Have you heard of Circle Time? or Morning Meeting? Or maybe you call it something else. For those of you who don’t know, Circle Time is based on the procedure that evolved from the Froebelian Kindergartens in the early 20th century (Fraser, Gestwicki). Typically children sit in a circle and the teacher reads a story, sing songs, and leads the group in discussing a topic of general interest. Froebel believed that children needed to be gathered together under the direction of a teacher at least once a day to establish a sense of cohesiveness. What I didn’t know was that Froebel chose a circle as the symbol of unity with the universe: the children are the stars and the teacher is the sun. The “gifts” and “occupations” (materials and activities) he created for children to use during circle time are no longer in practice, but the ritual of circle time has persisted in early childhood programs today (Fraser, Gestwicki). The idea of creating a sense of unity among a group of children is still valued today. It’s not only witnessed in our particular group, but is developmentally appropriate too. And yes, classroom teachers reading this, Circle Time can be done in a homeschool group. 🙂
Our children are a mixed aged group ranging from 2 to 4 years old. SO much happens every 6 months between 2 and 4 which is why I’m constantly reflecting on my own and with my fellow mom teachers in the group.
As a former elementary teacher, it’s challenging at times to break old habits and create new ones. I’m in the process of letting go all of my “Circle Time” past expectations and am constantly finding myself asking these questions,
- “Why do I want to do that? What purpose does it serve?”
- “Does this build a sense of community and belonging among the children?”
- “How can we make this short amount of structured time valuable for them?”
- “How can I delve into conversation with my older kids, while keeping it developmentally appropriate for the younger ones?”
- “Is my Circle Time, ‘Reggio’ enough!?”
In the book, Authentic Childhood: Exploring Reggio Emilia in the Classroom by Susan Fraser and Carol Gestwicki, my last question was somewhat answered and seemed to bring me some validation for what we’re trying to do: Circle Time in the Reggio Emilia preschools, however, has become a less formal group time– a meeting time– when the teacher and children join together in a discussion on subjects that hold relevance for the group….The gathering is still acknowledged as an important time for creating a sense of belonging, when children and teachers gather together, but the ritualistic aspect has disappeared. The activity during this time has become more informal and more responsive to the interests of the children; therefore, it is more spontaneous and interactive. It has become an important time for teachers to listen to children and draw ideas and suggestions for the program from them.” Page 84.
Our group of kids really look forward to Circle Time. I think it’s partly because they know what to expect and they get very excited seeing their portrait, their friends’ pictures and recognizing names. We sing a song together that involves their name and this greeting song never seems to get old…at least not yet. Although we start off the same, what happens afterwards is more interactive. We’ve been reflecting and revisiting our recent trip to Baker Street Bakery.
Since our trip to the Bakery, we’ve been showing the children blown up pictures from the trip to them. They seem to light up and have lots to say when seeing pictures from the bakery and pictures of themselves at the bakery. During this discussion, our younger kiddos, especially our youngest who isn’t 2 yet, might get up and wander or pick up an instrument. I encourage this!!! It seems illegal to expect a child who’s language is emerging to sit during a discussion. It’s not appropriate! But you know what’s really cool? It’s not distracting at all. We’re in a home environment and most of our kids are used to having younger siblings around.
When the conversation seems to dwindle and the kids seem like they want to move, we jump right into a movement activity. Movement can either be a dance, a game, or imaginative play as a group…something that suits the need to move our bodies while staying unified, but also signals that Circle Time is coming to a close.
In my next post, I’ll share how our conversations during Circle Time have evolved to creating a menu of bakery items for our play kitchen area.
If you like what you’re reading, please follow the blog and click the “Follow” button to your right. If you are a Reggio teacher or are familiar with it, I would love your comments, suggestions and feedback! If you are not familiar with Reggio at all, I’d love to hear from you too! Any questions you have I’d love to answer (or find the answer) and will help me better reflect too!