Monday, July 14, 2014

Our 25 Activities of Circle Time

Many providers have been asking about Circle Time routines. Ours is pretty involved, but we do NOT do everything every day. It depends upon the skill sets we are working upon and the progression of my students. 

If the weather has been the same for the last week, then it's just redundant to keep repeating it. I'd rather wait until the weather is interesting and discuss it in depth for 1/2 an hour.

Since this is primarily a Reggio based program, everything is interactive and most of it is done standing up. Learning is best reinforced through a holistic seeing, hearing, speaking and moving approach. 

This post is regarding what I am currently doing with children 2 1/2 through 5 years old. When I have younger children, they are with us or near us during circle time, depending upon their interest and abilities.

Since the littles get bored faster, we start with their level and progress, allowing them to wander off as they will and rejoin if they hear something that catches their attention. The children are INVITED to join me, it is totally their choice. As long as they are within hearing distance, they absorb everything even if they aren't directly participating. Every once in a while, I've started circle time all by myself, but soon had some friends join in the fun.

My teaching philosophy is that if a child is not paying attention and participating in an activity, either:
  1. They already have it mastered and it no longer holds their attention.
  2. They are not developmentally ready for the activity or skill and attempting to synthesize the information at this time is overwhelming.
  3. I'm doing something wrong. Either I or the activity are not joyful, playful and animated enough to invite them into participating.
They get down the songs and chants very young, without understanding the meaning of the information. However, when they are developmentally ready to understand, the light switch clicks and they already have that information available to utilize. 

If you think a 2 year old can't memorize extraordinarily well, ask one to sing any song from Frozen. It just takes making it into something they WANT to memorize.

I'll go into each and how we do it, but here's the list:
  1. Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Welcome, Monday Speech
  3. ABC song with visuals
  4. Counting 0-20 chant English & Spanish
  5. Names songs
  6. Colors/shapes English & Spanish
  7. Positional Relationships visual or interactive
  8. Days of the Week song
  9. Months of the Year song
  10. Seasons chant 
  11. Calendar 
  12. Weather discussion
  13. Manners song
  14. Odd/Even chant
  15. Skip Counting chant
  16. Money chant
  17. Diagraphs & blends review
  18. Spanish introduction/review
  19. Number of the Day & Fact Family of the Day visual & discussion
          Curriculum/Theme Transition: 
  • Topic discussion
  • Vocabulary introduction
  • Word Wall & Sentence Wall
  • Song/fingerplay/movement
  • Story [Finally sitting down]
  • Story Comprehension discussion
 1.   Pledge of Allegiance

When we do the pledge, we do it first thing. This gives the stragglers a trigger to join us.

When I found out they won't do the Pledge of Allegiance in school, I stopped doing it daily. I still feel it's important to know, so we discuss it and learn it on Flag Day, 4th of July, President's Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, etc. when it has some relevancy.

2.   Welcome and Monday Speech

I formally welcome the children and we have a brief discussion about the days activities. Usually we jump right in, but this is the welcome song I use when we need to get everyone settled in:
Good Morning to you,
Good Morning to you,
We're all in our places
With bright smiling faces,
And this is the way
We start our school day.
On Mondays, we also do speech. Each child gets up and tells us something. It can be a make-believe story, something about their weekend or home life, show and tell about a toy they brought, a song they want to sing, etc. This teaches speech skills, and more importantly, audience skills of paying attention, being kind, asking relevant questions, listening skills, patience, turn taking, etc. One of the best things I added to our circle time!

3.   ABC Song with visuals

We have this ABC border. I'd love to have it at kid height, but we lack wall space. I'm rather glad we have the windows instead, though. So, I use a yardstick and point to each one as we sing the song. 

I also have an ABC visual that I cut out of the book "Alphabet Rescue" to use.

If we are working on a particular letter, then I'll go back to that one and do a repeat and phonics review on it. This is NOT how we learn our letters, it's simply a review and another opportunity for them to pick up on a letter they may just be getting down. We do use 2 different songs. The traditional one to the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star tune, and this one...

4.   Counting 0-20 chant in English & Spanish

We bend forward and clap 0-9. On 9, we say it long and slowly raise our hands up then say 10 loud and dance around. We do the same on 11-19, raising our hands up on 19 and saying 20 loud and dancing. When the older children count to 100, they always draw out their response on 9 as they've been taught. This provides them with a window of thinking for the next 10, which they need in the beginning.

Guess which number the littles are currently working upon?

5.   Names Songs

One of the MOST important things we do as a group. Even the 1-year-olds can differentiate the names of all the students. They learn to identify names as pictorial references and then we decompose them down to letters through these songs. These letters are then recomposed into spelling names, which leads into spelling words. 

Sounds complicated, and it is, but it is a huge bump in learning to read. This we DO do regularly. Once they have down their first name, we add their last name as a second verse. This is also a great speech component since they stand up in front of everyone and point to the letters of their name as their name song is sung by all. 

This is one of the main ways they learn their first letter identification. I teach uppercase, lowercase and phonics simultaneously. 

The names are sung in a simple sing-song tone depending on how many letters are in the name. For instance:

B.e.n. spells be-en, spells be-en.
B.e.n. spells be-en. Spells Be-en! spells Emma, spells Emma. spells Emma, spells Emma!

J.a.cob spells Jacob, spells Jacob.
J.a.cob spells Jacob, spells Jacob!

Hun.ter spells Hunter, spells Hunter.
Hun.ter spells Hunter, spells Hunter!

Jes.sica spells Jessica, spells Jessica.
Jes.sica spells Jessica, spells Jessica!

6. Colors/Shapes in English & Spanish

We learn these in so many other ways, but every once in a while it's a good review to just run through the 12 shapes and 12 colors as a group. 

7.   Positional Relationships Visual or Interactive

While they learn this more through experience, every once in a while it's good to just go through them all. I will take a picture and ask positional questions, such as:
  • What is TO THE RIGHT of the house?
  • What is BELOW the car?
  • What is NEXT TO the tree?
or I'll have everyone get a toy and give them directions, such as:
  • Put the ball BEHIND you.
  • Put the ball ABOVE you. 
  • Put the ball ON your shoulder.
  • Put the ball UNDER your foot. 
I will also use this as an opportunity to teach body parts in Spanish.

8.   Days of the Week Song

This is sung to the tune of "My Darling Clementine."
Sunday, Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday
These are the days of the-e wee-eek
and today is __________.
Today is _________
Today is _________
Today is _________ all the day
Yesterday was __________,
and tomorrow will be __________.
Here is a YouTube video of the tune, but we change up the last verse to add the "Today is...." 

9.   Months of the Year Song

This is sung to the tune of "Ten Little Indians."
January, February, March and April
May. June. July and August.
September, October, November December
THESE are the months of the year.

l0.   Seasons Chant
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
These are the seasons one and all!
ll.   Calendar

We don't do much with the calendar until the last preschool year before kindergarten, simply because it needs to be done every day, and we just aren't that committed to academic routine.  

We have a nice big magnetic one, but the littles like to pop off the magnets and take off with them to the great void of I'll-never-find-it-again-until-I-move. So, we only put them on if we are working on the calendar as a group.

I have this smaller magnetic one, and with the bigs being pre-k now, we will be using it regularly this year. 

12.  Weather

We garden here. We are outside a LOT. Most of our weather instruction is relevant and important. We'll do a graph of daily weather, chart temperatures and rainfall, and discuss any bad weather that comes around and its effect on the climate and our situations. But sometimes, at circle time, I'll throw out questions about the weather, cloud formations, temperature, weather predictions, etc. I think it would be cute to have a little dress up weather bear or similar, but frankly, we have more important things to do. 

I found this wonderful free graphic. Unfortunately, once downloaded, it was in a very low resolution and was highly pixilated, so I simply re-created it for our use, as she had from an unknown original source, so that it looked as good as intended.  

13. Manners Song

Sometimes they need a reminder... 
First we say, "Please,"
Then we say, "Thank you,"
Then we say, "You're welcome," to the person who said, "Thank you,"
And that's how we use our MANNERS!
Done in just a sing-song voice.

14. Odd/Even Chant

All the teaching materials I produce have the even numbers in green for "GO, yes it can be divided by 2!" and red for odd numbers, "STOP, no, it can NOT be divided by 2!" So even as they first learn their numbers, they begin to see the red vs. green numbers and will remember that later on when we begin odd/even.
Zero, two, four, six, eight
Even numbers are really GREAT!
One, three, five, seven, nine,
Odd numbers are pretty FINE!

15.  Skip Counting Chant

Pretty much the same as our counting chant. We just clap on each number and dance about on 100. We start with skip counting by 10s, then 5s, then 2s, with our number visuals. OR, we'll put the numbers on the floor and take turns hopping on them as we count as a group.

16.  Money Chant

Chart visual. 
A penny
A nickle
A dime
A quarter
A half-dollar

17.  Diagraphs & Blends Review

Any digraphs or blends that we are working on, especially any that a child is having trouble with, go written on the white board and we'll review them during circle time until I feel they are mastered. Sometimes we just run through all of them I've put up for a while. 

Each one has a specific phrase and movement to it. For instance, 

With finger to mouth and shoulders bunched. "EEEEEEK, I SEEK to KEEP CREEPy stuff away!"  

Slapping hand over arm with a look of astonishment. "OW! HOW did a COW give me an OWie?"  

18.  Spanish Introduction/Review

This is taught mostly in the environment, but new phrases or review can be integrated into circle time.

19.  Number of the Day/Fact Family of the Day

Our number of the day chart is wonderful and thorough. The children get a kick out of having me draw a ton of little funny pictures. Unfortunately, they always pick a number like 98! We do this as a group, but they can use it as an independent table activity as well. 

I have one that only goes to 20, but this group is working on 100+, so we are using this one currently.

The fact family chart is a good visual for discussion about addition and subtraction units. The children get to pick two numbers between 1 and 9 for this one.

We don't always have a theme, depending upon the skill sets we are working upon and the time of the year, but when we do, my curriculum is comprehensive and we WILL cover everything listed below. While this is usually considered an extension of our circle time, it borders into our curriculum time as well. If there is no theme, then we may or may not do these during circle time, but they will be covered at some point within the day.

20. Topic Discussion

The topic discussion may or may not come first. Some times the story is so relevant that I need to read it first prior to discussion. If not, then we will talk about the topic first. For instance during our SPACE theme, one of the weeks was regarding the solar system. Our daily topics were:
  • Monday - Solar system 
  • Tuesday - 11 planets
  • Wednesday - Sun & stars
  • Thursday - Planet Earth
  • Friday - Moons
2l.  Vocabulary Introduction

This usually goes along with the story and topic discussion. If I feel that there are specific terms that need to be addressed for good understanding during either of those, then I'll make a point of having a vocabulary introduction.

22.  Word Wall and Sentence Wall

For each theme we have a word wall and sentence wall. For the littles, this is a vocabulary and visual activity, for the bigs, it is a spelling and relationship activity. 

23.  Song/fingerplay/movement

For each day of a theme there is a song, a fine motor and gross motor activity, related to the daily topic. For instance for the daily topic of Sun & Stars, we sang "Mr. Sun," did a finger play called Sun and Moon, and a gross motor movement of the Earth going around the sun.

24.  Story

Since all of above is done standing up and moving, they are usually pretty ready to grab a floor pillow and plop down for the story of the day as a group. For the Sun & Stars topic, we read "Going Around the Sun" by Berkes.

25.  Story Comprehension

Using a dialogic approach to story time, we cover vocabulary and I ask age-appropriate questions of the children during and after story time. This builds logic/reasoning and sequencing skills, along with many other skills

For the bigs, who are reading well, we are now in a pre-k mode and have gotten more formal in our comprehension discussion. The littles are asked similar questions, but in a less formal way and with the expectation of simple answers without analysis, categorizing or labeling. 

After circle & theme fun stuff, they have the option of free play, table time activities/manipulatives, or starting our actual school time. They usually choose school, which will include a language, mathematics, science/logic/reasoning and art component related to the theme topic and the daily skill set. 

You may also be interested in:

Follow Connie -'s board Classroom on Pinterest. Tags: circle time, circle, preschool, pre-k, homeschool, daycare, child, care, morning, routine, schedule, learning, education, kindergarten, time, 
Tags: circle time, preschool, daycare, child care, child, care, teaching, toddler, 


  1. So many great ideas thank you.
    Sheri :)

    1. You are very welcome, Sheri! I'm glad you find them useful.

  2. I just found this on Pinterest and am so GRATEFUL! This is such an excellent and thorough resource. I cannot wait to implement most of these with my little ones. THANK YOU for taking the time to create this. God Bless

    1. How sweet! I'm glad so many people are finding this helpful.

  3. Thank you for this amazing resource! I will definitely be adding some of these ideas to my day care circle time routine! I love the odd/even number chart!

    1. It's just so easy to get them primed with information that makes skills come so much easier when they are ready. All of our chants are usually done with clapping through and dancing at the end. They love the activity, the information is almost secondary to them, but they GET it. Stealth teaching...

  4. Thank you so much for this! All amazing and love the resources attached!!!!!

  5. These are all great ideas! I love them! I had a question about your Speech Mondays. How long does this usually last? Do you limit how much time they have to talk or they can talk for as long as they would like?

    1. Angie, this is really relative. If a child is really into what they are saying/doing and the other children are interested, then I let them go as long as possible. If the child is just marking time and not really saying/doing anything interesting to the others, then I move it along. You have to know your kiddos and watch the audience. Engagement gets extended, boredom gets shut down gently. Often, this can move into a group dramatic play, dance or singing fest. Since we are child-led, if it leads somewhere interesting, I'm all for it.

  6. Hi there how may I purchase your 3 year curriculum. MEGAN DE BEER South Africa

    1. Hi Megan! I have several units available at the bottom of my curriculum post, and the Owl Theme is available for free on this site, also listed in the curriculum post at:

  7. Wonderful! First time with Circle-time this year. This has been inspiring!!

  8. I really like this post, you did a wonderful job of explaining the hows and the whys!

  9. Omg my wife is going crazy over this n we now found this. It will help so much for the little preschool that we have thank u so much. So many great plans

  10. This is really exciting,there's never gonna be a dull moment with most of the activties