It is hard enough to get children to sit and pay attention during an in person circle time, but try getting them to pay attention during a Zoom (or virtual) circle time and it is enough to make any teacher scream and drink vodka out of their coffee mug they have sitting nearby. I've seen many-a-teacher asking for tips on how to get children to listen during a virtual circle time. And I have some ideas for you to try.
I used to DREAAAAAAADDDDDDDD circle time 8 years ago. It was SO hard to get a class of twenty 4 and 5 year old children to sit, pay attention, learn, recite the calendar, say the ABCs, listen to the book I chose, sing the days of the week song and count the days we have been in school.
And now we are being asked to do it virtually?!? HELL NO.
Ok, I'm not being asked to do that and I would never ask that of any of the teachers that work with me. And I would say HELL NO if anyone even mentioned to me that I should try it. Here is why...
1. Children are made to move.
2. Children learn (actually really learn, not just learn to recite) when they are interested in something. How many children are interested in the 25 numbers on a calendar and the patterns those number make?
3. AND ESPECIALLY NOW... Children LOVE to tell EVERYONE all the things that are in their head when they want to let it out. And this usually happens during circle time and the teacher is left telling that child "It's MY turn to talk!"
4. Each child learns differently and at a different pace. This is why some kids love to yell out the pattern on the calendar and some are more interested in patterns and colors on the child's shirt sitting next to them.
SO WHAT IF? Instead of virtual circle time you tried any of these things instead to meet the needs of each child individually?
1. Sending out a question of the day via a video (so the children can see your face if you are worried about that) that will get them talking to you about what they are interested in, what they are doing outdoors, what they are doing with their families. Encourage them to send a video back to you to answer the question. And if they don't talk about the topic you suggested, WHO FREAKING CARES? They need connection and a place to let it out. Let them talk about their dog that is pooping outside and their older brother that is tormenting them. That is what is important to them. Not the calendar right now. AND if you need some sort of 'proof' for the higher ups that you are doing virtual learning, compile all those video clips and send it to the higher ups.
2. Have parents send you a picture of their child immersed in an activity their child chose. You can collect them all, write captions under the photos that describe all the learning that is taking place in each of the four early learning domains (cognitive, language/literacy, physical and social/emotional). Send this on the the 'higher ups' that are mandating virtual learning.
3. Encourage the families to let their children have lots of play time, indoors and out! If you aren't aware already, brain research shows that children learn THE BEST AND MOST during play. (TRUE PLAY is defined as: an activity the child chooses, the child can start and stop when they choose, the child can choose who joins the play, the act of play is more valuable than the end result, and it is done in a non-stressed frame of mind) Thank you Peter Gray. Give parents resources to support this notion that children learn through play. My buddy, Jeff A. Johnson, has done all the work for you over at PLAYvolution HQ.
4. Have a one-on-one Facetime or Google Hangout chat with each student once a week. Ask open ended questions. You will learn so much more about them and feel so much more connected if you hang out with each student individually than in a whole group.
5. DON'T DO VIRTUAL CIRCLE TIME. I know, this was supposed to be about tips FOR virtual circle time but the real tip is to not do it all. I'm not kidding. I think the most important thing right now is that your students still feel connected with you in some way and a stressed out teacher doing virtual circle time is not good for anyone.
Connection can be done in many different ways, not only through a large group virtual circle time. I'd love to hear your ideas and what you have done. Connect with me over on Instagram! learning.wild