Circle Time... with an Emphasis on Communication & Literacy

Circle time is still one of my favorite times of the day! It can be tough planning and mixing up circle time since I have the same students for up to 6 years. This year, I decided to spend much of circle time focusing on communication and literacy and I'm super excited about how it came out!

Before you dig into this post, it will probably be helpful to know the logistics of how I run circle time. Click here to read the about how I run circle time so my kiddos have built in movement breaks (you can also download a free template on that page). Also, if you need ideas/ tips around leading effective whole group activities, check this post out. Lastly, you can check out this post and this post for more circle time ideas.

Here's our circle time sequence:

1) Greetings:
We start circle time off by greeting our friends and teachers. Greeting peers is an important communication and social skill, so we practice greeting peers in a variety of ways including: waving, verbally, using Big Macs and using a GoTalk9+ to tell our peers silly greetings. My kiddos love when we mix the greetings up and use fun phrases like: aloha, ahoy matey, sup dude, wazzzzz up, top of the mornin' to ya, how you doin'?, howdy, and so much more!

2) Theme of the Week & Sign of the Week:
Next, we go over what we are learning for the week and our sign of the week. We practice saying the theme and we read a short shared story that relates to the theme. Then we practice the sign of the week by watching the teachers do the sign, watching a video of someone doing the sign and then kiddos do the sign. We practice the same sign for the entire week and it's awesome to see how with repetition, many of our kiddos can start signing and approximating the sign by the end of the week!

3) Core Vocabulary Word of the Week:
Next we learn the core vocabulary word of the week. We practice saying the word, finding the word on our communication boards and devices and then do short activities that involve the word. For example, we might read a short adapted book about the word or do hands on activities like I explain here. We also added a new set of core vocabulary cards that are texturized for our kiddos.

Texturized core vocabulary cards

4) Alphabet/ Phonics/ Sight Words:
We also spend some time working on letters, phonics and sight words. This part of circle time is very differentiated- some students are eye gazing at letter cards and feeling texturized letters, some students are matching letters, some are verbally identifying letters, some are matching letters to letter sounds and two of my kiddos are working on reading sight words.

5) Jokes:
Telling jokes is a super fun way of communicating! We tell 2 step jokes and knock knock jokes during circle time and it's hilarious!! We have a little tub of funny glasses, clown noses and props that we wear and then we use sequenced Big Macs and Twin Talks to tell the jokes. If you want ideas and free resources for telling jokes, check out this post.

6) Calendar:
I like to keep the calendar part of circle time pretty short and sweet. We put birthdays, field trips, special activities, etc. on our calendar with picture symbols and then we basically just check our calendar to see if anything is happening that day or week. Then we cross the day off with a marker. We normally do color patterns when crossing dates off.  Fun tip: Use scented markers for the calendar to create a sensory experience for kiddos!

7) Weather:
For the weather part of circle time, we simply graph the weather for the week and focus on using core vocabulary words ("WHAT is the weather today?" "LOOK outside the window." "Do you LIKE the weather today?" etc.) You can snag my weather graph for free here.

8) Attendance:
For attendance, we work on identifying our names and we also talk about core vocabulary words (who, here, and not). This activity is also very differentiated, some kiddos are reading their first and last name, some are reading their first name, some are recognizing their name with color coding and some students are recognizing their pictures.

Communication throughout circle time:
I try to support my kiddos' communication throughout circle time by using these yes/no sticks and board, a "like" and "don't like" board and voice output devices. Here are a few examples of how I use the yes/no cards:
-I show a student a picture and say, "Is this you? Yes or no?" and show student the picture and yes/no board.
-I show student a sunny picture card and say, "Is the weather sunny today? Yes or no?"
-I ask the student, "Are you here today? Yes or no?"

Let me know if you have any specific questions about any of our circle time activities!