Circle time can be one of the best times of the day in a preschool class. But it can also be one of the worst. Getting and keeping your kids attention can be HARD! I hear from a lot of preschool teachers, and this is the one thing I hear from them the most. They just struggle to keep their kids engaged during circle time.
Trust me… I’ve been there. I used to feel the exact same way. I would spend so much time planning what I thought was going to be a glorious circle time, only to fall flat on my face. SO FRUSTRATING! There’s nothing worse than a room full of 4-year-olds that act like they don’t even hear you. If this sounds familiar to you, you are NOT alone!
See, the problem was that I was missing some basic information and knowledge about teaching preschoolers. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that’s why my circle time wasn’t working. If I’m being completely transparent, I blamed everyone but myself for the problems I was having. My kids just don’t know how to listen, or Their parents don’t do enough with them at home. I honestly couldn’t see that the problem was ME.
But over the years, I’ve done a LOT of research and a LOT of learning. The more I learned, the better my circle time got. What I can to realize is that there are some foundational things that I just didn’t know, and once I had the right knowledge and put it into practice, my circle time transformed! Here are the five things I learned that I believe EVERY preschool teacher needs to know before you ever start planning what you’re going to do each day.
The average attention span of a preschooler is not as long as you might think! It’s only about 2-3 minutes per year of age. So, to figure the attention span of the kids in your class, take their age and multiply it by 2. Then multiply it by 3. That gives you the range you need to shoot for. For example, for a 4-year old: 4×2=8 and 4×3=12. So the average attention span range for a 4-year old is 8-12 minutes. This should guide the way you plan you day, especially your circle time.
Movement is a natural tendency in preschoolers. They move ALL the time! And it’s not without cause. Movement helps kids burn off extra energy. It improves their attention span and focus. And it makes learning engaging and fun! Including movement in each part of your circle time is critical for circle time success. And the reality of the situation is this: They ARE going to move. So you can plan for it and have them move in productive ways that foster learning and development OR you can leave it to them and have them move in ways that are disruptive and interfere with learning.
Language development is one of the primary goals in preschool. Kids need to learn what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. They also need to talk to process and understand new information. They don’t do that internally like we do. So, we have to give them lots of opportunities to talk during circle time. And just like with movement, they are going to do it anyway, so we can have them do it our way our theirs!
Preschoolers may not listen to what you say, but they WILL listen to what you sing! Preschoolers love to sing, and music stimulates the areas of the brain that are connected to our memories. So when we sing, they remember. When we sing, they respond. When we sing, they get engaged. You can sing songs to teach skills. You can sing songs for movement. You can sing songs to give directions. Just pick a familiar tune and start singing!
This was a hard one for me. Trying to get a child to do what you need them to do by coercing them with rewards and consequences may work sometimes, but in time the effectiveness of those rewards and consequences will fade. And the more you insist, the more they will resist. Getting kids to be willing to do what you ask is critical. And you do this by making sure they feel safe, loved, and connected to you and their classmates. Routines and procedures help your kids feel safe and give them a sense of power and control. Relationships help them feel loved and connected. All of those things work together to create a climate of wilingness in your classroom.
Now that you have the basics of circle time, what do you do with them? You plan with all of these things in mind!
- Limit the length of your activities and lessons
- Plan opportunities for movement and language
- Sing anything and everything you can
- Create a climate of willingness
I’ve got a ton of resources in my TPT store that can help you put all these things into practice. But the one I think you should start with is my Circle Time Made Simple™️ Anytime Bundle. This resource is jam-packed with active transitions, attention getters, songs, fingerplays, and games that will help you plan a top-notch circle time! When you use these tools during your circle time, you’ll be giving your kids the chance to move, talk, sing, and play as they learn so that you get them engaged right away and keep them that way until circle time is done. Plus, you can use these circle time tools all year long with any theme!
Do you need a little more help and support with planning and managing your circle time? Grab my FREE planning framework! It walks you through my 5-step planning process that will help you make sure your circle time is smooth, engaging, and FUN!
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This 5-step planning framework is the backbone of Circle Time Made Simple™ and will change the way you look at your circle time! Learn how I plan and manage my circle time so that I get my students engaged and KEEP them that way!
Hey there! I’m Stephanie Antkowiak – a curriculum developer, educational blogger, and owner of Mrs. A’s Room. With over 25 years in early childhood education, I love helping preschool and pre-k teachers plan and manage their circle time so that it is engaging, efficient, and (most importantly) FUN!
I so glad you stopped by, and I hope you enjoy your time here in my little corner of the internet. If you have any questions, please fee free to reach out. I will do everything I can to help you! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.