Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Whole Group Circle Time in Early Years


Tuesday 10 September 2019

Whole Group Circle Time in Early Years:

Vital context for teaching and learning or purposeless and inefficient convention?

As an early years consultant and trainer, one of the aspects that is always central to my message is ensuring that educators are clear about, and can articulate why, they do what they do. Our time with children is precious and limited and we need to always be clear about the purpose and intention of the actions that we take.

Gathering all the children together for a ‘whole group’ time is a good example of how we sometimes get drawn into doing what is ‘expected’ of us without really being clear of its purpose – or we end up rejecting something without fully considering its genuine beneficial value.

Whole group times can be invaluable; they can be part of a familiar and predictable routine that gives some children a welcome and reassuring structure. It is an opportunity to create a sense of group identity, share with each other, model turn taking and respect, listen to different ideas and have other ways of thinking and seeing modeled directly by peers. It is also an opportunity for significant whole group input; direct teaching of a skill or knowledge, stories, rhymes, songs and games that work and succeed because of the slightly larger numbers of children involved.

Alternatively, whole group sessions can be an unwelcome interruption to sustained and significant children’s activity. It can become a dreaded, relentless grind of desperately trying to keep children’s attention as the ‘wander off’ mentally and sometimes physically. Armed with a box full of props; a list of intentions are motored through with little visible benefit to anyone. Adults get stressed, children get bored, individual needs are not met and the whole spectacle ends, to everyone’s relief, when the children are allowed go back to what they want to do.

So here are some things to consider:

  • Does the children’s age and stage of development influence your approach to whole group time? It should! There is a maxim that children should sit as a group listening to an adult for their age in minutes +1, which is a good place to start. If you are going to deliver a whole group session have a rough timescale in mind – even if you end up deviating from it either way. Jennie Lindon wrote about having a ‘sofa-full’ of children rather than a school type circle or group especially for much younger children, as this gives them the security and intimacy they need, and therefore a more effective context for the same type of teaching.
  • Are you ‘tuned in’ to the children’s participation and engagement during the whole group session? If its clearly not benefiting the children, then do you make the professional decision to stop? Group times are not statutory – even if we believe that they are ‘expected’ – so it is up to each educator to use them; or not; as they feel is appropriate.
  • Have a clear simple focus for what you are going to do and be clear with the children about what that will be. Don’t over-elaborate the event and get so carried away with props and dramatic performance that the children loose sight of what you are intending to teach them.

Teaching early years is a complex activity that relies on the educators being confident about what they are teaching but also – and just as importantly – how they can teach most effectively for the individuals and groups that they work with. Understanding why we do (or don’t) use whole group times and being responsive and reflective about their use can only enhance the effectiveness of what we do.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

