Are you planning circle time activities, or are you looking to revamp your circle time ideas? Whether you are new to circle time or a veteran teacher looking to add more interest to your large group time, I am here to help. I’ll be sharing:
- How circle time is important
- What to teach during circle time
- What to bring to circle time
- Songs for circle time
- Books for circle time
- Circle time tips and tricks
How Circle Time is Important
Circle time is a staple to the preschool classroom day! It can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially when you welcome in a new class. Trust me, those jitters do go away over time and successful circle time moments. I like to remember that circle time is one of the only opportunities where everyone gets to be together and connect. Circle time teaches children:
- To take turns listening and respect each other’s voices
- Important language and communication skills
- Cooperation and body awareness
- To follow a routine and take direction from an adult
Above all, circle time should be fun and a great way for you to connect with your little learners.
What to Teach During Circle Time
Since preschoolers and kindergarteners have short attention spans, what we teach in circle time should be:
- Short and sweet so that you don’t lose them and to avoid unwanted behaviors
- Interactive with fun games, songs, and visuals
- Interesting to them so that they remember some of the concepts and are excited to learn more
- Intentional so that you are meeting your assessment goals and teaching them new ideas at the same time
Believe it or not, circle time can be simple! You don’t have to spend ages doing research to teach them important skills that they absolutely need to learn. Here are some of the most important skills and concepts to teach during circle time.
Literacy skills during circle time
When it comes to learning during circle time, we’ve hit the literacy jackpot! This is the perfect time to work on:
- Phonological awareness skills such as rhyming, alliteration, and counting syllables in words (for pre-k and kindergarten)
- Oral language skills and vocabulary through songs, books, question of the day, and conversations
- Increasing their knowledge of the alphabet through alphabet books, alphabet songs, and activities with their names
- Developing an understanding of print by learning about the parts of a book or by pointing and tracking words that are being read
Math skills during circle time
Math can also be a fun and engaging activity during circle time. Here’s how to weave math activities in:
- Number concepts and operations as we count different things and identify numbers
- Subitizing (seeing how many without counting) with fingerplays or learning how to use a ten frame
- Graphing as we chart things about the children such as their interests
What to Bring to Circle Time
Having visuals or props are essential for circle time. No need to bring a lot at once, but it is nice to have options! Here are some of our favorite things to have for circle time:
- Song sticks that are engaging and get the children participating
- Question of the Day prompts to get children interested
- Felt stories for a great visual when telling a story
- Rhyming cards to practice rhyming
- A perfect circle time read-aloud book
- A puppet to get the children excited
See how Jamie and Gemma of Play to Learn Preschool use their puppet, Betsy! I love the different ideas they share about changing things up with her and her different outfits too!
Sheryl of Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds has a circle time basket that I adore. Watch her fantastic tips for circle time!
Circle Time Songs
Music is my secret ingredient for making circle time magical! The younger the class is, the more movement will be necessary. Include songs with motions. Practice dancing and balancing with bean bags. Hold hands and walk in a circle to the beat, then rotate. Grab some musical instruments and go on a parade. Practice moving slowly and quickly to the tempo of the song. Sing a color song with different colored items while assigning one to each child. Music involves both hemispheres of the brain, so it is such a fully engaging activity which is fun at the same time. It’s one of our favorite teaching tools!!
Welcome and Greeting Songs
This is a time to make each child feel important and valued. This can be done through a welcome song, talking about who is at school or at home, or even engaging in an activity with our names. This time conveys to each child that this is your class, and we are so happy to have you as a part of it!
Ms. Jamie has these name songs that are so fun to do!
- Movement and Action Songs
- Brain Break Dance Songs
- Rhyming Songs
- Alphabet and ABC Songs
- Nursery Rhyme Songs
- Days of the Week Songs
- Rainbow Songs
- Goodbye Songs
- The Ultimate Guide to Preschool Songs
- Pumpkin and Halloween Songs for Kids
- Thanksgiving Songs for Kids
- Christmas Songs for Kids
- Winter Songs for Kids
If you love CDs for circle time, here are some of my favorite circle time songs on CD:
Combine Stories and Music: We love using books with music combined. Sometimes doing this activity alone extends circle time because the children just can’t get enough! These are some of our favorites:
Include a Story: Stories bring the elements of literacy, creativity, and listening skills. Here are our tried and true Circle Time Stories. For example, you can bring Pete the Cat to life by using him as the narrator of any of his stories. You can act out the scenes of Caps For Sale, or have the entire class read Brown Bear, Brown Bear aloud. Or even put a favorite story on with a book on tape! We love including story props such as puppets and felt board pieces too. Additionally, circle time is a perfect time to include fingerplays!
Circle Time Ideas
Teach Something New: Circle time is great for a new lesson in the class. When there is a new activity on a shelf, I demonstrate it during circle time then make it available during the day. We talk about how many friends can use it at once, how carefully it needs to be handled, what to do if someone drops it/squishes it/breaks it/puts it in their mouth, and where to return it when we are finished.
Talk about Classroom Life: Some children can really benefit from hearing about what the day will look like. A visual schedule is a perfect way to talk about the events of the day. Circle time is also a great time to show who is at school or who is absent. My friend Jamie of Play to Learn Preschool and I have come up with some resources for you to do this. Click one of the photos below to see our entire set designed just for circle time.
Circle Time Resources
In addition to the daily schedule, we have a Question of the Day product that is always a success in circle time – preschoolers love nothing more than talking about themselves! The pack is full of fun circle time ideas, circle time activities, circle time prompts, and circle time games.
What does Circle Time look like for the introverted, shy, or intimated teacher?
This is a circle time tip I wish I had known ages ago! We’re not all Mary Poppins with the beautiful singing voice and perfect answers all the time. And for the record, circle time was overwhelming to me for several years. I never felt that I was doing it right or that it went as smoothly as I wanted.
Then I realized what was wrong – I was trying to be a teacher who I truly wasn’t! Once I found elements that fit me and my personality, I started to become more confident.
I would do activities that didn’t focus around me. We did science experiments, dictations of everyone’s favorite color, songs and dances that were on CD, and I especially loved having a strong leader in the class help stand beside me some days. Through time I started to become more courageous and adventurous, but I will never be that engaging teacher who holds a class’ attention with dropped jaws and eyes glued to her the whole time. That’s just not me, but I am happy with what I do offer.
What are my best circle time tips and tricks?
Sometimes Circle Time can become the quickest route to chaos. You might have wondered why you called over the entire class to join in the craziness. Here are my best tips to keep calm and have fun (other than the ones listed above of course):
- Provide a boundary for each child’s space, such as a rug or a designated space on the carpet or flooring. Some carpet stores will donate old samples they no longer carry.
- When you have children who love to talk or try to take the lead, give them that chance. Give them a job to be more involved in a productive way by helping lead a song or holding a story for you. They love to feel beneficial and helpful.
- Keep the time consistent with their interest level. Sometimes circle time is 3 minutes, and sometimes we are able to go 15 minutes. The average time is 5 to 10 minutes.
- Circle time for children under three years old should be voluntary and not forced (a recommendation per NAEYC).
- For children who are extra wiggly, provide a soft item to squish such as a squeezy ball or sponge to help them manage their wiggles in a positive way.
- Stay flexible. If no one is interested in circle time, it’s time to move onto the next idea.
- Use a talking stick to pass to the person who gets to speak. There will be some classes who want to talk all at once on a regular basis, so a visual reminder of who’s turn it is can be an amazing asset. A play microphone works pretty well too.
- Manage interruptions and help guide the class back to the topic. Don’t you just love when you ask what pet each child has at home, and Sarah starts talking about her weekend camping trip? I usually reign it in by saying, “that sounds so exciting, Sarah. We would love to hear about that after circle time. Can you tell me about your pet at home?”
Overall, keep Circle Time fun, engaging, and true to who you and your class are!
I also have a FREE workshop to make your circle time more magical. Sign up for Circle Time Success, and get my tried and true solutions!