How to make circle time interesting
Days at daycare go by so fast that sometimes, we forget to take time to relax and chat with the children we care for. Sitting together, as a group, and talking for a few minutes has many advantages! However, you may be worried about problems which frequently occur during circle time. Children's attention span is often very short during discussion periods and circle time can easily become a very noisy part of the day! Here are a few suggestions which may help you gain control and lead circle time:
There are so many reasons to gather for circle time:
- To present and introduce a new theme.
- To sing songs children already know or to teach them a new song.
- To tell a story and discuss it.
- To talk about a particular situation at daycare or at a child's home.
- To talk about weekend activities or a vacation.
- To identify the elements children liked and disliked about their day, their emotions.
- To present our family, our house, our pet, our favourite activities, etc.
Planning circle time
Just like workshops or planned activities, you must prepare for circle time.
- Think of a theme you would like to talk about, it may or may not be the week's theme.
- Identify which method you will use to introduce the theme, the trigger for the discussion.
- Make a list of several open questions you can ask to encourage discussion.
- Leave empty spaces on your written plan and use them to note the details of your discussion. This will help you use their ideas in your daily activities and refresh their memory next time you discuss the same subject.
Circle time for very young children
Even at a very young age, planning circle time is possible. These precious moments must fulfill the following conditions to ensure they are effective.
- Use simple words.
- Back up your words with pictures, drawings, and objects with bright colours which accurately represent reality.
- Discuss themes children are familiar with in their daily life.
- Make circle time an interactive experience which allows children to move and remain active.
- Circle time must be brief. Offering too many details may reduce young children's interest.
Organizing a circle time area
- Small cushions or individual carpets for children to be comfortable sitting on the floor.
- Glue pictograms associated to each child or pictures of the children on the floor to form a circle. Children will know where they need to sit and this will avoid arguments. You may change the seating plan regularly throughout the year to give everyone a chance to sit near you.
- The circle time area must be isolated, away from distractions. You may use shelves or partitions.
- Subdued lighting is preferable during circle time. It creates a warm, calm, and intimate atmosphere.
Invite children into the circle time area
- Form a circle and sing a song or rhyme which involves sitting down at the end, when they hear a precise word.
(Open circle time songs)
- Invent magic words which announce the beginning of circle time and invite children to come sit in their places.
- Using a musical instrument, create an identical rhythm each time. For example, when you beat on a drum three times, children will recognize the signal to come sit in their places.
Animate circle time
- Wear a costume related to the current theme or the theme you are about to discuss. For example, if you are talking about summer vacation you may wear sunglasses, wear tropical flowers in your hair, a towel around your waist, etc. You will surely capture children's attention.
- Use a puppet during circle time. Children are fascinated by these little characters. They encourage active participation.
- Vary your tone of voice during presentations and discussions.
- Become a character. Give yourself a silly name and tell a funny story.
- Use specific material to back up your words. Present objects intriguingly. Use decorated boxes or suitcases, gift bags, hide them behind your back or under a blanket...
- During circle time, ask open questions which force children to elaborate their responses.
- Use a "speaker stick" to encourage taking turns. You may simply use a decorated wooden spoon. Children must be holding the stick if they wish to speak. When they are done speaking, have them deposit the stick in the center of the circle so another child can use it.
Circle time is an important part of the day. It is often neglected due to lack of time. I hope these tips will make circle time more enjoyable for you and your group.