Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Whole Group Circle Time in Early Years

By: JAN DUBIEL

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:

Budget 2019(2) Workforce(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Funding(1) Time(1) Giraffe(2) Obesity(1) Vietnam(1) Nutrition(1) Building Resilience(1) Traffic Lights(1) Communicating(1) Maternity Leave(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Exploring(1) Intention(1) RTE Investigates(1) under 3's(3) Maths Week Ireland(1) ERASMUS+(3) First 5 strategy(1) TOY Programme(1) Creative(1) Interests(1) MA(1) Thank you(1) Seas Suas(1) Children's Research Network(1) AsIAm(1) Síolta(108) Technology(3) Consent(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Quality(4) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Bereavement(2) stories(2) Educator of the Year Award(3) relationships(17) Teamwork(1) research(6) NCCA(3) Children's Voice(1) curriculum(5) Meet the Members(1) Irish(1) Margy Whalley(1) Smiles(1) Twitter(1) eating(1) budget(1) Time Out(1) San Miniato(4) Self Help Skills(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Facebook(1) baby room(1) Academic Skills(1) pets(1) Scents(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Investment(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Administrative Burden(1) outdoors(3) Weather(1) ECEC(1) Academics(1) Leargas(1) Challenges(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Graduate(1) SPICE Framework(1) Magic(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Environment(2) dining experiences(1) Mud kitchens(1) Breathing(2) Wonder(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) First 5(1) Children and families(1) Capable(1) UNCRC(1) Mealtimes(1) Aistear(113) Growing up Outdoors(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Leadership(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Inspections(1) Games(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Care-giving routines(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Maths Week(1) Workplace Relations(3) Hand Hygiene(1) Relaxation(1) Exit interview(1) Running(1) risky play(2) Well-Being(9) Pen green(1) Wesco(1) Orla Kenny(1) Wilenski(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Shapes(1) Engineering(3) Mental Health(3) National Holiday(1) Sweets(1) PIP(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Empathy(1) Biting(1) Workplace well-being(1) Syria(1) Plastic(1) Malaguzzi(1) Oireachtas(1) European Project(1) Buddies(1) IGL(1) Spiders(1) Gardening(1) Appreciation(1) Sequins(1) San Minia(1) Engagement(1) Budget 2020(1) Degree(1) ReCreate(2) Reflective Practice(1) Party(1) conversations(1) animals(2) listen(1) linc(1) Early Learning and Care(1) story time(2) environments(1) Norway(2) Laugh(1) Event Guide(1) Magda Gerber(1) feisty(1) CCTV(1) Affordability(1) documentation(3) social media(1) Ariana Pucci(1) ears(1) Arlene Forster(1) Treasure(1) Sleep(1) Dance(1) Family wall(1) dining(1) Awards 2019(1) Digital(1) Human Resources(1) Wendy Lee(3) toddlers(3) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Competent(1) Names(1) Maths(5) Imagination(3) Children(3) Performance Management(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) dogs(1) School Age Childcare(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Confidence(1) Qualifications(1) Snack Time(1) Stress(2) Health(2) Mantra(1) Positivity(1) Line-ups(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Adoption(1) Elders(1) Early Years(1) Primary School(2) Self-Esteem(1) friendships(1) Traditions(2) Inter-generational learning(2) Light table(1) collaboration(1) Mount Everest(1) Síolta QAP(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Story(1) Music(3) Playschool(1) Body Language(1) Summer(1) play stories(1) College(1) Grief(1) outdoor space(3) Graduation(1) Builders(1) Drawing(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) CPD(1) Trade Unions(1) Visual Impairment(1) Family(1) Plants(1) Magnavacchi(1) early childhood educator(1) Snacks(1) Diversity(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Little Buddies(1) Professionalisation(4) Masterclass(2) Reggio Emilia(1) TRAP(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Wrapping paper(1) Employee(1) reading(5) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) outdoor play(6) Nonverbal(1) Creativity(4) Maynooth(1) Patterns(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) RIE philosphy(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Frustrations(1) Universal Design(2) Identity