Monday, March 31, 2014

Circle time

In my previous blogs I talk a lot about  circle time discussions and if you remember, I always include a few in my curriculum ideas.

Circle Time is my most favorite part of the day, it gives me the opportunity to talk with my students and hear all the things that are important to them. In fact, every Monday morning we take time out to talk about their weekend. The students don't realize that we are working on distinguishing  weekends from the weekdays, they just enjoy talking about their parties and special play dates.

We know that circle time helps students develop patience, take turns and build social skills, but it also gives students the ability to feel comfortable talking in a group setting, especially for our Pre-Kindergarteners.
Circle time should be about the students, and sometimes teachers are more focused on completing all the activities that they have scheduled, that they don't enjoy the opportunity of getting to know their students.

Circle time gives students the confidence to be open with others, and allows them to  express their feelings about a subject or something that is personal to them. When I say personal, I mean things like their birthday parties or the time they spend with family and friends.

If you have students that wonder during circle time, then you might want to make your circle time more interactive. Involve the students more, so that they are not just sitting there listening to you go through a list of things that you prepared ahead a time. I'm not saying don't prepare for circle time, what I am saying, is allow yourself to change, according to the interest of your students. If  they are distracted, then find something that will keep them engaged.

I've experienced this before, I was prepared for an exciting circle time, the students and I all sat down, I started with my greeting as I do each morning, by saying good morning to each student individually. Then I proceeded to the theme, asking the students about all the things that we've  been discussing. They dragged out words and wiggled in their seats; I stopped and said " do we want to do circle time today, their reply as a group was "no," so I said okay, let's move forward. I asked each student which center they wanted to  work in, and excused them for center time. They start in a center of their choice, and moved around to whatever center they wanted to after that, as they always have.

There are days where my circle time last 5-10 minutes and the students are engaged and we are all talking, laughing and playing games, and there are days where we come together for 1-2 minutes and move on to the next activity because the students as a whole are not interested. I don't force students to appreciate circle time, I work hard to make circle time as engaging and interactive as I can. And am never afraid to do circle time outside, or with all the students sitting in chairs.

Reviewing colors
When I want to review colors, I'll have students find a particular color in the manipulative center and bring it back to the circle.  I'll do this with each student until we have reviewed all the colors; this gets the students excited and involved.

There are many ways to introduce and review the colors, numbers, shapes and letters in circle time, and flashcards are not always the best way to do that. Prepare interactive ways to introduce and review these items with your students.

You can also do musical numbers, shapes, colors and letters. Laminate the items, lay them out in your circle time area. Put on the students favorite song, let them dance around, and when the music stops, everyone must find one of the items to stand on. Then go around the circle and ask each student what letter, color, number or shape they are standing on. I would suggest that you start by doing only one of the items at a time, until your students understand the concept of the game, or after all of the items has been introduced and reviewed at least once.

Introducing Letters
You can  introduce letters using chalk boards or white boards in the place of flashcards, or cutting out  and introducing them in that way.

Introduce and reviewing shapes (Parts of an house)

 Bring to circle time the parts of an house put the pieces together so that they look like a house; you will need a triangle, square, and a rectangle. Ask your students if they know what the structure is, then have them dismantle the house by taking apart the pieces of the house that you call out. For example; " John, can you find the part of the house that's a square and remove it from the house?"
You can later do this as a Large group activity, by having the students build their own houses.

You can change the background to a nighttime sky and add stars  

I use the same concept when I am introducing the numbers as I do with the letters. I either bring very large cut out numbers to circle time and introduce them in that way, or I use a chalk or white board to introduce them. Another idea would be to cut out the number you are working on, (enough for each student in your group) and two random numbers. Laminate and put them all out in your circle time area, instruct the students to sit only on the number you are working on.  This is also a good way to asses your students to see who can recognize a particular number, and who needs more time.

Fun Friday
On Friday it's the students time to run circle time, I usually put them in a chair while the other students and myself sit on the floor around them. The student who wants to do circle time, must volunteer, I never instruct a student to do it unless he wants to. The student picks, the song, book and anything else he or she wants to work on.  I think this a great learning experience for my students, it gives them the opportunity to see how it feels to lead circle time, allows them to express their creativity, and it also gives the teacher an opportunity to see how they are perceived in their students eyes.

Circle time can be fun and exciting or frustrating and boring, it all depends on you the teacher. Don't be afraid to reduced circle time as needed or allow the students more time if they are engaged. As schedules are important, so are the students long lasting interest in circle time. Make circle time about the students and their needs, if you are singing songs, allow their voices to be heard, don't dominate singing time.

Allow them to read a story to their classmates, while you sit and listen. They may not be able to read the words, but they can definitely read the pictures, they just have to be given the opportunity to try. Allowing them to handle a book ensures that they understand the value in it, produces pre-reading skills and the correct way to turn pages.

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