Preschool circle time is an important time of our day! It signals the beginning of “school” time for us, a transition from free play to educational activities we do as a teacher-led group. Keep reading to see what I mean!
The Preschool Circle Time Routine That Will Make You Love Your Job
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Now, don’t jump down my throat just yet. I know that preschoolers learn best through play. But I have also found our preschool circle time to be super effective in helping my young students grasp certain concepts like patterns, colors, letters, and numbers. And I believe that there is a place for both teacher-directed learning and student-directed playful learning in the classroom.
Here’s how I run my circle time.
Start with the Calendar
Well, that makes sense! Here’s the calendar pocket chart I have. You certainly don’t need the same one! I’ve seen some others that are using linear calendars too, and I love this idea for preschool. I just haven’t jumped on the wagon yet.
Preschoolers aren’t ready to learn about time and days as they pertain to time. So, I don’t focus on how you or I might use a calendar to record personal appointments and special days.
Instead, I use the calendar as an opportunity to teach numbers, and patterns. Each day, we count together which day of the month it is. This has helped my kids learn the count sequence for sure! Sometimes it surprises me that this simple act can make such an impact on learning to count past 10.
Secondly, I teach and review patterns with my calendar. I created these calendar cards so that we have the perfect opportunity to discuss patterns every day. Some months are AB patterns, some months AAB, some months ABC. I usually point to each card as we say the pattern together, and then I say, “What color do you think today (or tomorrow) will be?”
→ As a side note, make preschool circle time fun! It certainly doesn’t have to be boring. I usually start the session off by saying in a sing song voice, “Good morning! How are you?!” And they giggle! If they don’t answer, I repeat myself, being even sillier. Get out of your comfort zone!
I also like to call the calendar something ridiculous like thermometer, oven, racecar, etc. This gets them giggling again and they always correct me. This helps them pay attention, as well, so they know what the problem name for the calendar actually is.
Next, we talk briefly about the weather. My class is small, so I have no problem with us all going to the window to check the weather. Though it may take a bit more time in the long run, I think it’s worth it because it gets the kids out of the seat for a short break. It gives their brains get a quick breather so they can get back to business when we sit back down.
I use this free weather chart I found on TpT. I ask the class as a whole, and we discuss what it looks like outside. Often kids also suggest words like cold, hot, bright, etc. which is a great addition to the discussion and helps frame the entire picture for other students.
I created color posters that I have hanging on the wall with my calendar. We used to review these daily, but since the beginning of this school year we’ve been focusing on one color a week and reviewing these on our focus wall (see below). After we cycle through each color once and build our stamina a little more, we’ll review the colors daily with these posters, as well.
Similarly, I have shapes posters on my calendar wall, as well. Again, we’re focusing on one shape a week right now. Then we will use our shape posters to review the shapes every day, once we build up our stamina and learn the names and experience each shape individually.
I purchased my shape posters from TpT.
Again, I purchased some number posters from TpT. I do not review these posters during our preschool circle time each day with students, because we do a lot of number play and I point to each number as we count them on the calendar. We also focus on one number a week on our focus wall.
Finally, we move onto our focus wall.
I start with our letter of the week. So I tell them the name of the letter and sound of the letter, as well as some words that start with the letter. We talk together about some other words that might start with that sound, too. We also review the letters from past weeks that I’ve moved to a review board.
Then I introduce or review our number of the week. We each (again, I have a small group) take turns picking something to do x amount of times. For example, if our number is 4, we may stomp 4 times, clap 4 times, spin around 4 times, etc. We also review the numbers from past weeks.
Next, I ask students to name the shape of the week. We draw it in the air with our fingers and I tell the students what the shape looks like (a square has 4 sides that are the same size, a circle is round, etc.)
Fourth, I ask students to name the color of the week. We look around the room to find objects that are this color or think up items from memory.
Finally, we read our sight words of the week. I use 3 words a week. We read the words as a group at least 3 times. Sometimes I mix up the order so the students learn that these words have meaning apart from the others.
My students love this activity, so it hasn’t been a problem getting them focused! Each day, my students (again, small group here. If you have a large group, you could take turns or pick the best behaved child each day) pick a picture from my storage container and glue it onto our posterboard.
We then read the poster together, and sometimes the students take turns reading the poster to the class as well. I LOVE the way this simple activity has worked in our classroom. It’s fun, and it is teaching them about God AND about literacy AND vocabulary!
They’re learning that words are read from left to right and top to bottom. And they’re learning that each word has it’s own meaning, because each card only has one word.
My kids are also learning what God made. I know they’re understanding because they’ve told me what God has made other times, without even referencing the poster. This activity includes so many items that it really gives the students a good idea that God created the world and everything in it.
God made this hill! I don’t like it. – Jase, age 3, while walking up a hill
Plus, they’re gaining vocabulary! Vocabulary is super important for early literacy skills. They’re learning from each other about certain words and objects. My kids love to be specific, like calling the “snakes” card a “rattlesnake.”
You can download this activity in my TpT store here.
Free Morning Work
To wrap our preschool circle time, we spend a few minutes completing our FREE Preschool Morning Work. This gives the kids daily practice writing their names. They also use the blank boxes at the bottom to practice writing their letter and number of the week. The motion of writing and referencing that this task requires really helps to solidify the concepts we talked about during calendar.
Then we take a break from the group and spend some time at our centers. Here’s a great post about how to set up your preschool centers you should also read!
How do you do preschool circle time in your classroom? Were any of these tips helpful? Comment below and let me know!