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Circle Time


In the legend of King Arthur a round table was built so that all the knights could sit with equal status around it. Circle Time, at its simplest, is the sitting round in a circle to provide an opportunity for everyone to be equally involved in lots of different activities and games. This could include, for example, listening to a story or singing a song. Circle Time can therefore just mean a whole group or whole class session.

This article is concerned with 'Circle Time' as a specific approach used to develop social communication skills, emotional literacy, personal and health awareness and collective working and problem solving. It is sometimes referred to as 'Quality Circle Time' to distinguish it from the more generic term referred to above. This form of circle time is used extensively in British primary schools and more rarely in secondary schools as a means of delivering the Personal Social Health Education curriculum.

The Key Features of Circle Time

Circle Time

Benefits of Regular Circle Time

Example of Circle Time Rules

Circle Time Model Plan

Circle Time Plan


It is important to revisit the ground rules of circle time at the start of each session. After a few sessions this should take no more than 1 minute.

Warm Up Game

Once the rules have been established circle time always begins with a short warm up game. This will help to energise, motivate and students and also ensure that the session has fun! The warm up game should help to dissolve any tensions that have been brought into the circle.

Introducing Topic

It is important to ensure that everyone is seated away from peers who may distract them. This helps to maximise attention and concentration during the main focus of circle time. It is important to rearrange students indirectly so as not to draw attention to individuals being moved. Instead move a number of children including those you want to move. Do this by using simple movement activities like 'Move if you... are wearing black socks,' or label students around the circle so that those sat next to each other end up with different labels. Then create movement using the labels to reorganise. See 'Fruit Salad' in circle time resources. Use these activities at any time to refocus students or diffuse any tension.

Once the circle is organised, introduce the topic trying to keep adult explanation to no more than 2 or 3 minutes. Consider whether you want to support this with a stimulus such as props, visuals or sound recordings.


Use the circle to involve everyone in the discussion. This is best achieved by going round the circle to gain participation from everyone. However, at times it is also useful to just listen to volunteered responses. Circle time often involves the use of stem sentences to structure and support responses. Stem sentences can be neutral like: 'My favourite ice cream flavour is...' or emotive like 'I am happy when I...'. Further information on 'Stem Sentences' in circle time resources. The adult should try to avoid dominating the discussion but intervene as necessary to structure and develop the topic to achieve the planned learning intentions. This is best achieved by a balance of pre-planned and spontaneous follow up questions, statements and stem sentences. Though it is important to achieve learning objectives at times discussions may go in a direction not planned but still worthwhile. As facilitator of the circle time session the adult needs to flexible to alternative strands of thoughts and ideas being developed by the circle.

End Game

Time should always be given to a short game to end the session. This should be a fun activity that helps to diffuse any emotional tension that has been generated during the topic. Monitoring students during this game may alert you to vulnerable children who may be struggling with emotions stirred up in the topic discussed.

Organising Circle Time

Circle time needs to be set up in a circle and this often involves a challenge in either finding an open space to deliver it or reorganising classroom furniture to create it. Using the classroom may seem daunting but with practice even the youngest students can quickly move tables and chairs to free up space for the circle.

A session should run for at least 30 minutes and no more than an hour. 30-40 minutes is usually ideal as this generally will fit into the timetable and allows enough time to explore and develop the topic meaningfully.

Circle time is often used to deliver personal, social and health education and it can be an effective way of exploring sensitive issues. However, circle time should be supported with other reinforcement activities such as text based tasks and drawing to secure learning.

Circle Time

Come Round To Circle Time

This is a training presentation detailing how to deliver effective circle time.

You may also be interested in the following pages

Circle Time Resources

Oracy Resources

Self-Calming Strategies