This week we started preschool! It has been a busy week but I love to teach and do crafts! I love this age group too! They are little sponges and take in so much information and have a desire to learn. I want to cultivate that desire to learn. The key is to keep learning fun. Make it engaging and interactive . I don’t have a problem with a few worksheet or even flash cards if a child likes them(my daughter loves flash cards) but really they learn through play, through hands on experiences. And as a childcare provider, teacher, and mother it is my responsibility to provide the experiences and teach age an appropriate skills. One way to give and provide new skills is through circle time.
Circle time is not a new concept at all. One thing to keep in mind is the age of the children you are working with. You can do circle time with multiple ages combined, but it is probably easier when you have just one age group that is mainly at the same skill level as each other. For me that is not really an option and if you home school you probably have a mixed age group too!
Tips for a Successful Circle Time
Conduct your circle time in the same place – Have a special place where you have your circle time. I use a blanket(aka our reading blanket) on the floor, you might use a rug or chairs. I have it in the same place every day. It creates a routine and it helps me to be prepared! Even if you just have one little tot at home with you, you can have a special time together that is not interrupted by electronics or what not, and teach your child and have fun with them, even if it is for 10 minutes! They will LOVE IT. My daughter and the little kiddos I watch get excited when I bring out the blanket. They know what is coming.
Make Circle time optional- Working with such young kids I have 4 kiddos (including my daughter) all under the age of 3 that I watch/teach everyday. They are still learning to sit, participate, pay attention. Keep that in mind when you are having circle time. If the little tot that is 18 months leaves circle time to go play, let them. They can still hear you and see what you are doing from a distance and they will still learn even if they are not in the “circle”. For older kids I make them stay on the blanket during stories. As a teacher I need to make sure that the information/stories I am sharing are interesting, if they are not move on. Don’t get into the mode of I have to finish the book.
Make Circle time fun- YES YES YES make this time fun. YOU need to be engaged animated and full of life! Make learning fun. Get on their level, look them in the eye. Show them how to do it. Be encouraging. There is no rule that you have to sit in circle time and that you have to be in a circle. It is a group time and it should be fun!
Make circle time interactive- Also there is no rule that you have to just talk and give a ton of information during circle time. Make it hands on where appropriate. Stand up when doing circle time. Move around. Little toddlers and preschool are not ready to sit for long periods of time. They need to be taught this skill and circle time is a good time to teach it but give them the opportunity to interact and to have some movement. Make part of the time sitting and part of the time movement.
Make Circle time age appropriate- Make sure the songs, poems, games, books, and information are age appropriate. I do a calendar and weather. It is a good time to start building these skill but remember each child will be at a different place so make sure what you are presenting in appropriate. BUT don’t dumb it down just because they are little they take in WAY more than you think! Also with age appropriate make sure the amount of time you spend in circle time is appropriate. My little ones do well with about 20 minutes.
It is a time to come together and share- Give the kiddos time to share what they think, what they did on the weekend. Ask them questions. Share what you will be doing that day. Share and talk bout new concepts that you will be working on. Letter of the week, phonics, numbers, poems or songs. Let them choose song or stories.
It is a time to play a group game-Playing a group game during circle time is a great way to keep them involved and give them time to get out their wiggles. They need movement so let them get up and play a game together and then come back as a group. Here are some of the games we play: I can can you, red light green light, follow the leader, Ring around the Rosie, Simon says, duck duck goose, doggy doggy where’s my bone.
It is a time to introduce new concepts- I use this time to introduce new concepts that we will be working on. Right now with preschoolers they are working on learning letter sounds and lowercase letters, they already know all their uppercase (and a handful of lowercase). My other little one is learning uppercase letters. I use this time to show the letters and give the sounds. We are also learning to count and recognize numbers. I use this time to talk about our theme. I have decided to keep the same theme for a month. This give me lots of time to share about that theme and there are multiple ways to expand on themes then just giving the basics.
It is a time to sing songs and learn poems/nursery rhymes– My little kiddos LOVE to sing! And we sing a lot of the same songs over and over and over. So I plan on using this time to teach them a new song, poem or nursery rhyme each week. They will pick them up quickly! Pick songs and poems that have actions to them. This will help them to learn them and keep them engaged.
It is a time to read- I usually read at the end of circle time. For my preschooler they have to stay on the blanket for my tots they usually stay for one story and I don’t worry about it if they leave to go play. I usually pick books that go with our theme. I try to get fun books but also informational ones too. Example we will be doing a farm theme starting in September so I will get informational books from the library such as Cows give us milk, Fruit and Vegetables that grow on farm are some of the titles I picked up at the library this week.
I have to say if you make circle time fun, interactive, and age appropriate they will stay involved!
Note: I have taught preschool and worked with this age group for many years this is not my first time; just the first time in my in-home daycare and with my own daughter!