What is circle time and how can it benefit the classroom environment? Well, during the preschool years, children begin to shift their focus from self to others. They will begin to form bonds of friendship with peers. These relationships are sometimes challenged by conflicting ideas and competition for materials. This is an excellent time to introduce the concept of community, and how to be a successful community member:
- Use whole group time (circle time) to build community. Move academic lessons into small groups where you will be better able to customize activities to meet the different ability levels of the children in your group.
- Read stories about communities. Help children identify elements of a community. Have discussions about what it means to be a member of a community. Use this language with children when solving disagreements.
- Work with children to come up with a community commitment statement. This statement should use simple language and capture an agreement that children make to one another and classroom community. You may find that these agreements or commitments compliment your classroom rules:
– We believe that everyone belongs here.
– We agree to take care of one another.
– We promise to listen when others speak.
- Teach children problem solving strategies. When reading a book, stop at the point of conflict in the book to have a discussion about possible solutions. Return to the book the next day to see if the characters used their problem solving skills successfully.
- Show children how valuable works of art are displayed in frames. Show children that their work is valuable by displaying it in frames. Inexpensive frames can be found at discount stores in most communities. You can also create frames using construction paper.
- Identify opportunities for children to have autonomy. Permit children to choose where to play, where to sit for meals, what their art looks like, how they move their bodies, etc. Is it possible for children to decide whether to sit on the floor or to sit on chairs during group time? Reflect on your routine to identify as many chances for children to make decisions for themselves as possible.
- Strive to have a short, personal conversation with each child, every day. Acknowledge children’s attempts and successes with community interactions.
- Highlight a different child/family each week. Encourage children to share elements of their family culture and traditions. Discuss similarities and differences, and the value of each child and family in the classroom community.
- Share newspaper stories about members of your community who have done good deeds. If possible, invite these individuals in to the classroom to discuss their experiences. Think of ways that your classroom community can contribute to the larger community.
Now that you know what circle time is and how to effectively build a sense of community, try incorporating these suggestions in your preschool classroom today.