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

 

Summer Reading Calendars – FREE PRINTABLES

summer reading calendar

Summer reading is vital. Children can lose many of the literacy gains they have made over the year at school when they aren’t reading daily. Just because reading is something they MUST do doesn’t have to mean it has to be boring or feel like a chore. These free printable summer reading calendars keep summer reading fresh and fun from June 1st- August 31st!

Each day has a reading prompt, some are themes to read about, some are locations to sit and read, and some are other related activities. All are fun!

summer reading calendar

Summer reading isn’t just for “big” kids. Summer reading should be for all kids including picture book readers. These summer reading calendars are geared towards children reading picture books but could easily be used for any child at any level.  For very young children choose picture books and follow the calendar day by day. For older children reading longer books that might have too many pages to read in one day pick and choose 15 – 20 days to follow each month. Print these calendars out and use stickers to mark each day complete!

Print the calendars out here. Click on the link under the image.

june calendar image

 

June

july calendar image

July

august calendar image

August

 

If you want to have even MORE fun this summer with reading check out our popular Summer Reading Bucket List  <— click on the link for a plain text list of what’s on this super rad reading bucket list!

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18 Caterpillar & Butterfly Activities For Preschool { and Books too! }

butterfly and caterpillar ideas for preschool We are in the MIDDLE of learning all about bugs in my class and by FAR the favorites have been caterpillars and butterflies. They’re my daughter’s favorites too. I think that the fact that you can learn all about the lifecycle at such a young age has something to do with this. I like that as a teacher of really young children I can connect science, literacy, art, music, and movement into one theme so easily.

Here are my favorite caterpillar and butterfly activities for preschool.

paper plate butterfly with jewels

Easy Paper Plate Butterflies
egg carton caterpillars for kids

Clear Egg Carton Caterpillars

easy toddler crafts

Toddler Butterfly Craft 

caterpillar craft for kidsSize Order Caterpillar 
alphabet activities for kids

Alphabet Butterfly Garden Activity

monarch butterfly craft

Wooden Peg Monarch Butterfly 

butterflydyedpastasensorybin

Butterfly Sensory Table

easy caterpillar craft for kids

Paint Stick Caterpillar 

spring crafts for kids

Coffee Filter & Colored Glue Butterfly 

butterfly life cycle

Fill in the Blank Life Cycles 

butterfly-craft

Handprint Butterfly 

color and match color matching activity for kids

Color Matching Butterflies 

Butterfly Cereal Necklaces

Cereal Butterfly Necklaces

caterpillar c

Caterpillar C Letter Craft 

rp_butterfly-009-e1362553882290.jpg

Fall Leaf Butterfly 

butterfly pasta

Pasta Butterfly Collage 

Bandaid Butterfly Craft

Band Aid Butterflies 

egg carton caterpillar classic craft

 

Classic Egg Carton Caterpillars

 

Books About Caterpillars and Butterflies For Kids

All book lists include affiliate links.
very hungry caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic, that most preschool teachers like myself can recite from memory. It really is a fantastic book, not only does it explain the life cycle of a butterfly it also is useful for a lesson about the days of the week and healthy eating. Children love relating to the caterpillar who eats too many treats and ends up with a belly ache before eating one more healthy leaf and spinning a chrysalis.

rp_BobandOtto.jpg

Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel is a lovely story about 2 friends who must part ways , in this case because one is a caterpillar who needs to build a chrysalis and the other an earthworm who needs to dig deep into the ground. What I like about this book is that it goes on to explain that the earth worm’s digging is vital for the trees to grow so that the caterpillar can eat the leaves and turn into a butterfly. I like the lesson about how we all play a part!

the crunching munching caterpillar

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain is another story about a caterpillar who is not happy with his lot in life. There is a fair bit of language that some parents would object to. This caterpillar is often reminded that he is too fat to fly- so that poses a few challenges to parents like myself who are trying to instill healthy body images as well as using respectful words with others in our children. I have dealt with this book in two ways, first by saying that the caterpillar is getting fat but it’s a good thing because he will be sleeping for a long time in his chrysalis and needs that fat to live. Also, I have simply replaced fat with big, a word that is much less ugly to many people’s ears.
From Caterpillar to Butterfly

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heligiman is part of my favorite non-fiction for kids series ” Let’s Read and Find Out Science”.  I always grab these books at garage sales and thrift stores. In this edition, you follow a classroom of students observing a caterpillar as it metamorphosis into a butterfly. A classic spring activity for preschool age children to discover and learn about life cycles. Also a perfect match for your own Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden which I highly recommend and will be doing this year with my son. Reading non-fiction with your preschoolers is important as it teaches them seamlessly that writing and reading are not just for stories but for information too.

butterfly colors

Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horaeck is such a wonderful book! I love the simple text and engaging story about a little girl who is trying to find the butterfly that she saw the day before. In her attempts, she finds many other colorful bugs in her garden. At the end of the book is a beautiful pop-up butterfly that will delight your little readers. I read this to a class of 2 and 3-year-olds who were glued to every page and both my kids who are 3 and 7 loved it as well.  Great book!

