Circle Time

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Circle Time

Introduction

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.

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The Key Features of Circle Time

Circle Time

There is a lot of flexibility in the way a circle time session is organised. But the following are generally considered important in ensuring a positive and useful session:

Everyone sits in a circle including adults
Rigid ground rules are agreed covering listening skills, respecting and valuing others, turn taking, confidentiality outside the circle etc.
Increased openness through a shared understanding that the circle is a safe and appropriate place to disclose personal information and discuss sensitive issues.
The use of short warm up games to open and close sessions.
The use of movement activities to redistribute friendship groups and to mark transitions between discussion topics.
The use of stem sentences such as "I feel happy when..." to provide structure and support for contributions
Usually of 30 minutes duration and held weekly

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Benefits of Regular Circle Time

Where planned and delivered well on a weekly basis then Circle Time can bring the following benefits::

Improves listening and attention skills
Develops social problem solving skills
Provides opportunity to identify, discuss and diffuse anxieties, concerns and tension within the class and to tackle issues that have occurred since last Circle Time
Creates supportive culture and encourages participation
Improves self-awareness and promotes self-esteem
Reduces bullying behaviours and other playground issues.
Helps identify children who may need additional support
Develops the vocabulary needed to articulate emotions, describe behaviour and internalise these.

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Example of Circle Time Rules

As everyone is equal including the leader within a circle time session it is important to stress the 'we' to communicate the inclusiveness of the rules to all.

We all sit in a circle so that everyone can see each other

Everyone in the room including adults form part of the circle and join in

We value everyone's contribution by showing active listening and waiting our turn to speak

If we don't want to speak when it is our turn we can pass. Often we will have another chance at the end to make a contribution

We show respect to everyone in the circle and understand that there will be differences of opinion

We laugh with others but never at others

Anyone who does not follow these rules may be asked to face out of the circle or leave it

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