year. They get plenty of that later in life. If you can't give up calendar (like many of my former undergraduate students), use a number line instead of a regular calendar format. Include meaningful things like weekends and holidays. Then you can talk about things like how many days till they come to school again.

    Remember, group time is NOT the most important time of the day. Much more learning occurs through play, either self- or teacher-directed.

    Loraine Dunn
    Only Toddlers
    Norman OK

  • 11.  RE: Changes to Circle Time

    Posted 10-16-2022 02:36 AM
    Hello, everyone--

    It is so refreshing and encouraging to see these wonderful suggestions and ideas for circle time...especially those who have the most appropriate (and realistic!!) view of limiting it to community building and things of interest to the children. Just wanted to pop in and mention this great book--The Great Disconnect in Early Childhood: What We Know vs What We Do by Michael Gramling. It is a great read and he is a strong advocate for doing what's right for young learners. The book is available on Amazon and other places for about $20. I brought him to our Head Start program several years ago after hearing him at a conference. He really opened teachers' eyes to other ways to do circle time!

    Wishing you well...Sharon

    Sharon Jackson, PhD
    Consultant & Professional Development Specialist
    Early Essentials
    College Station, TX