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5 Tips for Managing Circle Time

Jun 14, 2019    |   Early Learning Spaces & Routines

Circle time or morning meeting is a place for children to gather and greet each other at the beginning of each day. It is an opportunity for community-building, as children engage together in a familiar and predictable routine. This routine, while an important part of the classroom flow of the day, might also be challenging and intimidating for educators.

Planning a circle time curriculum that is aligned with children’s interests and level of development will take away some of the stress of this daily routine, helping circle time to become productive and enjoyable for educators and children.

  1. Make sure your curriculum is developmentally appropriate: For toddlers and young preschoolers, starting small is key. A simple song, or a short story might be long enough to hold a toddler’s attention, while older learners will be able to sit for extended periods of time. For children in preschool and pre-k, try to slowly integrate more discussion. Some classes like to discuss the weather, daily routines, and sharing. There is no specific amount of time that is right or wrong for a particular group of children. It is more about finding what works for the children and the educators.

  2. Be flexible: As with all things related to ECE, teachers and caregivers must always be flexible. Some days, you might try to introduce a new book or topic of discussion during circle time that children just are not engaged with. Although it can feel disappointing, especially when a lot of planning went into a particular lesson, part of being a responsive educator is being flexible enough to switch to another activity. According to Teacher.org, “Exemplary teachers have a growth mindset and are continually adding to their tools and strategies. They use these tools to support effective differentiation that is responsive and flexible to student needs. The ability for a teacher to adjust the content, process, and product due to…observation is true art form.”

  3. Shift your perspective: As children get excited during morning meeting, they might have a hard time waiting their turn to talk. Deborah Stewart, a preschool teacher of 30 years and author of the blog, Teach Preschool, looked at some of the challenges of managing morning meetings and presented an important question: When a preschooler speaks out during circle time, is that an interruption or an interaction?” While it feels disruptive when a child blurts out a thought or story in the middle of a discussion, Stewart decided to shift her perspective from a “do not interrupt” mindset to one that encouraged enthusiastic interaction. She noticed that getting students involved in the lesson this way helped them to be less distracted and more engaged with the rest of the group.

  4. Incorporate children’s interests: Karen Stephens of The Child Care Information Exchange reminds that observing children during free play helps to understand what their interests are. “Note children’s abilities and interests during spontaneous, self-initiated, peer interactions…Plan experiences that are responsive to children’s general ages as well as unique developmental abilities. Circle activities should be an outgrowth of individual or group interests.”

  5. Know when to cut it short: Children can begin to feel antsy, and ready to move around before circle time or morning meeting is over, and trying to introduce some music and movement, yoga, or games to get children moving can help with this. However, some days, if children are eager to get outside and run around in the fresh air, it is okay to cut your circle time short. Just as adults need a break, sometimes children do too. Rather than battling it out to make it through circle time, you’ll all feel more relieved if you just let it go and try again the next day.

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