Friday, October 3, 2014

It's circle time!

Circle has been part of our routine ever since we opened up. This is a very special moment for the children and its a time for them when they can express themselves, learn, express their feelings and ideas and gain confidence as they do so.
 It's  during circle time that children are introduced to various concepts/topics and to the world around them. The simple fact of behaving appropriately in a group is a learned skill preparing pre-schoolers for more formal education.
There is no set way to "hold" a circle time. Every teacher would run it differently. But I am sure everybody follows a certain routine during their circle time. Children would know what comes first (for example the weather song and the days of the week). Obviously, circle time need to be flexible and as a teacher, I need to be responsive to the needs and interests of the children. I may start talking about the weather but should a child start talking about what he did at the week end, I follow the rhythm and let the children jump in and share their own experiences.
Circle time also must involve the children. It has to be interactive . In the picture below, we asked the children to go and retrieve red items around the classroom and to bring them to the mat, placing them directly onto the red page. This hand on experience reinforce their colour recognition. When children are  physically touching and manipulating items, it helps to further their understanding of a concept or a topic.

During circle time, I like to provide the children with objects they can touch, thus creating a visual experience. It could be a prop to a song or a picture for them to put up on our magnetic board. For instance, this year, I have changed the place where we hold out circle time. It used to be in a corner and I had a big magnetic board nailed to the wall. As I have added more corners to our classroom this year, I had to find a different place. But where? I couldn't push the walls or even add another one. So I bought a blue mat for €2 at a car boot sale and this is where we now sit down, beside the painting area. I bought a smaller magnetic board and attached it to  a cork notice board with hinges. I then nailed the board to our sink cupboards and voila!. When circle time is over, I closed the board. It doesn't take any room at all. I place the little white painting table we use for painting back in its place right against the board. It's not in the way at all!

When we sing our weather song, the children are asked to describe the weather today. When they give me the right answer, they can come up to the board and place the picture representing the weather. We do the same with our description of clothes. Describing clothes help the children notice the changes in the weather and the passing of time as seasons change.  I also get the children to touch items we have brought up to the mat to introduce a topic. I often have boxes or bags filled in with objects related to the theme or topic in question. This week for instance, Tanya brought lots of leaves, dying flowers, and sycamore seeds from her garden and placed them into a bag. I added acorns, conkers, apples, straw and carrots. The children were very intrigued. We started explaining the concept of season and got them to notice the changes happening outside: some vegetables and fruit are being "harvested", while leaves are changing colours and falling from the trees. The colours in our garden are changing. As we talked a bit more about what is being harvested, I showed the children what was left after the wheat had been cut by farmers. The children got to hold the straw and listen to the sound it makes when crushed. It feels dry and crispy in our hands. So do the leaves. When the children rubbed the leaves in their hands, it made a  rustling noise. Some said it felt prickly. By touching all these items, the children will remember better!

Throughout my circle time experiences, I make sure to integrate time for music and singing. I rely on lots of music and action songs which means I have spent a lot of time learning songs and action rhymes that I can whip out anytime I need them.  Some songs may fit along with a book I am reading or a topic we are exploring and some of them may just be something the children love (our favourite one at the moment is "Rolly Polly"). I don't have any picture to show right now, but I like to use props  when we sing with the children. I get pictures representing the song/nursery rhyme in question, laminate them, then stick them up onto a lollipop stick. Children adore using them and it's also a great way to get them to participate.

Though children are allowed to move and do the actions for these songs, I find it important to teach the children how to concentrate and sit as still as possible throughout circle time. For years, the children used to sit on the mat provided. Then we used cushions to define their space on the mat. staying still for 10 to 15 minutes can be very challenging for some and they would be laying down, rolling, wiggling and thus kicking others in the process. So this year, we tried Tanya's method and we now get the children to carry a chair to the blue mat and sit down. I have to admit that it works wonders. I find the children focus better and wriggle a lot less.
We do have a separate "story time" in the library corner.

Yet, reading story or looking at picture books at circle time would be part of our circle time experience. I spend a lot of time choosing the books very carefully, taking into consideration the age of the group. books must be engaging and I like to use them to as a  bridge to other learnings in our classroom.

If you have any tips for circle time, please leave a comment to share with everybody. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I totally agree that Circle is part of our routine and we should tell about this to our children in a fun way so that they can understand it quickly. I have enrolled my son in the best Phoenix pre-k and they organize really good activities and programs to teach the kids.


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