Circle Time Preschool Activities and Tips

What should you do at Circle Time in preschool? Here are some Circle Time preschool activities and tips. Circle Time can be one of the most challenging parts of the preschool day because teachers are responsible for keeping the attention of every child all at once!

Circle Time Preschool Tips

First of all, what should you call this time?

If your students actually sit in a circle, feel free to call it Circle Time! If children are not sitting in a circle, the “circle time” name could be confusing to them. Consider using a different name, such as “Large Group” or “Class Meeting”.

Circle Time Seating

What should you use for seating? You can use spaces on a classroom carpet, individual cushions, carpet squares, small benches, Velcro spots, and many other options. Classroom carpets come in circles and ovals, or for larger classes, you will probably need a rectangle with rows. 

I personally prefer classroom carpets with individual spaces. I always found it frustrating to use individual carpet squares because they needed to be placed and moved as the day went on.

Use seating to prevent behavior issues. I personally recommend assigning spaces on the carpet to prevent behavior issues that might arise. Surround children you know will talk and play with those children who won’t. Separate children if having them close together will be an issue. The carpet is actually the only time I assign seats: I do not assign table seats, nor do I have name plates on tables.

Circle Time Seating Carpet
This is my favorite classroom carpet (not an ad, but it is from Lakeshore). I arranged the class in a kind of semi circle on this carpet with a class of 22 children.

How long should circle time last?

This will depend on the age of the children and the personalities of the group you have from year to year. You will need to have a shorter circle time in the beginning of the year and a longer time later in the year. The most important guideline for time is to pay attention to the needs of the specific children in your room.

You can have more than one circle time during your day. You might wish to have a morning circle time, a midday circle time, and an end of the day circle time.

What should you do at Circle Time?

I like to keep it simple, so I like for my main Circle Time of the day to include these three basic things:

  1. Story
  2. Music & Movement
  3. Simple, quick game

Story time can be reading a book to the class, sharing a flannel board story, a “draw and tell” story, and oral storytelling.

Large Group Circle Time Preschool
This is a high school football player reading to my class. The football player was my Pre-K student years before. 🙂

Music and Movement is a time to sing, dance, and use music props. I like to make sure we do some of each during the week. It’s easy just to play a song to dance to, but I like to also make sure we sing and use props, such as rhythm sticks, bean bags, scarves, and musical instruments.

When you choose songs for children to sing, make sure they are songs with catchy tunes, a repeating chorus, and easy to learn words.

This is also a time when we do a daily nursery rhyme. We recite the rhyme with movements and hand motions.

Check out these themed song lists here.

Circle Time Large Group Music Movement
Circle Time Music & Movement

A simple, quick game can be a quick literacy or math activity. The best circle time games are those that require no materials, such as a fingerplay. Or when using materials, it’s best to have something that you can reuse many times throughout the year, such as a simple set of alphabet or number cards.

There are many times that I do use materials that go with our current theme, such as pocket chart activities or rhymes using stick puppets. Fortunately, these can be prepared once and used year after year.

Opening Activity Circle Time Activities

Calendar

During an Opening Activity Circle Time, we will review our day and anything special that is upcoming on our calendar. This only takes a couple of minutes. We do not have the traditional calendar time. You can read more about how to make calendar time meaningful here.

Making the Calendar Meaningful in Pre-K

Who Is Absent

I ask the children to figure out who is missing (absent) and write their name in the heart. This is a simple heart drawn on the dry erase board. This means, the children who are absent are still in our heart. The next day the absent child returns, they like to look to see if their name is in the heart.

Review and Discuss Expectations

We use this time to review class rules and school procedures, such as lunchroom expectations, hallway expectations, playground expectations, bus expectations, etc. We don’t review all of these at once, but just review one area if the children need reminders. We might use these expectations posters or we might have a group discussion about an issue that arose the day before. We also use these free class rules posters.

Class Rules Posters

Introduce New Materials

I also use this time to introduce new center materials. If we have a new dramatic play center, I bring over some of the items to show the children how to use them. If we have new trays in math or literacy centers, I demonstrate how to use them. I find that children are more likely to be interested in math and literacy centers if I show the children how to use it. I introduce 1-2 tray activities at a time.

What should you NOT do at circle time?

Passive Learning: It’s not a time for children to sit passively for a long time and listen. In fact, preschool should not be a sit-and-listen year, at any time of the day. In preschool, children should be actively learning. Make sure your circle time is interactive and every child is engaged.

Rote Learning: Circle time should not be a time for rote learning. Leave off the flash cards, as these are not an effective teaching tool anyway. Do away with “calendar time” and any routines that are the same every single day.

Assessments: Circle time is also not a time for assessing students. Is it an effective assessment to look out over a group of 20 children (or more or less) and figure out which children truly understand a concept and which do not?

Have Circle Time Materials Ready

Have all Circle Time materials ready to go each day. Keep a bin or drawer nearby with all the materials and props and books you need for that day’s circle time.

Use story props: hand puppets, finger puppets, stick puppets, pocket chart stories, etc.

Use music props: (add link) flags, castanets, triangles, instrument set, rhythm sticks

Large Group Circle Time Preschool Classroom
My Circle Time area: calendar, bench, and shelves with materials and props. The class rules are posted on the wall on the right side.

Whatever you decide to do during your Circle Time, be sure to be flexible and adapt to the children in front of you at the moment. If they are losing interest in an activity, move on to something else.

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