A Montessori classroom is a busy place to be on a typical morning. Children are engaged in lessons, both self-directed and teacher-lead. They are working, active, and engaged and the time passes quickly. Before you know, it’s Circle Time! The importance of Circle Time in Montessori can not be understated. Circle Time is a key component to the classroom dynamic and building a sense of community among classmates.

What is Circle Time?

Here, at Children’s House, Circle Time takes place at the end of the morning work period and again in the afternoon. It is a period of time in which all the children join the teacher as a group. Circle Time typically lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and is a mixture of routines, traditions, music, movement, conversation, learning, and fun.

At the end of the morning, the teacher invites the class to the Circle Time space with a gentle bell or chime and indicates that work time is ending. The children clean up their work and make their way to the designated area. This is one of many transitions that happen during the day and the classroom will now be prepared for lunch time.

Afternoon Circle Time takes place at the end of the afternoon work period (for older students) and nap time (for younger). We are transitioning from our school day to our aftercare time and some children will be going home soon, while others stay until the later afternoon. Circle Time is the bridge between activities and allows children to anticipate what happens next in their day.

Creating a Sense of Community

Circle Time is a chance to gather together as a class and participate in a variety of activities as a small community. It is a chance for children to share, either in a show-and-tell format or simply conversationally as they wait for the their classmates to clean up and join the circle. It is a chance to look at pictures of a new baby sister or brother, to talk about what happened over the weekend, and an opportunity to raise their hand and tell everyone what their Halloween costume is going to be.

Circle Time is a time to celebrate birthdays and other milestones: a lost tooth, riding a bike without training wheels, or a big first, like a trip on an airplane or moving into a new house. In sharing in each others lives, the class grows closer together and more connected. Even in the midst of a pandemic, with social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing policies in place, Circle Time is a time for togetherness and connection.

Learning Through Group Lessons

Most Montessori lessons, like math and language arts, are meant for an individual child, but some lessons lend themselves to a larger group format. There are many science, geography, and art lessons that can be presented at circle time to the whole class. At Children’s House, these lessons are available to any child, regardless of age, so it’s important that all the children receive the lessons before new materials are added to the shelves.

Geography and science lessons lend themselves to conversation and Circle Time is the perfect time to start this conversation. A teacher might present a new lesson or introduce a new topic, but the follow up conversation over the next few days or even weeks, is where much of the learning takes place.

For example, this fall we have been learning about habitats. The children have had a group lesson at Circle Time on a new material that Ms. Keturah made. They learned about what habitats are, how different animals need different habitats, and how habitats need the same key components in order for animals and plants to thrive: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young. They sang songs about habitats, read stories about them, and took the lessons outside to work in our school gardens and hike the trail around our property. The Circle Time lesson was just the beginning!

The Role of Each Child

Circle Time is where children learn from each other and work together. Younger students model the behavior of their older classmates and older students love the extra responsibility that comes with being a kindergartener and a leader. The morning Circle Time comes at the end of work time and the preparation for lunch. There are jobs to be done, work to be cleaned up, and a classroom to put back in order. Children help water plants, tidy shelves, and sweep the floor. Everyone works together to make sure the classroom is ready for the next phase of the day.

Traditions and Routine

A regular, predictable routine is so important for young children. A child who can not yet tell time or a read a calendar and does not have much input into their daily schedule, can use routines to navigate their day and know what comes next. Routines give children a sense of control.

Circle Time routines here at Children’s House include choosing and reading a Virtue card together; taking five minutes each day to read the card and repeat the affirmation is a touch point for both children and adults.

Everyone has a favorite Circle Time song, but certain songs are only sung at certain times. The Months of the Year is our birthday song, and Make New Friends But Keep the Old is only sung at the end of the year when we say goodbye to the friends who are leaving for new schools.

And, of course, holiday traditions are some of our favorites! In November we’ll collect non-perishable food for a Thanksgiving Food Drive. In December we’ll make ornaments to decorate our “Mitten Tree” as we collect hats and mittens for children in need. And in February, our Valentine’s celebration is a school-wide favorite; and it all happens at Circle Time.

But, for now, it’s still October! This is the week that we will carve our class pumpkin for Halloween and read some of our favorite Halloween books. It’s time to pull out the well-worn and much-loved CASSETTE TAPE — yes, cassette tape! — of Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman that has been entertaining us — at Circle Time — for many, many years.

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Children’s House Montessori School of Reston (CHMS) is a small, family-oriented school located in a peaceful wooded setting in Reston, Virginia. We believe that a child’s first school experience should be filled with curiosity, exploration and opportunities for  independence. We offer half-day and full-day Montessori programs for children 3 years of age through kindergarten.

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