‘Circle time’ is a term used to describe a time when the whole class meets together, sitting in a circle, either on the floor or on chairs. But it isn’t as simple as that. It’s a carefully planned time in which children can develop a wide range of skills and attitudes such as confidence, self-esteem, talking and listening. It’s particularly useful for:
- developing trust
- helping a class to ‘gel’
- working on problems such as bullying
- developing children’s awareness of their responsibilities towards others and towards themselves
- exploring new ideas
- developing moral values
- helping children to feel they ‘belong’
- making children feel special
- having fun
Circle time can help children to enjoy learning. It also helps children with their friendships and strengthens the relationship between the teacher and the class. This in turn improves everyone’s experience of school and helps children to get the most out of their school day.
How long does it last?
Circle time may last from about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the age of the children and the reason why the teacher is using it. This time is just as valuable as the daily numeracy and literacy hours, but it deals with different things and different ways of learning. Teachers and schools who use circle time choose to do so because they believe it is the best way to teach the things they use it for.
Circle time has its own rules and children come to think of it as a ‘special’ time, which they feel good about. These rules make sure that children feel confident during circle time and not nervous about having to say or do something. For example, children know they will have a time when they can say something without anyone else interrupting. To help children remember this, the class might pass an object round the circle and the rule is that only the person holding the object may speak. Nobody has to speak but the teacher makes sure that everyone has an equal chance to do so.
What’s so special about a circle?
Sitting in a circle is important for two reasons. First, it is practical because everyone can clearly see and hear everyone else. Second, there is no front or back, no beginning or end, no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ position – everyone is in an equally good place to take part in the activities, including the teacher. Children see this as ‘fair’ and it helps teachers to work on the idea of equal respect for everyone, an attitude that is developed through circle time.
What kinds of activities happen in circle time?
Sometimes the activities are good fun and sometimes they are more serious.
The activities in a typical circle time include :
- short ‘rounds’ where children complete a phrase such as ‘Something I’ve really enjoyed this week is…’
- debates on issues such as animal rights and children’s TV
- discussions about good and not so good things going on in the classroom
- activities to sort out a problem such as bullying
- games to develop trust and help children to work together
- games to improve children’s listening skills , drama , sharing ideas, celebrating good things that have happened , opportunities for children to share thoughts and feelings in a carefully managed way
- trying different ways to relax.
The list is almost endless! One thing circle time does is provide an opportunity for smiling – which has to be good for learning.