Keeping your kids engaged during circle time can be a challenge, that’s for sure. And there will be days that make you question your entire existence as a teacher no matter how hard you try keep them focused. (Trust me on this. I had one of those days last week.) But if you want to keep those bad days to a minimum, there are some simple things you can do to make that happen. In fact, there are 3 things I do during every single circle time to help ensure that I can get my kids engaged and keep them that way!
Let Them Move!
How many times a day do you catch yourself saying “Johnny, sit up,” or “Suzy, put your hands in your lap,” when you’re trying to lead circle time? For me, it used be about 20 times a minute! OK… I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the point, right? I felt like I was constantly redirecting my kids because they were constantly moving, touching, playing, rolling, kicking, hitting… You name it, they were doing it.
The problem was that I didn’t realize they were just doing what is 100% natural for them. Don’t get me wrong, they’d do great for the first few minutes. But after that, I was redirecting more than I was teaching.
And it stayed this way until I figured out that incorporating movement during circle time is a must! It just isn’t realistic to expect a group of four-year-olds to sit still for 20-30 minutes (or however long your circle time is). I mean you can try, but hold your breath that it will be successful. (And I won’t even say “I told you so,” when it doesn’t work!) Their little bodies and attention spans just aren’t built to be still for that long, and if you don’t let them move, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Let Them Talk!
OK… did I give you a good mental picture of what my kids used to do during circle time when I was talking about movement? Good. So take that image and add in a whole LOT of talking. Some of them would lean over to a friend and try to be quiet about it. But most of them would just blurt out whatever was on their mind, and it usually had nothing to do with what I was talking about.
As you can imagine, I pretty much lived in the frustration zone. On top of constantly redirecting the movement that was going on, I was also constantly redirecting the talking that was going on. Again, they’d do fine at first. but once those first few minutes were gone, so was their ability to sit quietly.
Well, guess what i finally learned? Sitting quietly is just not in their wheelhouse. At least not for longer than a few minutes. Why? Because preschool kids have not yet developed internal talk, so if they’re thinking it, they’re saying it. That’s how they process everything they’re taking in.
You can harness this natural tendency by giving them opportunities to talk to you and to each other throughout your circle time. They’ll not only be sharing their ideas, but they’ll also be developing critical language and communication skills as they’re talking. Plus, you’ll be deciding when they’re talking and what they’re talking about, so it will be productive rather than disruptive!
Sing! Sing! Sing!
Music is just magical. So, I sing EVERYTHING! It always amazes me how much a difference there is in my kids’ response when I just tell them what I want them to do vs. singing what I want them to do.
I can stand in front of them and say the directions over and over. Sometimes they listen, but a lot of times they don’t. But if I put those same words to a catchy tune, they perk up and start paying attention to what’s coming out of my mouth.
Sometimes I plan songs to use during circle time, but most of the time I take whatever directions I’m giving and set them to a familiar tune. I literally just create my songs on the fly based on what we’re doing. I have a few go-to melodies that I plug just about anything into, and I do it several times a day. (My kids will forever know the tune to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” because I use it ALL the time!)
And, by the way… I have exactly ZERO musical ability. But my kids don’t care! Even if you are as tone deaf as I am, that shouldn’t stop you from singing with your tiny humans!
Want to Know More?
That’s a very broad look at three of my favorite engagement tips for circle time. I do have a few more tricks up my sleeve though! In my blog post: Preschool Circle Time: What to Do When Your Kids Won’t Listen, I share a few of them with you, so go check it out!
I’ve also got a free planning guide that walks you through the basics of planning and managing a circle time that you will love! You can grab it HERE.
And you can always contact me at email@example.com if you’ve got questions! I’ll definitely try my best to help!
Talk to you soon!
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