Circle Time - Branching Out to the World
Circle time is a staple for most Pre-K's and parent's choosing to homeschool. It's a great way to start the day, a part of your child's daily routine, and something they can all look forward to. And while I love the “Hello, Everybody” song- why not add some culture, diversity, and flavor to an otherwise very typical morning?
Here is how I like to do my circle time. In my class, circle time is about a half hour long. We start off by sitting together in our meeting spot. This area has child-friendly maps and globes, calendars, days of the week, our weather bear, and vocabulary words as well as themes and letters of the week set up. Repetition is key for young minds, so we go over these things at both morning and afternoon circle time.
We sing our good morning song- “Hello, Everybody”, every day. Hello, class! Hello, to each child individually. Music and movement is an important part of brain development, and helps children be better coordinated (helping with all sorts of activities from concentration to sports) so we add this on as well on Tuesdays and Thursdays, breaking out the instruments and singing and dancing to our favorite songs. There is no need to stop at the Itsy Bitsy Spider and London Bridge - find great music that you can share with your children that gives their ears the sounds of other cultures. Music Together, Grenedilla, Beautiful Rainbow World - there are so many fantastic child-friendly CDs out there today that are fun and full of rousing music that introduces children to music they don't typically hear. Tuesday and Thursday mornings are loud, but the kids love the music. Children learn and take things into themselves in so many ways- music is infectious. Music is a fun way to get your children (or classroom) unconsciously learning about other cultures.
After our hello song, we move onto the ABC's and AB-Sounds. This is a fun and silly way to teach kids the sounds that each letter makes. Ah, Buh, Kuh, Duh, and so on. Ready for a bigger challenge? Sing the ABC's and Sounds while signing the letters. You will be really surprised at how quickly the children will learn all the letters, their sounds, and their signs. Faster then the adults, I promise :)
Moving onto the calendar- what day is it? And the date? Now we choose a child each day to put those up on the boards. Then we sing our day's of the week song, our months of the year song, and count to 31. Then we do it all in Spanish. It's never too early to introduce a second language to children. The younger they are, the faster they pick it up.
What is the weather today? Let's dress the weather bear in appropriate clothing for said weather. Now let's talk about the weather and Mr. Bear's clothing choices in Spanish. No pantalones today? Why not? Oh, he's going swimming! Great catch!
Vocabulary words are another chance to practice sign language and Spanish (or your language of choice). This week, lets say our letter is “A”, and our country is Albania. Our “A” words are Ant, Apple, Arkasas, and Aardvark. How do we say those in Spanish? What is their sign? What other words start with “A”? Let's find them on the maps. Where do these animals live? Our vocabulary words are based on the theme of the week - let's say reflection, refraction, and opaque. Spanish and signing, too! Circle time is now ending, and we would then move on to our first activity of the day- experiments with lights!
Does this sound like a lot for a preschooler? A lot of parents (and the director) thought so, too. But within 2 months, every child in the class knew the alphabet, their ABC's and sounds, could sign it, and say their days, months, and count in English and Spanish. They retain so many of the vocabulary and animal signs. Their map skills are excellent. Do we make mistakes sometimes? Of course, they are kids. But the learning that children are capable of is so much more then adults give them credit for. Keep it fun and light- never pressure them or make them feel badly for making errors. Bring elements of language and signing into other areas of learning regularly. They will pick it up and will be interested in learning more. Give your child credit- they are smarter then we are.
Samantha Feuss, the Global Early Childhood Education Editor for Wandering Educators, publishes Happy Sippy, Will Travel.
She is a freelance writer, Pre-School teacher, adoptive and biological
mother, and is actively involved with animal and human rights groups.