and Belonging(4) supportive environments(2) Design(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Arts(1) Recycling(2) Awards(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) Photographs(1) Engineers Week(2) Performing(1) Celebrations(4) Montessori(3) Growing up in Ireland(3) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Trade union(1) Sustainability(3) Maria Montessori(1) science(3) Cork(1) Laughter(1) emotions(2) Thinking(1) risk assessment(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Sustainable(1) Kilkenny(1) Painting(1) Map(1) Treasure Chest(1) Policy(2) Socioemotional development(1) Blocks(1) Confident(1) Anxiety(2) Fabric(1) Limerick(1) Research Seminar(1) Kids Own(1) educating(1) Book Review(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Nuturing interactions(1) Easter(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Mark Twain(1) play(32) overhear(1) University(1) learning(19) refugees(1) United Nations(1) Child mental health(1) Glitter(2) Support(1) Arithmetic(1) Rituals(1) ICBN(1) National Awards 2019(1) Valentine's Day(3) planning(1) Window(1) The Jelly King(1) Favouritism(1) Penguins(1) Learning Stories Award(3) emotional environment(1) Pobal(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Siolta blog(4) Japan(1) Playdough(1) Infection Control(1) Book Club(2) Visitors(1) Behaviour(3) Trigonometry(1) Meal time(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) STEM(3) Trick or treat(1) Identity(5) Mayo(1) bonds(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Recycle(1) Learning Stories(9) Brain(1) Leaders in Practice(1) National Pyjama Day(1) DES Inspection(1) HR(1) Care routines(1) Online(1) Kerry(1) Childcare(2) Flowers(1) Sculptures(1) Decisions(1) Maynooth University(1) education(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Santa(2) Scéalta Book Review(1) maternity health(1) Eritrea(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Fantasy play(1) Decision Making(1) worries(1) routine(2) National Awards 2018(2) Infectious diseases(1) Vertical grouping(1) Prexit(1) Loss(1) Love(2) Ceremony(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Rich Documentation(1) Yoga(1) Childhood(1) E.coli(1) Celebrate(1) preschool(2) child-centred approach(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) EECERA 2016(1) life long learning(1) DCYA(4) interacting(2) Educators(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Xbox(1) Staff Motivation(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Upcycling(1) Buddy Bench(1) Role play(1) grandchild(1) Document Learning(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Learning journals(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) journey(1) UD(1) Awards 2018(3) EM Standing(1) parents(5) Participation(2) Engineering Ireland(1) Death(2) Training(2) curiosity(3) Home Corner(1) ECCE(6) Department of Education and Skills(1) Horizon 2020(1) development(8) christmas(9) Inclusion(3) Jenga(1) experience(1) mushrooms(1) Routines(1) dublin(2) babies(7) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Community involvement(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Mathematicians(1) Leprechauns(1) Storytelling(4) Touch(1) Scéalta Blog(91) Titles(1) New Appointments(1) communication(4) InspireMe.ie(1) Mo Scéal(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Inter-generational(2) Exclusion(1) listening(1) books(4) Snakes(1) blog(28) Learning Journal(1) Iraq(1) Iceland(1) Interactions(2) Lego(2) GDPR(1) Halloween(2) Mindfulness(2) science week(2) early years research(1) Queues(1) Afghanistan(1) Art(6) Budget 2018(1) Fee Play(1) Children's Rights(3) role playing(1) Change(1) memories(1) Albert Einstein(1) Certificate(1) Cognitive development(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Thanks(1) Early Years Educators(2) Social Skills(1) Sociodramatic play(1) community(5) Learning Story(1) Reggio(1) Interaction(1) transitions(10) Feeding(1) Culture(2) Study Trip(1) educarer(1) NAEYC(1) INTO(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) AIM(2) Belonging(3) Through the looking glass(1) respect(5) Communications(1) Potential(1) Digital Devices(1) value(1) Italy(1) Exercise(1) Settling in(4) UN(1) Sport(1) Shoes(1) food(1) purpose(1) Supernanny(1) Independence(1) Gratitude(1) risk(2) Self-regulation(1) Inspirational(2) Mixed age groups(2) Autism(3) CIT(1) meals(3) Impact(1) Advocacy(1) Our Little Seed(1) MECPI(1) scéalta(29) trust(3) Whole Group(1) Winter(1) Craft(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine