How To Save Circle Time – tips for circle time at preschool

circle time ideas When you teach preschool you spend most of your day with busy children, free choice is ( or at least should be) the bulk of your day. That said there are likely times where you come together as a group with an overt adult agenda. For me and my class that is circle time, you may call it rug time, carpet time or class meeting even. The name doesn’t matter. It’s a time where teachers can lead group activities through direct instruction. Depending on your teaching style, student’s ages, curriculum parameters and class, one teacher’s circle time can look very different from another’s.

Circle time should be different in every class because every class is different. I know in my experience circle time varies not only from year to year but from day to day. As preschool teachers, one of the most important abilities to have is the ability to change our plan on the go. If it’s not working you need to decide to try to save the activity or abandon it. Both are viable options.

Here are my tips for circle time and what to do when it’s JUST NOT WORKING.

1. Routine, routine, routine.

Routine makes young children feel safe and while we may be more easily bored by it, children crave it. Sticking to a routine doesn’t mean for example that  you have to sing the same 4 songs after you do your calendar every day, but it does mean that you should sing something after calendar every day. Keeping to a general routine for your group time makes it predictable and lets children know what is expected of them.  I listed this first because this is my weak spot, I get great new ideas in my head and think, well just today I’ll mess up the routine and then I pay for it. Stick to the routine and find other times to introduce something that would otherwise change the routine you have worked hard to create.

2. Make a plan, then cut it in half ( especially at the start of the year).

Circle time should be as short as possible. When I am getting to know my class I keep circle time very short. Sitting still is hard for young children and instead of forcing them to do it I set them up for success. When circle time is short and they sit and pay attention the whole time praise them for it. Continue this cycle of success by extending the time slowly over the year, but acknowledge those days when shorter is better like Halloween, any special event and the first day back after a break.

circle time ideas

3. Get moving.

Sing songs with actions, get up and dance, and if you are doing a short group activity have children get up to participate. A little movement goes a long way.

4. Ignore the wiggles and give students enough space.

Ignoring wiggles can be tough because a really wiggly child can be super distracting. Try. A lot of kids need to wiggle. My students are so young I don’t worry about this at all. I will remind children if they are in somebody else’s space, I will space out our carpet mats so they aren’t too close but reminders aren’t kid proof.  If a child is having a very hard time staying in their own space we offer them a new position to sit in, a lap or a new spot but still within the circle ( unless they choose to leave , we don’t make them leave). Choose your strategy and only allow behaviors that you plan to continue to allow, if sitting only one way is important to you then stick to it.

5. Get quieter to get their attention.

Nothing works better than leaning in and whispering. For larger classes, a good old stage whisper works well. My first-year teaching I lost my voice trying to holler over my class. It wasn’t effective at all and I quickly changed my strategy. I can’t imagine raising my voice now. This isn’t a strict circle time tip, but I use it when my students all want to say something about the book all at once. A simple ” If you are all speaking no one can hear the book” in a whisper usually does the trick.

6. Have a predictable transition to circle time.

We use quiet reading time with a basket of books after snack. In a previous school, circle time followed potty time and children who had already gone potty played with puzzles at circle until everyone had had their turn in the bathroom. You don’t need to use an independent activity but having a predictable routine going into circle time like a song you play or sing to signal it’s time to come together helps make for an easy transition.

circle time

 

What To Do When Circle Time is a FLOP?

If a child is running around or away from circle calmly bring them back to the circle. When this has happened to me I have praised the children who are sitting ” ___  you look ready for the circle !” instead of looking to the sitting kids and saying ” Don’t get up.” If you say that you can pretty much guarantee that some child who wasn’t even thinking of getting up now will. Keep it positive. After praising those sitting I walk over to the child and calmly with a plain face say ” It’s time for circle.” and return them to the circle. If that fails to work and you do not have an assistant teacher who can be their buddy and help them succeed,  then I would choose to ignore the child. Giving that one child so much attention at this point can backfire, prompting more disruption from other kids. Ignoring usually works beautifully.

If it’s not just one child but the class as a whole who are not paying attention, change the activity asap. Get up and dance, sing an action song like Head and Shoulders, or pretend to be animals. When the children participate in the new activity praise them for it but keep it short. Having a successful circle time doesn’t have to follow the plan exactly, or at all.  Children want to please us ( I know it doesn’t always seem like that, but they do) and giving them feedback when they do something we want them to continue doing is important.

Not all circle time activities will be huge hits but having realistic expectations, setting your students up for success, and not getting hung up on perfection yourself will go a long way to making it your favorite time of day at preschool!

Do you need circle time activity ideas? We have a BUNCH! Click on the images below for the full posts.

circle time lessons for preschool

 

circle time lesson plans for 2 and 3 year olds

 

Spring Circle Time Lessons with books to match { FREE Printables included! }

circle time lessons for preschool

I LOVE circle time. I get very excited about circle time when I have thought of a great lesson to pair with a lovely book. For my class of 3 year olds we start the year off with very very short circle times. We read short books and have an even shorter matching activity. As the year progresses I read longer books and have longer lessons knowing any day may be the day where all plans must go out the window to meet the needs of the students in my care. Always be flexible – even if you were super excited to share this lesson it’s more important to meet their needs than stick to the plan.

Whenever possible include movement ( even if it’s just getting up and putting a magnet on the board) and don’t shy away from reading the same book multiple times over a short period of time.

**To print the printables please click the image until it’s full size then SAVE the image to your computer then print. They will be the correct size if you follow those steps.**

This post of spring circle time lessons includes affiliate links

butterfly colors

Book :Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horaeck

Activity : Sorting Bugs With and Without Wings

Activity Set Up :

wings and no wings

  • Print the first page out by clicking on the image and selecting print.
  • Cut the bugs out and laminating. Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Talk about all the different bugs in the garden and how some have wings and others do not. Encourage students to share any other observations.
  • Tell your students that you have a bag full of bugs and they need to help you sort them into two groups. Bugs that fly and bugs that do not ask the how you could tell that from a picture?
  • Hand the bugs out to each child. Invite them one and a time to place the bugs on the board or into baskets.
  • After all the children have had their turn count each group.

little gardener

Book: The Little Gardener  by Jan Geradi

Activity : Acting Out How A Seed Grows.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask your students what they think it must feel like to be a flower.
  • Tell then that they get to imagine what it must be like to be a flower and ask then to stand up. Make sure you have space for any student who may need to move a little bigger than their spot at circle.
  • Lead every action. Do not worry if a child is not 100% into it. Just by watching and listening they will be introduced to a plant lifecycle.
  • Start by crouching into a tiny ball saying ” We start as tiny seeds that someone planted in the dirt in their garden.”
  • Say that with sun and water you are beginning to grow. Start wiggling saying ” We are starting to grow roots.”
  • Reach up one arm saying you are starting to sprout.
  • More sun and water makes you grow even taller. Reach your hands to the side saying ” We are growing leaves!”
  • ” Oh no it’s very windy!” sway in the wind.
  • “The sun is back out and our flowers are ready to bloom.”

earthdaybigearth

Book: Big Earth, Little Me by Thom Wiley

Activity : Sorting Planet Earth by Size

How To Set Up The Activity : earth sort by size

 

 

 

 

  • Print out the sheet of different sized earths by clicking on the image, saving to your computer, and printing.
  • Laminate and add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Talk very briefly about how large the earth is and how small we are.
  • Put one earth ( of various sizes) on the board or into a bowl if you are sorting into a bowl. Show your students that you have all different sizes and you need their help to sort them by size.
  • Invite each child to come choose an earth and sort it into the correct bin or space on your board.
  • After every child has had a turn ask them which group has the most. Count each as a group to see if they are correct.

the earth book

Book: The EARTH Book by Todd Parr

Activity : Can I Recycle This? Learning what you can and can’t pop into the recycling bin.

How To Set Up The Activity :

  • Gather different items that you can and can not recycle in your community. If you have food waste in your area include that with a third container. Have more than you think you will need ( more than one per student).
  • Have two containers one with a recycle sign and the other with a garbage can. If your community uses different colors for your garbage and recycling use the same color containers for this activity. We want this to be a practical lesson as well as a problem solving one. You will also want a bag to hold the items before the children sort them.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell your students that you need help. You have a whole bunch of garbage in your bag but aren’t sure what you can and can’t put into the recycling bin.
  • As a group start sorting. Ask the children if each item can be recycled or put in the garbage. If your children are into it keep going until you have no more items. If not choose a few of the most common items like water bottles, aluminum cans and newspaper and sort them into recycling and some common non recyclables like bottle tops and sandwich bags.

 

bugs bugs bugs

Book: Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! by Bob Barner

How To Set Up The Activity :

  • Gather some plastic bugs in 3-4 different colors or use the printable from above print out and laminate each bug.
  • Pop them in a butterfly net like this or a bug house. A little novelty goes FAR!
  • Gather bowls in the same color as the bugs. We have these bowls at school and I use them daily!

Lesson :

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the students that you have caught a bunch of different color bugs but you need to put them into these bowls.
  • Invite the children to come reach into the net or bug house and sort the bug into the correct bowl.
  •  In groups where sitting for longer periods are OK you can go by each child and ask them to take two different colored bugs to place in the bowls.
  • If your group can stay seated long enough to count each group of bugs together then please do.

 

i love bugs

Book : I Love Bugs! by Phileomon Sturges

Activity : Matching Butterfly Wings – matching patterns and colors.

How To Set Up The Activity:

butterfly match

  • Print out the Butterfly Match sheet by clicking on the image and saving it to your computer then printing.
  • Laminate, cut the butterflies out, then cut down the middle.Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask each child what their favorite bug is.
  • Tell them you like many bugs but butterflies are one of your favorites. ( If this isn’t true say something that is but seriously who doesn’t LOVE butterflies??)
  • Have one half of each butterfly on a board or lay them out in the circle. If you choose to lay them out you may want a tray or a solid color piece of fabric so the patterns and colors pop out for the students.
  • If this is a new concept for your class do 3-5 butterflies together as a group. Hold the wing up to a few butterflies that aren’t a match and ask the group if it’s a match. Don’t aim to trick anyone but let them feel like they are teaching you from time to time.
  • If you are teaching master matchers hand one wing to each student and have them find the correct match. As they do label colors and sizes from time to time saying things like ” Wow Bobby you found the match for that bright pink butterfly!” or ” Suzie your butterfly is really large!”

eating the alphabet

Book: Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Activity : Making Fruit Salad

How To Set Up The Activity:

  • I like doing this activity at a table but it’s not a must.
  • Any fruit can be used . I like to use apple, pear, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, and mandarin oranges. You will also need small bowls for each and one large salad bowl.
  • You will want some whole fruit to examine like a pineapple, apple, mandarine orange, and kiwi.
  • Have one serving of each fruit already chopped( during free choice have the children help you do some chopping).

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask each child which fruit or vegetable is their favorite.
  • Pass around the whole fruit you have and talk about how the fruit feels and smells.
  • Remind the children about the chopping they did earlier. Explain that they will now make a salad with the fruit.
  • Invite each child to come pour one bowl of chopped fruit into the bowl.
  • Serve and enjoy.

planting-a-rainbow

Book:Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert

Activity : Color Matching Flowers and Stems

How To Set The Activity Up:

planting a rainbow

  • Print out this printable by clicking the image, saving to your computer, then printing.
  • Laminate the flowers and stems then cut out.Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.
  • Have the stems on the board before you read the book.

Lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children what their favorite color is. Ask if they would like to help you plan a rainbow flower garden too!
  • Show the class the stems on the board and explain that you have the flowers in your basket. You need their help matching them.
  • Invite each child up to the board to choose a color and add it to the stem.
  • Once the garden is complete count to see how many flowers in total are in it.

 

Do you have a favorite spring lesson or activity for your class? Besides circle times like these my class will be cutting flowers, beading with bug beads, making bug prints in play dough and SO much more. April is going to be a blast!

 

9 books & circle time activities for 2 and 3 year olds { with FREE Printables}

circle time lesson plans for 2 and 3 year olds Now that I am back in the classroom I get to lead circle time again. I LOVE circle time, I love seeing all the little faces looking up at me and that moment when they connect to the material.  I teach 2 and 3 year olds so my circle time is short and simple. We all sit on the floor and read a book and do a coordinating group activity. This all takes at most 10 minutes but more often 5 or 6. Keeping it short means making your students successful. I would rather have a 2 minute activity where they were all engaged and I can praise them for that than a 10 minute one where kids are losing interest and not at all engaged.  Here are 9 books and dynamic circle time activities for 2-3 year olds

This list contains affiliate links.

how big is a pig

Book : How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton

Activity : Sorting large and small

Activity set up :

printables for circle time

  • Print out the image above by clicking it and printing.
  • Cut the animals out and laminate or use contact paper to cover. Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.
  • Add the large and small barns to a box or the board you are using. Click on the images below to print.

sorting small barn sorting Large Barn

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals are large or small. If you have their attention take the time to ask if they know another word for large.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right size barn.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

 

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circle time lesson for harold and the purple crayon

Book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Activity : Make The Color Purple!

Activity set up :

  • Gather a snack size ziploc for each child, blue, and red liquid paint, a small bowl, one paint brush, and duct tape.
  • Add a small amount of both colors in the ziplocs. Secure with duct tape. Trust me your circle time carpet will thank me. Set aside where kids can’t see.
  • Add paint to the dish.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the group if anyone knows how we make the color purple. Tell the students that today they get to be color scientists and they will be making purple.
  • Demonstrate how the colors mix together in the dish.
  • Hand out the ziplocs and encourage them to squish the colors together to make purple.

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secret seahorse circle time activity for preschool

Book:  Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone

Activity : Sea animal or  land animal?

Activity set up :

  • Gather animal figurines likes these Safari Ocean Animals and Wild Republic Animals
  • Grab two shallow containers. You can fill one with grass and dirt and the other with a little water or green and blue paper respectively. If you are in a rush skip this, just grab the animals and make two piles!

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals live on land or in water.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right habitat.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

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trashy town circle time activity

 

Book: Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

Activity : Taking Out The Letter Trash

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic or other manipulative letters ( at the start of the year I always focus on the first letters in my students names), 4-5 mini garbage cans like these Mini Desktop Trash.
  • Label the trash cans with the letters you are focusing on. You will only be using the same amount of letters as you have cans so you will need duplicates for medium and large size classes.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that Mr. Gilly took out the trash but they get to sort it! Their trash isn’t old banana peels and soup cans, their trash isn’t even trash at all, it’s letters!
  • Give each child a letter.
  • Invite them to show the class their letter and find the correct can for it.
  • If your class has good letter recognition skills you can make this more of a challenge by using lowercase letters sorting into uppercase trash bins.

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emotion activity for circle time

 

Book: Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods by Sandra Boynton

Activity : Happy? Sad? or Angry?

Activity set up :

  • The days leading up to this lesson invite each child to make happy, sad, and angry faces for photos.
  • Print out the photos and laminate them.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Invite the group to make happy faces, sad faces, and angry faces.
  • Shuffle the cards so you use at least one of each child during the activity so no one is left out.
  • Hold the cards up one at a time and have the group decide how that person is feeling.

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The Busy Little Squirrel

 

Book : The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

 

** Only to be used in a facility where nut allergies are not an issue. You can use photos of nuts if that is the case.

Activity : Sorting and Counting Nuts

Activity set up :

  • Gather a dozen or so nuts in the shell ( walnuts, chestnuts and almonds work well. A nutcracker as well ( a real one like this ( affiliate link) not the fancy ones).
  • Gather 4 baskets. Place all the nuts in one basket taking out one of each kind for the

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children what the squirrel was gathering for winter. Show them the inside of each of the nuts.
  • Tell them that you have some nuts like the ones the squirrel was gathering but you need help to find out how much of each kind of nut you have.
  • Sort the nuts together.
  • Dump each basket and count as a group.

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activity for mr. cookie baker

 

Book:  Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington

Activity : Shape Match Cookies

Activity set up :

cookie shape sorting printable

  • Print out the image above ( click to enlarge) and cut the cookies out. Laminate or use contact paper to cover.
  • Print out the jar printables below ( click to enlarge) and tape to the front of an empty jar or basket.

cookie shape match triangle jar

cookie shape match square jar

cookie shape match heart jar

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they can help you put all the cookies in the correct cookie jar.
  • Hand each child one or two cookies.
  • Invite the students to place the cookies in the correct jar. If a child is having a hard time don’t just swoop in, see if another child can help.
  • After sorting count the contents of each jar.

* Tip the younger the group the more simple the sorting should be. At the start of the year I would only have 2 options and nearer the end I would expand that to 3 or even 4.

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Northwest Coast Learn the Alphabet cover

Book:  Learn the Alphabet with NorthWest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer (and others)

Activity: Fishing for Letters

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic letters, a small blue towel, and a magnetic fishing pole. You will also want a cookie sheet or magnet board.
  • Lay out the blue towel and place the letters on top.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they had a favorite animal in the book. Tell them that you thought the salmon ( or just fish) were very neat.
  • Tell them that they get to go fishing too! But that they are going to fish for letters!
  • Invite each child up to fish for a letter. When they have one ask them if they know what letter it is, if not label it for them. Place the letter on a magnet board or cookie sheet.
  • After all the children have fished a letter review the letters that were caught and then release them back out into the ocean!

 

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alphabet under construction

 

Book: Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

Activity : Building with letters

Activity set up :

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that they will get to be builders today just like the mice in the book and build with the alphabet.
  • Bring out the bin of cardboard blocks.
  • Invite each child to pick out a block, tell the class what letter is on the block and place it in the middle of the rug to make a tower.  If the tower is getting too high build a 2nd one.

 

I hope these ideas are something you can use or adapt to your classroom.  I have been having so much fun being back at circle! What is your favorite circle time activity? Link or comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not A Stick – Story & Creative Activity

Guest Post by Deborah J. Stewart, M. Ed. of Teach Preschool

I have been following No Time for Flash Cards for a very long time now and one thing I know about Allie is that she loves a good quality children’s book. So I thought I would share a fun little book we recently explored in my preschool classroom

The title of the book is “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis. The book is very simple to read and the basic idea is to get children’s imaginations going by imagining the stick in the book is anything but a stick!

As a class we have read this book at least three times and now as I read the book, the children shout out what the stick will be next! “It’s a fishing pole!”

After we read the book for the second time, I had the children go outside and gather sticks from our play yard…

As you can see, there is no shortage of sticks in our “play yard!” Once the children had selected a few sticks, we came back inside and each child taped their sticks to their own large sheet of paper…

The children then used crayons and their imaginations to turn the sticks into something that was “not a stick”…

This process was simple for the children and yet challenging too! The children tended to draw random lines around the sticks and talk about what they were making. When the children had finished their drawings, I had each child dictate to me a story about their stick. We started the story with, “It’s not a stick. It’s a….” and the children had to complete the sentence…

Our sticks turned out to be alligators, spiders, circles, swords, and more. A process like this is simple yet promotes great opportunity for story telling and imagination!

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, I would love to invite you to stop by Teach Preschool and see some of the other books and activities I share on my blog that young children will enjoy both at home or in the classroom!

St. Patrick’s Day – Lucky Gold Hunt

I read on a message board that had posted my link that one mom was disappointed that I don’t have more non art activities, so here you go ! This is mess free, fun and so easy to make more challenging for older children , or easy as pie for the little guys. My son and I played this from the time he got up from nap until dinner was on the table . I have a feeling we’ll be playing it tomorrow too! Oh and if there is something specific you would like to see us try- let me know I am always open to new things .
  1. Gather your materials. You will need some play coins, a marker and a green piece of paper. * For really little guys instead of the paper you can just use a change purse and simply have them hunt for the coins.
  2. Trace the coins on the paper
  3. Fill in the numbers, we are doing 10 coins but customize this for your child, more or less whatever works. Make it challenging but not impossible. Having the numbers offers up different options for how to play , you can simply hunt for the coins, and place them on the numbers. You can hunt for them then have your child specifically put them on the number you designate. I tried both and my son liked to choose which numbers to pop the coin on then count them and start over.
  4. Hide the gold. Can you see it in my picture? Make it obvious at first, with little guys make sure it’s in plain view, the goal isn’t to be a better hider than they are a finder, it’s for them to find them feel pride in it, then tag on a little math too !
  5. Go searching for the lucky gold .
  6. Count your gold , and start again !