Ideas for Circle Time in a Sped. Classroom {freebie}

Another year... another circle time... I continue to struggle to update and change my circle time. I can have my kiddos for up to 6 years (YIKES!), so I try to mix it up quite a bit from year to year so they're getting exposure to different academic tasks and not getting bored. I mean, how long does a kiddo need to work on basic calendar skills?!! I'm nixing the normal calendar and weather tasks and focusing on more functional academics and social skills instead ;)

If you don't know the basics of how I run/ set up circle time, check out this post about running whole groups effectively. For more circle time ideas, check out this post, or this one! I set it up this way to make it interactive and to stretch the kiddos' stamina by embedding breaks into the lesson.

Here are the basics of what we are doing for circle time this year:

Kids will practice greeting their peers and staff in a variety of ways. To greet peers, they can wave, speak, sign, or use any of the voice output devices available. We have simple things like "good morning" and "Buenos dias" on single switch Big Macs, and then use a GoTalk9 that has all of the students & staff names if a kid wants to say "hello" to someone specific.

Vocabulary/ Social Skills
I'm still spending a decent amount of time during circle time with direct instruction  around the core 40 vocabulary and social skills. (If the Core 40 is new to you, you can read a little bit about it here). It's a great building block for kiddos who are using communication devices or PECS.

A few ideas for working on social skills:
-Have kids practice taking turns with motivating toys. I normally start with one toy that is motivating to every student (i.g. the little piano). Each student gets a chance to play with the toy, while the kid is playing with the toy, the teachers quietly say a count down and when they get to 0, the student needs to pick the student he will take turns with next.
-Set kids up to have to ask for help (For example, if they can't open a Ziplock: give them a closed Ziplock with a cracker or reinforcing toy inside. Then prompt/teach the kiddo how to ask for help from a peer/ staff. Note: this is just to teach communicating for "help," I realize in other settings or situations you would likely want to prompt and teach the kiddo to open the baggie).

A few ideas for working on vocabulary:
-Use books about the words! I made a few super simple books about the words go, same and different. You can get them for free here. We read the book as a group and then practice using it with hands on activities.

-Same and different: Find worksheets that correspond with the vocabulary. I laminated them and we do them during vocabulary time. You can find some great free printable worksheets about same and different here, here, and here.
-Put in: Find items that light up or make noise. Then have kiddos practice and "put in" in a jar or can.
-Go: Find toys that move! I use this chick a lot. I wind it once, let the kids see it hop a few times and then look at the kids like "what do you want?!" and encourage them to communicate "go". I also often make the sentence "I go" and then I run around the classroom, then I make the sentence "you go" and point to each kid and encourage them to practice with "go".

-All & Some: Use objects like blocks or pencils to show kiddos the difference between "some" and "all."

It might seem daunting at first to try to teach kiddos some of these words, but once you start finding concrete ways to show/explain the words, it gets super fun!

Letter identification/ Phonics
This year I'm going to work on a variety of letter/ phonics things during circle time. Some kiddos will be matching/ verbally identifying letters, some will be touching Brailled letters, and some will be do beginning constant work.

 I made this new book to use during circle time. It has more pictures on each page than the book I used last year. Students match the letter in the boxes to the big letter on the page.
You can download this alphabet book for free from my TpT store here.

Jokes/ sequencing 
l had to keep jokes time! We program jokes into Big Macs and TwinTalks. Kiddos can then tell jokes to their peers and teachers. It's fun to put the jokes on TwinTalks because you can put the question on one switch and the punch line on the second switch. We also add fun stuff like a big red clown nose and silly glasses from the Dollar Store to make jokes time even better.

Our calendar work during circle time SUPER basic this year. I spent a lot of time trying to make our circle time include more functional academics, and I just don't think it's very important for my kiddos to spend too much time making sentences about the days of the week. This year, I opted for a small calendar and we are working on sequencing numbers and patterns. I'll be posting these calendar printables on TpT soon!

I moved away from the tradition sentence stem and am having kiddos work on fine motor skills by putting a clip on the weather for the day. You can download and print it here for free. We are also working on functional skills of matching our clothing to the weather by dressing this cute weather bear! I found it on TpT here for only $0.80! What a steal!

Hopefully you enjoy these ideas and can try one or two of them!