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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM ON PHONE OR TABLET Anticipating and Preventing Problems Related to Circle and Group Times • Keep your circle and group times short! Most groups of three-year-olds or younger have a maximum attention span of ten to fifteen minutes. For most four- and five-year-olds, the maximum is fifteen to twenty minutes. Every group is different, so take your cues from the children’s behaviors for how long they can sit and pay attention. Start the year with circle/group times lasting just a few minutes and gradually increase the time throughout the first weeks and months. • As a guideline to help children sit appropriately, give each one a rug-sample square. These can usually be purchased cheaply from carpet stores. As an alter- native, you can laminate pieces of cardboard with children’s names or a picture or symbol on them. Gluing a Velcro fastener (the loop side) to the back of the squares helps them stay in place on a carpeted surface. Some groups of children, particularly older preschoolers and kindergartners, attend better when sitting on chairs placed around the circle. All of these solutions provide individual spaces so children will not get into conflicts with each other. Cultural Awareness Alert The suggestion above helps avoid conflicts because most North American children do not like other children to encroach on their personal space (about eighteen inches from their bodies), let alone to be touched. The exceptions to this are children who are close friends. In nearly all of the countries that our families have more recently emigrated from, personal space is much closer. For many of these children, not being able to touch their friends and constantly being far away from people makes them feel that the classroom is a very cold and impersonal place. Allow children from the same cultural group, or any children who prefer to be close to other children, to sit the way that feels “right” to them. • Hold circle/group activities away from toy shelves and other attractive places in the room. Ensure that there is enough room to seat all the children comfortably. • Establish one or two simple rules and remind children of them at the start of the circle/group session. They might be “Keep your arms near you and your legs under you” and “Talk only when no one else is talking.” • Avoid using circle and group times for teaching specific skills. This is best done in small groups or individually. Keep it light, fun, and moving along. • Plan circle and group activities that are not too difficult and are highly interesting to your particular group. Prepare well. Know your material well enough that you can stray from your plans, answer unexpected questions, and easily get back on track. Start with an active but not a boisterous game that requires the children to focus and attend. You might use the game “Follow the Rhythm.” With everyone sitting around the circle, tap or clap a simple rhythm and then invite the children to repeat it. Make the rhythm a little harder each time you tap. Give a few children the chance to lead the game. After playing for a minute or two, end with a soft, Circle Time and Group Time: All for One and One for All COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL • 19