Dear Teacher, You Made A Difference! Teacher Appreciation Special!

dear teacher bigThank you. Thank you to new teachers anxious every day before their students arrive, thank you to veteran teachers who have wisdom that isn’t always recognized, thank you to music teachers fighting to keep the arts in schools, thank you to classroom teachers everywhere who fight for our kids, for their jobs, and aren’t valued as they should be.

We see what you do and how you put your heart into it.

Thank you.

Instead of gathering materials for a craft or activity today I gathered like-minded bloggers who wanted to thank a teacher who made a difference in their life. I’d love for you to read each and every letter linked below mine.  These letters aren’t just for the teachers named in them, they are lessons we can all learn about dedication and love.

1983 Allie School Pic2

I wrote this letter to my first-grade teacher Madame Obadia in 2002, days before I was set to start my bachelor’s degree in elementary education.  I had not kept in touch but I knew her husband was a professor at a local university and I sent it to him to forward. Unfortunately, Madame Obadia had passed away four years earlier. He did send my letter to her children and they wrote me back expressing their own thanks. I hope this demonstrates how important gratitude is and that it’s never wasted.

______________________________________

Madame Obadia,
Although you taught me in french and it has come in handy on my many travels throughout Europe, especially in Geneva when my passport was stolen, I will write this in English.

You were and still are my favorite teacher I have ever had, you taught me grade 1 at Hillcrest Elementary in the 1983-1984 school year. I hated school and was scared of going.  As far as I remember my mother Vonna was at her wits end on how to get me to go to school because I flat out refused to go. It was your plan to reward me every day with a stamp which I could collect or trade in for prizes. You made me love school, despite whatever anxiety I had about going.

I continued with french immersion through to high school , graduated from the University of Calgary in 2000 with a degree in history and in a few days I am heading off to Thunder Bay to start my B.Ed program in elementary education.

I am sure that you have had thousands of students and are hard pressed to remember one from 20 years ago, but more importantly I remember you and you left a lasting and positive impression on me. Whether it was the letters to Santa that came back to us…I think in your son’s handwriting, or that I can still draw a swan that he showed the class how to draw, or that it was the little caterpillar bookmark I traded my stamps  in to get…something you did made me love school so much I want to teach.
Thank you,
Allison McDonald.

___________________________________________

wormy

Now 13 years after that first letter was written I think of all the things I didn’t mention. Like the time Madame Obadia asked me to befriend Miles a boy in my class that needed a friend and how she just laughed while my new puppy ran around the room peeing when I brought her for show and tell. She cared for us as a mother does, knowing when to push, having high expectations, and meeting each child right where we were.

In a few months, I will start a new chapter in my own education, graduate studies in early childhood and family development at Missouri State University, and without Madam Obadia I would never have made it this far. What she did was so much more than bribery, she made me feel safe even though I felt scared. She rewarded me for facing my fears. I keep the bookmark I earned so many years ago in Madame Obadia’s classroom to remind myself that I can do hard things.

teacher facebook

Check out more than a dozen other heartfelt letters of thanks to teachers who made a difference. Better yet write one of your own and share it with me or try to track that teacher down and send it to them!
Thank You, Miss Swett by Carrots Are Orange
Thank You, Mr.Blanchard by Not Just Cute
Thank You Mrs.Goetz by Thriving Stem
Thank You, Mrs.Ulrich by JDaniel 4’s Mom
Thank You, Ms.Austin by MultitaskingMaven
Thank You, Mr.Spencer by Education To The Core
Thank You, Mrs.Anderson by Mac-N-Taters
Thank You, Mrs.O’Neill by Encourage Play
Thank You, Mrs.Fox by Simply Kinder
Thank You, Third Grade Team  by The Educators Spin On It
Thank You, Mrs.Johnson by Mrs.Jones Creation Station
Thank You, Mrs. Ratto by Sparkling Buds
Thank You, Mrs.Powell by elemenopkids
Thank You, Mr. Brant by Bare Feet On The Dashboard
Thank You, Ms.Barry by Inspiration Laboratories
Thank You, Mr.Rouland by Clever Classroom

The best way to appreciate a teacher this Teacher Appreciation Week is to just say thank you. Go one grab a pencil and write a teacher who made a difference in you life or in the lives of one of your children and say thanks.