CIT(1) Time Out(1) Queues(1) Culture(2) Cork(1) trust(3) Consent(1) early childhood educator(1) NCCA(3) Rituals(1) Sustainability(3) Research Conference 2019(1) Recycle(1) eating(1) listening(1) Family wall(1) Eritrea(1) Jenga(1) National Awards 2018(2) dublin(2) role playing(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Síolta QAP(1) Favouritism(1) collaboration(1) Laughter(1) curriculum(5) Inspections(1) Facebook(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) baby room(1) play(32) Teamwork(1) Early Years Educators(3) Professionalisation(5) scéalta(30) MA(1) Wrapping paper(1) Positivity(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Challenges(1) National Awards 2019(1) transitions(10) Mental Health(3) phone apps(1) food(1) Sustainable(1) Awards Night(1) Names(1) blog(28) The Jelly King(1) overhear(1) Wendy Lee(3) Valerie Gaynor(1) TRAP(1) Penguins(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Decisions(1) Maria Montessori(1) COVID-19(1) Awards(2) San Miniato(4) Self-Esteem(1) Interests(1) Book Review(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Super Shed Stories(1) Learning Stories(9) risk(2) UNCRC(1) First 5 strategy(1) Engagement(1) Decision Making(1) Degree(1) Capable(1) man up(1) Role play(1) Visual Impairment(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Study Trip(1) Maths Week(1) Participation(2) Nuturing interactions(1) iOS(1) documentation(3) Academics(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Vertical grouping(1) Whole Group(1) Relaxation(1) UD(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Celebrations(4) Iraq(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Wesco(1) Santa(2) risky play(2) Treasure Chest(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Family(1) Inspirational(2) apps for children(1) Playschool(1) Exercise(1) Weather(1) preschool settings(1) preschool(3) Behaviour(3) outdoors(3) Visitors(1) Summer(1) play stories(1) MECPI(1) Nonverbal(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) gender bias(1) Gardening(1) Síolta(110) Kilkenny(1) Thanks(1) learners(1) Diversity(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Department of Education and Skills(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Mealtimes(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Identity and Belonging(4) Obesity(1) Youtube Series(1) Confidence(1) Playdough(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Socioemotional development(1) Engineers Week(2) Pobal sector profile(1) Norway(2) Trick or treat(1) experience(1) Snacks(1) Imagination(3) Care-giving routines(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) feisty(1) Belonging(3) Leargas(1) Mud kitchens(1) Window(1) ECCE(7) Time(1) STEM(3) interacting(2) Rich Documentation(1) Meal time(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Adoption(1) community(5) Treasure(1) INTO(1) emotional environment(1) Story(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Environment(2) E.coli(1) Document Learning(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Children's Voice(1) Flowers(1) Albert Einstein(1) Mindfulness(2) Qualifications(1) Reggio Emilia(1) books(4) Routines(1) linc(1) Human Resources(1) learning bias(1) Interaction(1) story time(2) Empathy(1) NAEYC(1) Traffic Lights(1) Montessori(3) Grief(1) Afghanistan(1) Malaguzzi(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Funding(1) Buddies(1) Margy Whalley(1) European Project(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Graduate(1) Seas Suas(1) ears(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Halloween(2) social media(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) bloom app(1) Drawing(2) environments(1) Italy(1) Patterns(1) Technology(3) life long learning(1) Reflective Practice(1) Creative(1) Trade Unions(1) Home Corner(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Fantasy play(1) Body Language(1) Breathing(2) Buddy Bench(1) Mount Everest(1) youdoodle(1) research(6) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) education(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Arithmetic(1) Syria(1) Japan(1) Interactions(2) value(1) Event Guide(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Line-ups(1) Well-Being(9) Feeding(1) Graduation(1) Trigonometry(1) College(1) Map(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Children(3) Intention(1) early years research(2) Exploring(1) memories(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Iceland(1) PIP(1) grandchild(1) Children's Research Network(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Wonder(1) Awards 2018(3) Horizon 2020(1) worries(1) Workplace Relations(3) Sequins(1) Frustrations(1) Settling in(4) Sculptures(1) purpose(1) respect(5) New Appointments(1) CCTV(1) Maynooth(1) Educators(2) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Yoga(1) conference(1) Budget 2019(2) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Mantra(1) Through the looking glass(1) Art(6) Spiders(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Engineering(3) dining(1) Thank you(1) Arlene Forster(1) Research Seminar(1) friendships(1) Child mental health(1) Community involvement(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Self Help Skills(1) Childcare(2) Laugh(1) continual professional development(1) Performing(1) Aistear(116) Love(2) Plastic(1) Glitter(2) Quality(4) Self-regulation(1) toddlers(3) National Holiday(1) Advocacy(1) Communicating(1) awards 2020(1) ECEC(2) Staff Motivation(1) Performance Management(1) UN(1) Communications(1) Digital(1) educating(1) ERASMUS+(3) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) EECERA 2016(1) Upcycling(1) research submissions(1) GDPR(1) under 3's(3) Reggio(1) Music(3) DCYA(4) refugees(1) behavioural science(1) Scéalta Blog(94) code of ethics(1) Mayo(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Policy(2) Valentine's Day(3) stories(2) Exit interview(1) social science(1) Storytelling(5) parents(6) Confident(1) Sessional service(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Titles(1) Cognitive development(1) Trade union(1) Xbox(1) meals(3) Maths Week Ireland(1) Anxiety(2) Identity(5) Independence(1) SPICE Framework(1) educarer(1) Party(1) Craft(1) Learning Story(1) keezy(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Death(2) ReCreate(2) gender stereotype(1) Change(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Scents(1) journey(1) Snakes(1) DES Inspection(1) Dance(1) animals(2) Our Little Seed(1) Traditions(2) Kerry(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Impact(1) Lego(2) planning(1) conversations(1) AsIAm(1) Children and families(1) Kids Own(1) Universal Design(2) Workplace well-being(1) Pen green(1) Arts(1) Maths(5) babies(7) AIM(2) Learning Journal(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Sweets(1) relationships(17) Brain(1) Running(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Inter-generational(2) Games(1) supportive environments(2) development(8) Elders(1) Supernanny(1) Snack Time(1) Shapes(1) listen(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Certificate(1) Gratitude(1) Photographs(1) Smiles(1) Wilenski(1) curiosity(3) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Primary School(2) maternity health(1) Potential(1) Loss(1) mushrooms(1) Biting(1) emotions(2) Little Buddies(1) Winter(1) Workforce(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Fee Play(1) aistear blog(3) Affordability(1) University(1) reading(5) ECEC Setting(1) Mo Scéal(1) Masterclass(2) School Age Childcare(1) Stress(2) Inclusion(3) HR(1) pablo(1) imotion(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Care routines(1) Building Resilience(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Plants(1) Infectious diseases(1) Vietnam(1) Fabric(1) Health(2) Appreciation(1) RIE philosphy(1) ICBN(1) Children's Rights(3) Magic(1) Training(2) Magnavacchi(1) Academic Skills(1) dining experiences(1) Employee(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Leprechauns(1) RTE Investigates(1) IGL(1) Awards 2019(1) Giraffe(2) Exclusion(1) Creativity(4) routine(2) Tuscan Approach(2) Childhood(1) learning(19) United Nations(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Recycling(2) Nutrition(1) Prexit(1) Early Years(1) Light table(1) Investment(2) Support(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Infection Control(1) Irish(1) pets(1) Easter(1) early years learning(1) dogs(1) Social Skills(1) Painting(1) Shoes(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Blocks(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Ceremony(1) Orla Kenny(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Design(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) risk assessment(1) EM Standing(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Mark Twain(1) Magda Gerber(1) First 5(1) CPD(1) Celebrate(1) science(3) Thinking(1) Book Club(2) outdoor space(3) Maternity Leave(1) Builders(1) communication(4) Budget 2018(1) christmas(9) Online(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Reading Time(1) Autism(3) Sleep(1) Competent(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Pobal(1) Learning journals(1) Maynooth University(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Twitter(1) Digital Devices(1) Sport(1) Administrative Burden(1) budget(1) Budget 2020(1) science week(2) child-centred approach(1) Limerick(1) Meet the Members(1) bonds(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Siolta blog(7) Leadership(1) TOY Programme(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Mixed age groups(2) The Lullaby Book(1) annual conference(1) Bereavement(2) Oireachtas(1) outdoor play(6) Mathematicians(1) Touch(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine