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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Barr (M.A. M.Ed)

What is Circle Time?

What is this?

One person calls it a bin.


Another person calls it a trash can


A third calls it a garbage can.


In truth the name doesn't matter because regardless of the name the purpose is the same, to put unwanted items inside.


What's the point of this analogy?


The kindergarten/school day is filled with different elements with different titles. For example, a typical school in China will likely have English class, Math class, Chinese class etc. Now, because the names are not the same we assume that what happens in each class is different but if we walked around a school that had no signs on the door or posters on the wall could we actually identify the difference of each class or would we see children at desks, listening to a teacher? What makes one part of the day different from another? How are we ensuring children are getting the variety, stimulation and skills they need with each class or aspect of the day?


Circle time is one of the standout parts of a kindergarten day but how does it work? How should it work? How is it different from other parts of the school day? and what does it offer/should offer students? I know I am asking a lot of questions but I'm not here to just give answers but also to provoke your thinking. Whether you are in the early years of teach older children there is something to think about for everyone.


How Does Circle Time Work?

It works differently for different people. For some circle time is just another name for 'teacher directed instruction'. In fact, for many circle times you could define it better as 'weather, date, question of the day, letter of the day' class as each of these elements take the focus of this time.


How is it different from other parts of the school day?

If children are in a kindergarten where they move from subject class to subject class then circle doesn't offer anything substantially different. It is just another name for teacher directed learning.


If children are in a play based kindergarten but circle time is still a 'weather, date, question, letter of the day' class then on the one side this whole group instruction time just takes up a small part of the day. I would ask another question of the benefit of repeating these same questions each day and if children are really learning it, especially in another language. Let me give you an example.


Every other day I have to go do a COVID test. In Suzhou, where I live, they need to input my passport details step by step. I do this enough that I know each step and the questions they ask (in Chinese) without actually understanding them. I do this enough that many of the COVID volunteers think I can speak Chinese or the people behind me. In fact, numerous times the people behind whisper that I can speak Chinese (one of the few phrases I actually understand). The point I am making is if you do something enough (daily) and it is repetitive, then it is very easy to give the impression you know or understand something. Just like asking everyday


What day is it today?

How is the weather today?

What letter are we learning today?


What does it offer/should offer students?

For me circle time is about conversation, connection and discussion. That's the goal anyway. Sometimes it's just talking about what we did on the weekend. Other times it's looking at something someone made or did and then as a group taking the ideas further. The precise mechanisms of circle time are not important if you have the above three elements.

 



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