Preparation is key, but I am sure we have all been in the position of “what? it’s my turn? or you are asked to replace a colleague. “Okay I can do it”..and you rush around in the little available time you have to pull it together.
Some hints for: Whole School Circle time with a wide age range.
Sit as you expect the children to sit, they will follow your example. If they are settling down and then have to wait for others to join the circle I find it’s helpful to compliment a child that is doing a good job “thanks Joey, I notice that you are really being patient while we wait for our friends to join us, good for you, you are being very helpful” Joey will beam and his peers will emulate him. Do this several times with several children.
If on the other hand you reprimand a child for not sitting still, pushing in etc. You may find the situation gets very quickly out of control, the child gets worse and you end up having to remove him/her, and no one wants to start the day this way.
If you find a child being difficult invite them to help you by showing how to behave at circle, if this proves difficult offer him/her the choice of sitting on a chair outside of the circle, or sitting nicely with his/her friends.
Children happily rise to your expectations.
When you are almost ready, or ready I start off by encouraging a group activity, a good morning song.
One I find works well is, with movements, “I roll my hands, I shake my hands, I give a little clap….I roll my hands, I shake my hands, I lay them in my lap”
If you have a circle of mixed age groups say 2 and a half to 6, be very careful that you keep it age appropriate.
You have a “captive audience” and it is very difficult to do demonstrations of Montessori materials to this spread of age. It would be better to show a cultural topic or give and receive news. As well as the daily routine, calendar, weather, jobs and school or classroom news. Sing some songs, tell a story. Communication is key.
When a child is sharing their news…listen…it is very important, no one likes to talk to someone who is distracted. Your concentration and feed back will encourage others to listen too. Model what you expect from the children.
Empower the children, encourage them them to manage the Circle Time, have a “chair person” who can help you. Offer responsibility and a child will become responsible.
Watch the time, keep it light and fun but cover the business of the day…young children cannot be expected to sit for more than 10/15 minutes, especially 2 and a half to 3 year olds, watch for signs of fidgeting and boredom, and remember how “Freedom of choice” is very key to Montessori philosophy.
Your aim is to have a School community that enjoys circle and starting or finishing, depending on when you choose to have circle, the day together.