Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homeschool Circle Time

Creating a Homeschool Circle Time Board (with links to free or inexpensive resources)

We begin our homeschooling day with circle time. To be honest, initially I planned a circle time just because it seemed "everyone does it". I thought it would be a light way to come together and transition from informal being at home to the structured schooling part of our day. I have completely upgraded my opinion of circle time. We cover a LOT of territory during circle time and I log the time as half math and half language arts. We spend 20-30 minutes in our circle.

Our circle time area is in a corner of our school room right next to a window. We sit on a small, soft, purple rug I grabbed at Wal-mart a while back. We got a 4'x3' magnetic dry erase board for a steal at a local office depot. I honestly think it was a price mistake, since it was over half off the price I'd seen for similar boards everywhere else, but they insisted it was priced correctly. My husband hung it and then I got started. I found the lovely borders and the slightly less lovely, but functional calendar at the Teacher Storehouse. Their shipping was super quick and everything was packaged well and arrived in great shape.

I wanted to be able to pin up several pages at once, so I found some great neodymium pushpin magnets on Amazon. They are tiny, yet powerful and so they work perfectly. They are also bright and cheerful and I couldn't be happier with them for this purpose. Of course, as with any powerful magnets, make sure they aren't around kids still putting things in their mouths.

Homeschool Circle Time Routine

Introduction ( <1 min )

We begin with a welcome song that I made up ages ago. If you promise not to laugh or snicker I will share the lyrics with you:

We are here together
for a day of work and play.
We smile and show respect
as we share our day today.
Let's try something new,
and grow a little stronger.
Let's stretch our mind,
and be kind,
here with family.

1. Calendar (approx. 5 minutes)

This calendar is a hybrid of a typical teacher's blank calendar that I bought and some numbers/holiday cards that I printed myself, laminated, and stuck magnets on the back. We do a lot during calendar time:
  1. Sing the days of the week song. (Scroll down for lots of days of the week song choices and choose the one you like best.) When we sing our song, we're holding jingle sticks. The children must listen for the day of the week that is the current day, and they can only shake the jingle stick when we sing that day. This encourages active listening and practices self control.
  2. Sing the months of the year song. Again, we hold the jingle sticks. This time each person shakes their stick when we sing the month of their birthday. We all shake our sticks on the current month. This continues to encourage active listening and self control, but also teaches them their birth month.
  3. Next we put away our jingle sticks and update the calendar. We add in the new day and practice saying yesterday's date, today's date, and tomorrow's date. We briefly discuss any upcoming holidays or other special days.
  4. On the first school day of each month we break down the old calendar and begin a new one changing the season card if necessary.

2. Weather Graph (approx. 3 minutes)

We fill in our weather graph. We've agreed that we're charting weather during circle time. We don't go back and change the chart's data if the weather changes later in the day. We look out the window and make a judgement about the weather. If it's sunny I fill in a rectangle in the sunny column with a yellow highlighter. If it's partly cloudy we go with blue highlighter. Cloudy is a grey colored pencil, rainy is purple highlighter, and thunderstorm gets black highlighter with a highlighter yellow bolt of lightening (my son's suggested embellishment). We jot down the temperature by looking at the outdoor thermometer and move on. At the end of the month, we do some extended work here filling in the mean, median, and mode temperature and writing a summary description of the weather for that month.

I've seen similar graphs everywhere. Teacher Storehouse had one. Confessions of a Homeschooler has a free printable one. I wanted to add in a little more math to mine, so I made one where there's a spot for putting in the temperature and we figure out the mean, median, and mode temperature at the end of the month. There's also a space at the top to add in an overall description of that month's weather. Here's a copy if you've been looking for a more complex version of the weather graph (I did leave out a windy column. I needed the space.)

3. Poem, Nursery Rhyme, Fingerplay, or Short Story (approx. 5-10 minutes)

Next we do a poem, nursery rhyme, short story, fingerplay, etc. I print a bunch of these at once double sided and pin up as many as will stick with my heavy duty magnets. That way, I can get through a week or more before I need to take the time to put up a new set. First I used the sight word poems from the ebook version of this Sight Word Poems Flip Chart. Right now it is $29.99, but I grabbed it in one of the Scholastic Teacher Express dollar sales for $1. Wait for the next sale and cross your fingers that it'll be offered again. It is pretty great. Ava was working on the sight words and Michael could read the poems. We'd go back through the ones we already know and eventually they had all of them memorized.

Once we finished all the poems in the flip chart (at a rate of one new one per school day, I went looking for something a little more complex. I found a great free children's anthology originally published in 1912. Click on the link and choose your format of choice (html, epub, kindle...). I printed a bunch of the fingerplays. I thought the children would enjoy them, it would let them practice the art of performance and connecting motions with words, and it would help their fine motor skills in their hands. They are loving the fingerplays. After the fingerplays, the book has familiar and unfamiliar nursery rhymes, short stories for young children, and more. And all for free! Once we work our way through the things I like best in that book I'm moving to a another book of poems I grabbed in a Scholastic Teacher Express sale.

4. Independent Early Reading Practice (approx. 3 minutes)

When I was looking for a new source of daily poems I stumbled across some free, printable, one page early reader stories on clarkness.com. A former special education teacher wrote an entire series of short, one-page early reader texts in gradually increasing difficulty. They're all available to download, print, and use for free. I grabbed the series and started mid-way through. Michael reads one to us each morning during circle time. Again, I print them double sided and pin a week's worth up to the board at a time so that each morning all I have to do is flip a page over to get to the new one. Ava likes listening to her brother read and he's proud to lead a little part of circle.

5. Song of the Day (approx. 5 minutes)

Next we sing our learning song of the day. I printed the songs from 50 Learning Songs Sung to Your Favorite Tunes two per page double sided. This is another resource I grabbed during a Teacher Express Dollar Sale. I pin up a week's worth or more, and we sing a new one each day.

6. Word of the Day (approx. 3 minutes)

Then we learn a word of the day. Another find from a Scholastic Teacher Express Dollar Sale was Daily Vocabulary Boosters. Half the words have illustrations and half do not. I printed the half that had illustrations and have been using them for our word of the day.

7. Telling Time (approx. 5 minutes)

Finally we do our time worksheet. We review some basic time facts. We fill in the current time on an analog clock and write the time. Then we practice three more times of the day. I laminated the worksheet using this inexpensive and tiny home laminator, and we fill it out each day with a dry erase marker. Again, I was inspired by the "What Time Is It?" printable from Confessions of a Homeschooler, but made an expanded version for myself. Here is the expanded version if you would like to use it:

And that is probably way more detail than you ever wanted to know about how we do circle time around here. I hope you find at least some of the resources useful and many of these resources would also be useful in a traditional school classroom, or a speech room as well.


  1. I like your circle time ideas! Thanks for posting this. I want to do a circle time to get my older kid to transition into schoolwork better and also incorporate the little ones with some songs and such. Is your welcome song sung to a particular tune? I'm looking for a good song to start us off.

    1. I'm pretty sure it's just a random tune I made up. :-) Feel free to use my lyrics and just sort of make up a tune to sing along to. It seems silly, but the children and I really do enjoy starting our day with that song. We even have little motions to go along with it. We shake hands on the word "respect", flex our muscles on "stronger", put our hands on our hearts at "kind", and exchange hugs at the end on the word "family."

  2. Hi, have a question about your bulletin board. It says its 4x3 but there is no way that is accurate. So can you just double check. Since I think that will be the perfect size and I need to find one so I can order it. Thank you

  3. This was so helpful for me! Thank you so much for putting this together!


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