Are you excited to go back to teaching? I know some of you are already back in the classroom. I go back in just over a month and I am starting to make my lesson plans. The first few weeks of school, I focus the children’s energy on getting to know the classroom, being comfortable saying goodbye to loved ones, and of course becoming comfortable with the teachers.
Also even though I do very little formal assessment in my class of 2-3-year-olds, I am always informally assessing them and the first week is no exception. I want to find out how long they can listen to a story, how many songs they can sing before jumping up and running across the room seems like a better idea, and simply what they are interested in.
Circle time at the start of the year is short, and sometimes it takes a long time before it gets longer. Every year I adjust it to the class. Still, here are some great first week (or two) of preschool circle time ideas you can use while you are still in that adjustment period.
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Book: Mouse’s First Day
This is a fun little book about a mouse that gets a trip in a backpack to school and then explores all the wonderful things in a preschool classroom. It’s short and PERFECT for a first day read.
Activity: Classroom Scavenger Hunt – Getting To Know The Classroom
Prep: Take photos of all the significant features in your classroom. The sensory table, the science corner, the table where you eat your snack and so on. Laminate the photos.
Read the book. Tell the children that mouse found all the wonderful things in the classroom on his first day and they will too. Show the children that you have photos and tell them you need help finding all the places in them. Show one photo and ask if anyone knows where the area pictured in the photo is. Go as a group to the area and take some time to introduce the children to it. Next, go through each photo repeating the process.
Book: Mouse Shapes
This is a simple book about shapes that is just the right length for a short start of the year circle time. The illustrations are simple but bright and engaging.
Activity – Musical Shapes
Prep: Using painter’s tape make shapes on the floor. For my class at the start of the year I would do three shapes ( circle, square, and triangle) but with an older class, I would do more. Print out and laminate our shape cards or make some of your own. You will also need access to music that you can turn on and off.
Read the book. Tell the children that today at circle you will be getting up to play a game. Explain that when the music stops, you will hold up a shape card, they must find the shape on the floor and stand in it until the music begins again. This lesson is a good test to see if your students are ready for circle times with a lot of movement. I’ve had classes where they work and others where if you get up and move away from the circle all control goes out the window. If it’s a flop, try a similar activity in a month or two to see if it was just too early. I still encourage you to incorporate as much movement as you can at circle even if it’s just hand movements to songs.
BOOK: THE FEELINGS BOOK
Todd Parr is one of my favorite authors for a good reason, his simple books cut to the heart of whatever topic he is tackling. What I love about this book is that it talks about how we all feel different emotions sometimes. Sometimes we are mad or sad or silly! The bright colors capture your audience as well.
Activity: How do they feel?
Prep: Print out these printable faces ( click here to print) or take photos of your students making different mad and sad faces. Cut out and laminate.
Read the book. Pop the photos in a basket or bag and pull one out at a time. Ask the children how the child feels. They can yell it out or mimic the feeling as their answer. This is a GREAT activity with very young groups, and you can keep it going for a long time if they are into it and cut it short if they are wiggly. Also, it makes a great activity put out at free choice for the children to explore on their own.
I like doing this in the first week because this is one of the activities I return to over and over, I do this circle time activity (with different books about emotions <– click for a great list) at least once a month. Learning about emotions is key, and I chose to focus a large amount of energy on this topic in my classroom.
I am not sure I need to introduce any of you to this book, but I will anyway. This simple book is all about animals and colors, with each animal introducing the next. The text is very repetitive and the artwork outstanding.
Activity: Color Matching.
Prep: Print out our colorful animal cards and laminate. Feel free to print out as many as you need. Grab sheets of construction paper in matching colors, you can laminate these too to make a set if you want.
Read the book. Take a moment to talk about all the colors in the book. Tell the children that you have colorful animals that need to find their matching color mat. Explain that you will call out a color and if that child has that color animal they will place their animal on the matching sheet of paper. Hand each child a colored animal card and place the construction paper sheets in the middle of the circle. Call out a color and invite the children to match. Repeat until all the children have placed their animals on the mats.
This is a simple assessment but it’s not to see what they know, as much as it is for me to see how interested they are in activities like this, as well as how easily they follow directions.
Book: Chica Chica ABC / Chica Chica Boom Boom
I have both versions listed here because while a class like mine who are 2-3 years old the board book is perfect for PreK it will be way too short and you should use the longer full version.
Activity – Introducing “My Letter”
Prep: Using letter magnets place the first initial of each student and yourself into a small bag that you can not see through. If you do not have a magnet board try letter stickers instead. You can make a palm tree or use our printables. Attach the palm tree to the wall or magnet board.
Read the story. Tell the children that just like the letters in the story their letters are going to climb the tree. But that you need help deciding which letter belongs to each of them. Start pulling letters out of the bag and naming them saying “Look a letter A, whose name starts with A?” make sure to keep things light and fun for children who do not yet know their first initial, I like to act a little silly but still in control saying ” Oh oh I know this one, hooray it’s Alissa! Alissa your name starts with A!” and hand the child their letter to place on the board. In very large classes simply have the children raise their hand and you place it on the tree.
Do you have go-to circle time activities for the first day of preschool? I would love to hear about it! Share in comments or over on No Time For Flash Cards Facebook Page.
Want more preschool lesson plans and circle time activities? Our Build Preschool Thematic Units have tons of great ideas!