Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where did circle time go?

Kindergarten and first grade were awesome.
Not because I learned to write in complete sentences or learned how to add.
What I remember most about those delicious years is the time we spent in a circle with our legs crossed on the carpet. In kindergarten, Mrs. Woofter would read Uncle Remus stories to us to help us calm down for our naps. In first grade, Mrs. Land would play Doris Day records and make us laugh with her funny voices. More than anything, I recall feeling completely relaxed and comfortable in these circles where we also blurted out details about our pets and shared family, vacation, and favorite dream stories . Somewhere along the way, "frivolous" circle time gave way to productivity: worksheets and drills. I deeply missed the songs, the stories, and the giggles from those circle time days.
Guess what? As flaky as it may sound, middle school students can use a little circle time at school too. From what I can see, their lives in and out of school are a tornado of activity; there is little time for chilling without the distraction of TV, computer, or phones. As a result, I have come to believe strongly in planned and unplanned circle time for designated homeroom periods, and I've also learned a few lessons on how make it work.
  • Have a focus ready. This can be as simple as a question or two. For example, in what way was your week great? In what way was it el-stinko?
  • As the adult/leader, I go first and share something that happened to me that the students don't know and that could possibly surprise them. I make sure to emphasize my dorkiness whenever possible. Laughter is good.
  • Have lollipops or some other treat to keep the mood light. Gummy bears work great.
  • If I really think I may have trouble with participation, I've even added another prop like play-dough so that they can have something to do while they talk about whatever is on their minds.
  • When circle time works (and the kids don't think they are being held hostage in some nightmare after school special) then I learn precious many things....how funny they are, how resilient they are, how stressed they sometimes feel, and how much I just enjoy being in their company.

Yes, it's true the the technology education movement is on a meteoric rise and teachers are strongly encouraged to keep their classroom paces cyber-friendly, brisk and efficient. But please, let us not become so web-driven and jaded that we forget to be human with each other....that is, without a doubt, the good stuff.

Which is why, in my not so humble opinion, circle time will always rock.

post signature


Cheryl Lage said...

ADORE this! Just read a statement from a man today who was chagrined that instead of a tech-centered activity, his kids were asked to cut images from magazines.

Cursive and scissor-use are nearly fossils of the past; and embarrassingly, our two have limited faculties---or patience---with either.

Cannot tell you how grateful I am that you are back and blogging. Even we non-teachers can employ your wisdom in the home environment!

Loove you!

Terra said...

My daughter is in 7th grade now, they start each day in advisory, in chairs, in a circle. They play silly games, they talk about topics lead by them or the teacher, they bond. I like it.

Terra said...

pS. You make me smile. Love having you around again. Email me when you time!

MissJean said...

Good idea! I would add that circles also taught children how to wait their turn, listen to others, and learn basic social skills.

Miss Cheryl, I feel sad that cursive is being abandoned. Not only did it help refine my motor skills, but it made writing an artform. I still remember how I felt grown-up when I moved from print to cursive. I had the same feeling when two years ago, my Chinese exchange student wanted to learn to write cursive and one of my nieces gave me her old cursive practice book (the wipe-off kind) to give to her. She was thrilled because it was "real writing." All my exchange students have, at one point or another, asked me to write their name in "American style" so they can copy it, because their cultures value "penmanship" as part of the beauty of language.