Egg Carton Caterpillar Craft

egg carton caterpillar craft We love egg carton caterpillars, they are possibly the most classic of all crafts. We decided to make a fresh twist on an old favorite. Our egg carton caterpillars are a little different. No glue or paint means your child can play with their creation right away or if you are a teacher your students can pack them up and take them home that day. This is a fast craft that can fit into pretty much any schedule. So next time you are picking up eggs grab some in a plastic carton and make some egg carton caterpillars.

egg carton caterpillar craft for kids

Gather your materials. You will need a plastic egg carton, sharpies, scissors, adhesive googly eyes ( our friends at craftprojectideas.com sent us these!), and some pipe cleaners.

egg carton crafts

Start by cutting the carton into caterpillars. Take a second to check for sharp edges and use your scissors to round any you find.egg carton craft for kids

Get out the Sharpies and color. The eye shadow and facepaint are optional. My daughter and our little friend who is three both took great care with the “big kid” markers. They were careful and loved being given the responsibility of something for older kids. sharpies in preschool age crafts egg cartonsYou may still want something to protect your table.

egg carton caterpillar craft for camp

After that, it’s time for the eyes. egg carton caterpillar craft for childrenThese adhesive googly eyes rock- the kids popped them on themselves easy peasy!

egg carton caterpillars for kidsThe antennas were my job, poking it through the plastic was really hard when I tried to do it through the bottom, but the side of the carton was super easy to poke through. If you can’t just poke through with your pipe cleaner try a thumb tack to make a small hole then thread it through.egg carton caterpillars arts and crafts

Play!

Books About Caterpillars

All book lists include affiliate links.

 

percival the plain caterpillar

Percival the Plain Little Caterpillar by Helen Brawley is one of my son’s favorite books right now, due to the fact that there are shiny and shimmery pictures throughout! The story though leaves something to be desired, as the message seems to be that being plain is bad and the only fix for poor Percival is when he turns into a beautiful butterfly! When reading this to my class I would often interject with questions to my students about what they thought was cool about Percival, and that combated the undesirable message that you have to be beautiful to be worthy.

 bob and otto book

Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel is a lovely story about 2 friends who must part ways , in this case because one is a caterpillar who needs to build a chrysalis and the other an earthworm who needs to dig deep into the ground. What I like about this book is that it goes on to explain that the earth worm’s digging is vital for the trees to grow so that the caterpillar can eat the leaves and turn into a butterfly. I like the lesson about how we all play a part!

the crunching munching caterpillar

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain is another story about a caterpillar who is not happy with his lot in life. There is a fair bit of language that some parents would object to. This caterpillar is often reminded that he is too fat to fly- so that poses a few challenges to parents like myself who are trying to instill healthy body images as well as using respectful words with others in our children. I have dealt with this book in two ways, first by saying that the caterpillar is getting fat but it’s a good thing because he will be sleeping for a long time in his chrysalis and needs that fat to live. Also, I have simply replaced fat with big, a word that is much less ugly to many people’s ears.

very hungry caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic, that most preschool teachers like myself can recite from memory. It really is a fantastic book, not only does it explain the life cycle of a caterpillar/ butterfly it also is useful for a lesson about the day of the week and healthy eating! It was a childhood favorite of mine and if the fact that he fell asleep holding his ” Pillar” is any indication it is already one of my son’s favorites too!

From Cateroillar to Butterfly

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heligiman is part of my favorite non-fiction for kids series ” Let’s Read and Find Out Science”.  I always grab these books at garage sales and thrift stores. In this edition, you follow a classroom of students observing a caterpillar as it metamorphosis into a butterfly. A classic spring activity for preschool age children to discover and learn about life cycles. Also a perfect match for your own Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden which I highly recommend and will be doing this year with my son. Reading non-fiction with your preschoolers is important as it teaches them seamlessly that writing and reading are not just for stories but for information too.

caterpillar and polliwog

The Caterpillar and the Polliwog by Jack Kent is a sentimental favorite. I remember being read this book in elementary school when learning about life cycles. It’s more than just about life cycles of butterflies and frogs, it’s about becoming comfortable with who you are. I remember thinking it was hilarious when the caterpillar tells the turtle that she will be changing into something else not just getting bigger and bigger and he replies with ” I don’t blame you.” It made me snort as an adult too. Good for preschool through the early elementary years and if like me you read it as a child there is, of course, the sentimental factor. I love sharing books from my childhood with my kids.