What you do during your preschool opening circle time sets the mood for the day. That’s why it is so important that you plan it well. It might seem like something you can just throw together on the fly, but that rarely works.
KEEP IT SHORT
Preschoolers often find sitting for long periods of time difficult, especially if they are expected to sit still and be quiet. Most preschoolers’ attention span will allow them to stay focused in a group for a maximum of five minutes. A good rule of thumb though is to keep your circle time to no more than the youngest child’s age in minutes.
If your youngest preschooler is three years old then your circle time should last no more than three minutes. This does not leave a lot of time, which is why planning is essential. You can do a quick movement song to kick circle time off and then jump right in. Let your preschoolers guide you though. If they are interested and engaged they may be able to stay focused longer.
The idea of teaching the calendar at circle time is so ingrained into teachers that it’s hard to picture circle time without it. There is very little benefit gained from this though. When circle time is kept short, as it should be, you really want to avoid wasting that precious time on routines that are basically just fillers at this stage of development.
MAKE IT INTERACTIVE
Many teachers start their opening circle time with the children sitting in their places on the floor. It’s okay to start standing! Begin circle time with a fun movement song each day before having your preschoolers sit down. After that, you must have a plan for how to keep your preschoolers engaged. In order to have a successful circle time you need to allow your preschoolers to be active participants that can collaborate with you throughout this group time.
READ ENGAGING STORIES
Storytime can be difficult for some teachers. Mostly because it is very difficult for preschoolers to stay focused. It’s important to keep the entire group engaged, because once you lose one the rest are not far behind. You can do this by using different voices for each character in the story. This really helps the story come to life for your preschoolers.
You can even include a puppet to enhance your storytelling. Have the puppet read the story, or just the repetitive lines of the story. The children can join in on reciting the predictable text in the story with the puppet, too. The puppet is also a great way to ask the children questions about the story.
Don’t forget to get your preschoolers up and moving any time there are action words in the story, too! If the main character is stomping through the forest, then that would be a great time to get everyone up to “stomp through the forest”. Practice reading the stories ahead of time so that you are very comfortable reading it aloud.
Singing songs is a great way to draw your preschoolers back in and get them engaged. You can also use singing as a transition to and from circle time. At the end of circle you can sing a song about the colors the children are wearing and those who are wearing the color that you say in the song can go to the next activity. You continue this until all of the children have transitioned.
You can do this with the beginning sounds of their names, too. Using songs during your morning circle time is a fun way to incorporate skills practice. Singing songs is also an effective way to build expressive language and comprehension skills.
MAKE CIRCLE TIME OPTIONAL
Sometimes, teachers find themselves fighting to get their preschoolers to circle time. It should not be that way though. If you force a child to be at circle time two things are going to happen. First, your circle time is going to be disrupted. Second, your circle time is going to be disrupted again, and again.
Preschoolers feed off of each other, so once you have one unhappy and distracted child at your circle time there will soon be more. It’s better to let the child be. Just because they are not physically at circle does not mean they are not paying attention. It’s amazing what a child will pick up on even from across the room.
Also, chances are that if you have preschoolers who do not want to come to your circle time on a regular basis, you are doing it wrong. You need to make your circle time more interactive. Instead of trying to change the child, change what you are doing.
Preschool opening circle time is a great way to start the day with purpose. Circle time sets the stage for the entire rest of the day. It sets the mood and can even guide the activities of the day as you collaborate together as a group.