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Circle Time Activities that Encourage Students to Join

Updated on April 9, 2018
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Joanna Blackburn has 15 years of hands-on teaching and researching ways to help children learn. She writes articles to help other teachers

A Group Time your Children Will Love

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3 Simple Guidelines for Teachers

Are you tired of fighting your classroom to join you for circle time? I had become frustrated with it, and took matters into my own hands. I took several courses through on modifying the environment so that children would want to learn. I tested and adjusted many times before I found something that worked. This article shows my daily routine in my classroom. I was amazed at how well it worked. I did have to remind myself of the following guidelines because we are often told to make the children sit and listen. Once I overcame these issues, I don't have a problem with the children not wanting to be part of what is going on.

These guidelines are important for this method to work.

  • Do not force the children to come to circle time.
  • Do not force the children to sit still.
  • Keep your mind open to change.

Yes you have to keep an open mind, every child is different in the way they learn. This is the key to making learning fun.

Enjoying Circle Time

They love doing sign language during Circle Time.
They love doing sign language during Circle Time. | Source

Children of all ages love to express themselves through singing, signing and movement. They love to hear the teacher sing, even if it's off key. They enjoy watching the teacher move around, even if its clumsy. If you can act out words, you can dance and so can the children.
Let me explain this with an example. Use 3 Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. Jump when you say jump, fall to the floor when monkey's fall off the bed, gently hit your head on the floor and use your hand for the phone.

After a Couple of Weeks

After you have got use to the movements in the song, then add the hand sign for a jump and the hand sign for mother. These are easy for the children to pick up on. Do not say this is the sign for, just use it everytime the words are said.
Start every circle time with this and the results will surprise you. Just stand up and start signing and doing the movements and the children will join you without a fight. Do not say its circle time, just start singing.

The Sign for Mother

The sign for Mother
The sign for Mother | Source

Want your Students to sit down, try this.

Not that you have their attention and your done singing, how do you get them to sit down? This will be a challenge for all teachers, but if you make it the children's choice to sit there will be no behavior problems. The key is simple Yoga. As you will see in this example.

After you have finished your song, sit down with your legs crossed. Then cross your arms across your chest, close your eyes and hum. Every time you take a breath, open your eyes, then shut them and hum again. By the third time you open your eyes, the children will be doing the same thing you are.

To learn more about these fun moves, look up Yoga for young children. My students loved doing the Frog movement.

I use this not only during Circle Time but throughout the day. When the kids are getting a little out of hand, I simply say, "Hands Up" then I start a yoga move. Most of the time the children will stop what they are doing and join you.

Next do This Name Game

After you've done Yoga, then do the name game. Remember this is an activity for the children, so let them answer.
Put your hand on the head of a child and say, "What is her/his name?" When the children get it right, say "Wow, you guys are so smart". Then move on to the next child. Say, "What about her/his name?" after the children answer say, "You guys are on a roll. Let's see if you can keep it up?". For the next child say, "Okay, how about his /her name?" Do this through all of the children.

This lets the children feel like they are in charge and have some say in what is going on. Even two year olds can do this.

Outside the Box Storytelling During Circle Time

The use of props will encourage children to get involve with story time.
The use of props will encourage children to get involve with story time. | Source

Let the children move around during this activity. It let's them burn some of their energy.

For this activity, you have to be willing to try something new. You dress up silly and sit on the floor with your props where the children can reach them. Let each child pick something from your pile of storytelling props.

.
Beforehand pick a book that the children can participate with. Dr. Seuss books are great for this. Make sure that each page has a key line that repeats throughout the book. Keep in mind it's not about getting to the end of the book, it's about participating during circle time.

This was taken by my daughter.
This was taken by my daughter. | Source

Dr. Seuss Books Work Wonders

The book I love to use is Green Eggs and Ham, this book is awesome for getting children involved with story time and sign language. The phrase that gets children excited is "Sam I Am". After only a couple of pages, the children will start saying this phrase. When you come to this phrase, stop and cup your ear, then wait for them to say it. Even two year old can do this.

After a week of doing this, take a page that lists several items, like box and fox, and use the hand sign for 3 words while saying them. Don't teach just use them. They will start using them.

Now the final thing to use with this method is your voice. Use two funny voices while reading. Even if you mess it up, the kids will be in tune with the story. Laugh when you mess up and start again. This is fun and the children will help you.

Then one day dress up and do the story. Help the children to dress up.

You can do this with almost any book. The collection above is a wonderful group of books to have and use. I have used all of them with great success.

Below is a sign language book that was very useful when learning the hand signs for the stories. Take the time to learn some of the fun and unusual signs that can be done one-handed.

End with the Train Game

This activity will teach your children the name of the centers.

How to do it:
"Okay, let's make a train." Stand up with your back to the children and wait for them to join you. The line does not have to be perfect. They will get the hang of it.
"All aboard the fun train."
Start shuffling forward, saying, "Chugga, Chugga, choo, choo." stop at the first center.
"What center is this? What do we do in this center?" Now let them answer if someone says the right answer, point that out. If they can't answer, then tell them.

Do this all the way around your room, don't forget the cubbies. Then go to back to the library and do one last yoga move.
By doing this every day, they will begin telling you what the centers are and what you can do in them.
Add your own twist to this activity and make it your own fun.

Here is what you just Taught the Children

You just taught the children how to have a back and forth conversation.

You just taught them how to actively participate in group time.

You showed them how to appreciate books, stories, sharing and singing.

You gave them the ability to use actions, objects and ideas to represent other actions, objects and ideas.

And most important you showed them that they are capable of attempting everyday task and how to communicate in non-verbal ways.

Plus there are lots more early learning guidelines that you just completed with this circle time. You covered math, science, language arts, large motor, fine motor and social skills. So the next time you go to do your circle time think about what it teaches them.

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