Morning circle time is an ideal time to combine social skills development with reviewing and introducing academic concepts. This month's article takes a look at what different teachers are doing to make circle time both instructive and fun for their young students. We're also offering a generous special on our new CD, Morning Circle Time, for the interactive whiteboard. This flexible resource allows you to "build" the class day entirely or partially with the help of the class, all the while using colorful, playful graphics that really engage children. It's a perfect stocking stuffer for the teacher in your life!
We hope you'll find the tips and resources in this issue of Class Ideas usable and inspiring. On behalf of everyone at Didax, warmest wishes for the holiday season!
There are lots of ways to make circle time, or morning meeting time, a meaningful part of the school day for the children in your class. Students gather on the rug anticipating a time of interaction, creativity, and fun. Fortunately, many teachers enjoy sharing their best circle time ideas in blogs and other posts on the Web. Let's look at what a few of them have to say.
Greeting the Day and Each Other
One teacher summarizes circle time as follows: "There are four components of morning meeting time. The first is greeting. Each child must be looked in the eye and greeted face to face with a welcoming smile. The second is sharing, an advanced form of Show and Tell, where children learn how to give a short new message, ask for details, and practice active listening. The third is a fun, active group activity that may help to teach an academic subject. The final component of the morning meeting is the morning message, a letter written by the teacher to the students in which the children learn of upcoming events, the conventions of letter writing, and word-attack skills."
"Getting to know each other's names is very important to unifying the class as a whole," another teacher writes. "Names (often) reflect ones' ethnic background. Discussing this issue with the class helps to create more acceptance of people of other cultures."
To play one name game, write the name of each child in the class on a business-card-sized card. Pass the jar around the circle. Pull out a name and have everyone smile at that person and say "Good morning, ____." Or use this tried-and-true rhyming game as a fun way to practice each other's names:
Who ate the cookie in the cookie jar?
(Child's name) ate the cookie in the cookie jar.
Who, me? (First child responds.) Yes, you! (Class chants.) Couldn't be. (First child answers.) Then, who? (Class chants.)
(Second child's name) ate the cookie in the cookie jar.
(The chant continues as you use each child's name.)
Time to Boogie
For children bursting with energy in the morning, a quick song and dance may be enough to get them settled down and ready to channel their energy into more receptive learning. One teacher writes: "In the morning, students partner up and we do this song:
Hey there neighbor what do you say? (Shake hands with partner) It's going to be a wonderful day! (Wave hands) Clap your hands and boogie on down, (Clap hands, twist body down) Give a little bump and turn around. (Gentle bump to partner's hip, turn around)
"After the song I count down from 5 and by the time I get to 0 the students need a new partner. We sing the song three times, and then on the third time, the last line is changed to 'give a little bump and sit back down.' "
Seven Days of the Week Song
Getting familiar with the calendar is a staple circle-time activity, and singing a song about it helps reinforce learning. Here's one teacher's musical take on learning the seven days of the week:
There are seven days in the week, seven days in the week.
There are seven days in the week. (Hold up 7 fingers) And I know them all. (Point to self) Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
Saturday is the last one. Saturday ends the week.
(Point to each day on the calendar as the children sing. Then repeat the song.)
Another teacher shares a simple circle time activity for learning the letters of the alphabet: Use a 12-cup muffin pan with a different letter written on each cup. Have the children take turns picking a letter. Ask them what letter they have chosen. If they don't know the name of the letter, ask the other children if they know. If no one knows the name of the letter, tell them what it is. Then have them match their letter to the letter on the muffin cup and place it in the correct cup.
Unit themes can be cleverly woven into circle time. For example, when her class was studying a unit on frogs, one inventive teacher started circle time with a frog greeting (a gentle "ribbit" passed from child to child), called children to the rug (lily pads), and had the class sing songs about frogs, read frog stories, and play leapfrog along a number line. Circle time ended with a morning message about a trip down to a frog pond.
Give a Nature Report
A home-schooler who practices circle time suggests nudging your students beyond their daily observations about the weather (sunny, cloudy, raining, warm, cold) by asking them to observe changes in the trees or plants outdoors. Children can share their "nature report" using words and then progress to keeping a daily weather/nature journal. Here are a few additional cross-curricular tips to extend the "nature study" theme:
If you include a color of the week in circle time, ask what things in nature are that color. (What did we see yesterday outside the school that was yellow? Can you remember the name of a yellow bird? What yellow object did you sketch in your nature journal last week?)
If you have a "number of the week" activity, ask children to recall objects they have learned about as part of their nature study. (Can you name four birds? Can you think of six mammals?)
Use this time to work on children's verbal skills by taking an object from your nature table and passing it from child to child. Students can take turns describing the object using as many adjectives as possible.
In summary, there are no hard-and-fast rules for a successful morning circle time. It it can be as fun and instructive as you want to make it. The only rule is to relax and enjoy your time together.
Circle time lends itself nicely to consolidating mathematical skills such as counting, pattern recognition, and graphing. In her book Developing Math Concepts in Pre-Kindergarten, acclaimed educator Kathy Richardson includes a variety of engaging circle time activities. Just click below for a sample.
Visit us next month as we celebrate the 100th day of school with a new look at a common math classroom manipulative, the hundred board. Hundred Board activities abound in the new Hundred Board Book by Vincent Altamuro and Sandra Clarkson, and we'll give you a sneak peak at a few. Counting to 100 has never been so much fun!