Establishing a Fun, Engaging and Effective Circle Time in a Special Needs Classroom

Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education
If you've followed me for a while or you've spent any time on my blog, then you probably know I've always LOVED circle time/ morning meeting.

It's so nice to start the day in a fun and engaging way that builds classroom community! You can also work on SO many different academic, functional and social skills!

I think it's really important that we mix up our instruction (and materials) so our students don't get bored! Although our students likely need a lot of repetition with tasks, they also need to generalize those skills with a variety of materials!

 It's common for us as teachers to get into ruts and use the same materials over and over again or to run the same exact circle time for the entire school year. This will help students to get into the routine, but it won't always help them generalize the academic, functional or social skills/ tasks you want them to learn and they will likely get bored (and so will you!). But my biggest reason for wanting to change materials used during circle time (and all lessons) on a regular basis is simple... if we aren't changing the tasks (or materials), then we aren't giving our students the opportunity to learn new skills!

A few years ago, I started putting a big focus on switching the materials I was using during circle time every few months. Our general routine for circle time always stayed the same, but we switched up the materials and what we were learning. I saw a huge increase in my students' excitement during circle time and I was enjoying leading it more too!

If you're new to running circle time check out this post for tips for running whole group lessons!

I love incorporating songs, music and dancing into our circle time routine! My first step of planning circle time is making a Powerpoint presentation (I don't have a Smartboard, so I just use a projector and wireless mouse). I make a slide for each part of our morning meeting.
Each slide contains the following:
  • The alternate state objective that the activity aligns to
  • Student objectives (individual or in groups)
  • 1-2 videos/ songs related to the activity linked from YouTube
Slides are included for: 
  • Theme of the week
  • Letter/ digraph of the week
  • Weather
  • Calendar/ months/ days
  • Counting
Our routine/ set up:
  • Students and staff sit on chairs/ stools in a U shape facing the board. Spots are assigned (for staff and students) so everyone know exactly where to go!
  • We work/ do tasks for about 5 minutes and then we watch 1-2 academic videos on Youtube (via the PPT) that are related to what we just worked on.
  • All students have their own circle time book to complete tasks in as we move through circle time. Some students also have specific jobs that are completed on the circle time board. We rotate the jobs weekly. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

What we work on during circle time:

  • Social skills: We work on SO many skills during circle time! We always start with greeting our peers, talking about emotions or the weekend. We also review the circle time schedule and job duties. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

  • Theme of the week: Next we go over our theme of the week. I link all of our themes to our extended state standards and to my students' IEP goals. We do different activities including reading themed books, answering comprehension questions and answering a themed question of the day. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

  • Letter/ Digraph of the Week: Next we go over our letter of the week. Activities we complete for it letters/ digraphs include: identifying the sound it makes, signing the letter, identifying words the letter starts with, find words with the letter around the room, etc.
  • Sight Words of the Week: Sight words are up next! To practice with sight words, we will practice spelling the words with our bodies and with different chants, practice using the words in sentences, etc. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

  • Calendar: We do a ton of different things during calendar! We use different calendar cards that have tallies or are tracing cards, we work on patterns, rote counting, number sequencing and number identification. We complete a variety of charts about the days of the week. We also work on some counting and place value during this time by completing two different days in school charts. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

  • Weather: We do a lot of math during the weather part of circle time. We practice identifying the weather and completing a sentence about it, we also chart and graph the weather in a variety of ways, and we practice writing weather words. 
Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

  • Attendance: We close out circle time with attendance. We work on name identification, writing names, counting names in groups, and graphing during attendance. 

Switching out materials:
 It doesn't have to be wild hard or stressful to switch out materials! You don't have to switch out every part of your circle time to keep students engaged, switching one chart or graph a month might be enough to keep your students excited about circle time!

I use this scope and sequence to plan out my entire circle time. It keeps me organized and then I know exactly what I need to prep for each week/ month.

Circle Time / Morning Meeting in Special Education

If you want the link to my circle time curriculum, click here!