Strategy

Circle Time

Morning Meeting, Group Time

UDL 3.4

Circle Time is a daily class meeting in which the teacher leads the class through a purposeful and predictable agenda that includes essential early learning skills (e.g. calendar, weather, counting, preview of the daily schedule) and opportunities for community building (e.g. shout outs, sharing). First, the teacher gathers students in a circle and references the posted Circle Time agenda. The teacher then engages students in interactive practice of each agenda item. While the exact content of a Circle Time agenda will vary from teacher to teacher, best practices dictate that agendas include critical skill practice, community building and an overview of what is to come in the course of the school day. During Circle Time, the teacher often relies heavily on visual aides such as a calendar, weather chart or alphabet chart. Circle Time affords young learners the social interaction they crave while also allowing for predictable and repetitive practice of critical early learning concepts.

Implementation Tips

Making Circle Time Interactive
Model the first few Circle Time meetings and explicitly run through how each activity is done before having students join in. Once the routine starts to become familiar, slowly ask for student volunteers to help out with different parts of the meeting, scaffolding with teacher support.
Planning an Agenda
Plan the agenda ahead of time. An effective Circle Time typically includes: a welcome, calendar review (e.g. months, days of the week, counting number of days in school), skill review (e.g. shared reading exercise), overview of the day and community builder (e.g. class question).
Preparing Materials
Prepare materials in advance in order to maximize Circle Time and keep students engaged. Use a large calendar, pocket charts and schedule cards for the daily schedule, a weather chart to record the weather, etc. Have props, such as a teacher pointer or story time puppet, within reach.
Incorporating Visual Cues
Use visual reminders, place markers and familiar songs. For example, write “Today” on an index card that is moved daily on the class calendar. Or sing the [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKqAblcwFOA|Days of the Week]] song while using a [[https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41im%2BqHCxnL._SX425_.jpg|teacher pointer]] to point to the days on the calendar.
Targeting Specific Objectives
Integrate academic objectives and goals into Circle Time. For example, students can review sight words or connect a math counting unit to calendar review by counting the number of days in school by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s.
Starting the School Day
Start each school day with a Circle Time meeting. Have the same agenda and list of topics in order to maintain organization and routine. Circle Time is a fun, non-threatening way for students to kick off the school day.
Encouraging Participation
Encourage different students to volunteer to run each part of the meeting. This gives everyone a chance to participate and try new roles and keeps the activities exciting.

Examples

Reinforcing Critical Skills
At the start of the school day, a teacher calls students over to the rug for Circle Time. As students sit in a circle, the teacher welcomes students, saying, “Good morning! I am happy to see each of you today.” Then, the teacher calls on a student to lead the calendar routine and tell the class what the date is. Once the volunteer identifies the date on the calendar the teacher cues, “Now it’s time to sing the [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKqAblcwFOA|Days of the Week]] song.’” Next, the calendar volunteer tells the class what day yesterday was, what day today is and what day tomorrow will be. Students then engage in singing and dancing to the [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ6NJWNzBqE|Months of the Year]] song. As the song ends, students sit down and the teacher asks, “How many days have we been in school?” A new volunteer crosses off a number on the 200’s chart (representing a day in school) and students collectively count the days by 1’s and 5’s. Another student is chosen to talk about the weather. The teacher asks for a volunteer to point and read the weekly sight words as the other students watch and listen. While referencing a pocket chart with schedule cards, the teacher then goes over the schedule for the day. The teacher concludes by asking, “Does anyone have any questions about the day?”
Bolstering Social and Emotional Learning
After completing the calendar and skills portion of Circle Time, a teacher gives each student a sticker and asks students to place stickers on an emotions chart to represent how they are feeling. The chart consists of a happy face visual for “I’m feeling happy this morning,” and a sad face visual for “I’m feeling unhappy this morning.” The teacher says, “I noticed on our chart that some of my friends came in feeling unhappy this morning. Let’s all close our eyes and think of a time when a classmate showed kindness. Think about what happened. How did that make you feel?” The teacher gives the students a minute to reflect and then says, “Turn to the person sitting next to you. Share with that person how you felt when a classmate showed you kindness. What did they do that was kind? How did that make you feel?” After the students share with their partners, the teacher says, “Please turn back to me. Does anyone want to share a time that a classmate was kind to you and how that made you feel?” Students take turns sharing as the teacher smiles, encourages and supports the acts of kindness. The teacher then says, “Now close your eyes and think of a time when you showed a classmate kindness. What did you do? How did that make your friend feel? How did it make you feel?” Again, the teacher facilitates reflection and sharing. Finally, the teacher refers back to the Happy and Unhappy chart and asks, “Does anyone want to change how they are feeling on the chart?”

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