Friday, February 26, 2016

Circle Time, GFC Style





  The majority of my program is inspired by Reggio Emilia (REI), which is a progressive child led program developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Garrison Family Care is Reggio inspired, but I use an eclectic mix of philosophies because life is eclectic. Circle time is one part of my program that varies from that philosophy.

  Circle time is a part of the school day where children and teachers sit together to discuss the day and practice academic skills. This is typically when things like the calendar, alphabet, weather are discussed. Other things teacher may do is keep track of the number of school days, do simple math or spelling activities, count coins, sing songs, or read stories.

  Sitting down for a teacher directed activity like this is a bit different than what would be done in a true REI program. I do circle time like this partly to hold myself accountable for making these skills part of each school day and so that sitting in a group for a teacher directed activity isn't a foreign concept when the children move on to kindergarten.


  During a circle time, there are multiple activities that cover a wide variety of topics in a short time. Some people choose to the same routine each day, while others mix it up a bit. I tend to follow the same routine, but will mix it up 1-2 times a week. The routine helps with predictability and changing things up keeps it interesting.

  This time is limited to 10-15 minutes, because young children are not ready to sit for longer periods. Sometimes it is even shorter than 10 minutes, because the group has many very young children or there are more interesting things going on. I feel it is important to read the group and respond to their needs, while still practicing following directions. If the regular routine isn't working, then we just do something different.

The Routine
- Sign In
- Greeting Song
- Letter of the Day
- Calendar
- Weather
- Question of the Day
- Number of the Day

Additional Activities
- Talent Show
- Personal Information
- Story
- Introduce New Material/Activity

How It's Done
- Sign In
  After breakfast, each child writes their name on a sentence strip with dry erase marker. Once a week, I will do hand over hand to help make the letter shapes. The rest of the time they write on their own. This helps us prepare for circle time and the children who clean up quickly don't have to sit and wait for those who take longer.


- Greeting Song
  This is a chant where we take time to address each person by name. We pat our laps in rhythm and when we say "yay" we wave our arms up over our heads. This makes sure that each child feels as though they are part of the group and the movement helps with feeling grounded for what is mostly a sitting activity.

Repeat this verse for each child.
______ is here today.
______ is here today.
Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!
_____ is here today!

This is the last verse.
We are ready to play.
We are ready to play.
Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!
We are ready to play!

- Letter of the Day
  I use ABC Singalong for our letter of the day. During the first half of the school year, we practice letters according to the types of lines required to write them. The second half of the year, we cycle through the songs randomly.
  Depending on the children's interest, we do multiple activities with these songs. We will sing together, write the letter doing sky writing (pretending to write it in the air) or by rubbing our fingers on the rug, make the letter in sign language, read the song doing call and repeat, find the letter with in the song, and count how many times the letter is in the song. This is practice for literacy and math.

- Calendar
  We sing songs about the days of the week, months, or seasons. We find today, yesterday, tomorrow, and special days. This also serves as an opportunity for children to share cultural information, related to holidays or things they do at home. This is practice for math and social studies.

- Weather
  Again, we use song to transition to this topic. We discuss the types of clothes the children are wearing and why they had to wear them. We also compare the weather by saying if it is the same or different from yesterday. This supports self help for getting dressed and skills needed for science.

- Question of the Day
  The question of the day is related to curriculum topics or something we talked about during breakfast. It is typically a yes or no answer, which goes onto a bar graph. Each child has a card with their photo and name on it that they use to mark their answer on a pocket chart. This ties together social studies, math, and confidence.


- Number of the Day
  This is a chart that we fill in using dry erase marker. Whoever is filling it out gets to choose a number 1-9. We then represent that number in a variety of ways: make it with your body, sign language, 10-frame, tally marks, spelling, a picture, and money. We also write math sentences adding to the number to get to 10 and comparing the number to 5 (more than/less than).

- Talent Show
  During our talent shows, each student has a turn to present a talent to the group. Usually it is a song or counting. The expectation is that they speak loudly, look at the audience, introduce themselves and their talent, then return to their seat following the applause. The audience also has an expectation to sit quietly, watch the performance without interrupting, and clap when the performance is complete.

- Personal Information
  I made a sentence strip with each child's first name. On the back of each strip, I have their last name, birthday, address, phone number, and parent's names. When it is their turn, they will practice answering questions about their personal information.


- Story
  This could be a read aloud, a finger play related to curriculum or a holiday, or a felt board story. Felt board stories are then put on the large felt board for later re-telling.

- Introduce New Material/Activity
  Many of the activities and materials I present simply become part of our play space. However, if there is a specialized tool or material that need introduction, I will make that a part of circle time. I might also teach them how to play a new game that will be available when we go to the playroom. For example, we currently have our dramatic play area set up as a doctors office with real medical supplies. Items like blood pressure cuff, otoscope, and stethoscope have been introduced during circle time so that they will be handled safely during play.


  During all of these activities, the children are practicing social skills that will be used throughout their schooling. Sitting in a group, taking turns speaking, and following directions given to a group are just a few of things that are part of circle time.

  Additionally, as they learn how to do each of these tasks, I ask them to lead circle time. The 3 and 4 year old students do a fantastic job leading the group!

  What is an activity you do during circle time?

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