Friday, March 15, 2013

Circle Time

Reiko reads to the children while I snap pictures of our circle time.
Circle time is part of every classroom at Tumbleweeds, though it looks very different from one age group to the next. In the infant room, for example, circles are typically a spontaneous activity. Briana may be reading a book to one child when the other children notice and join her in their own way (ie crawling over, craning to see Briana, etc). In the preschool room, circle is much more structured and may contain books, songs, story times, and scaffolding specific to what the children are working on.

In the toddler room circle has a little more structure than the infant room but less than a preschool room. In our classroom in particular we have circle once a day. It is typically either before lunch or after afternoon snack. The timing depends on the needs of the children and when they are ready for a circle time. Our circle often consists of reading a book or two, chosen by the children, and singing two or three songs. We may spend a little time conversing together if the children choose to. It's also up to the children whether or not they want to participate in circle. It's a voluntary activity and the children often roam the room if they are not interested in what we are doing.

Reiko signs with the book (a baby sign language book).
Why do we do circle, though? The reasons are countless, but one of the most important factors is our inner need for community. Circle provides a time during the day that is focused on coming together as a group. Though the children may roam the room, the circle time is still the focal point of that window of our day. They can hear us and are, in their own way, participating. Singing our songs together helps us recharge with one another and it can provide a great transition point for moving from inside to outside, from playing to eating, or whatever activities it may happen to fall between.

Noticing me, LC and Reiko look up to the camera.
Circle is also a time for us to further explore the interests that a cohort has shown. I may try out new songs during this time so I have them on hand to use again if the children like them. New books are often introduced during circle. In older classrooms, a jumping off topic may be introduced so that the children can discuss it. For example, if a preschool room is studying bees the teacher may read to them about hives and sing songs about bees then state something to the children such as "That book talked about how bees live and work in hives". (should I go into scaffolding here? yikes...)

QM, who had been roaming, joins momentarily.
One last thing that circle time provides is a great opportunity for increasing literacy in the classroom. Reading with children is one of the fundamental ways for increasing literacy in children. Linking up the new books that we are reading with songs that match the same interests helps to increase the interest of the children in the books in our classroom as well. Often after circle the children will choose to read the books that are in our book basket then come to me to request songs they remember singing after each book.

Keeping expectations for the circle low (I always aim for at least one song and one book and if interest remains I continue until it wanes), focusing on increasing community and literacy, and following the children's lead during circle time (I respond to any requests they have for books or songs) helps our circle time to be successful, engaging, and tailored to the needs of the children. It's a wonderful way to come together and increase literacy in our classroom that the children and I look forward to each day.

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