I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Circle Time (such as though found in Seasons of Joy) vs Meeting Times, also called Morning Meeting. The two are often used interchangeably, although in my experience, have very different goals.
In my experience, Circle Time is more adult-led, although it certainly may and probably should reflect the interests of the children, while Meeting Time is more based on a constructivist approach to learning. My experience with Circle Time is grounded in the Waldorf approach to education, where adults are the authority on what the child needs and children’s development progresses along well-established norms. In early childhood education, this means that young children are viewed as dreamy and still developing and need adult guidance to learn the lessons they need to move on to the next stage. In the constructivist approach, learning is more of a collaborative event between adults and children. Adults, noticing the child’s interest and questions, then create provocations and experiences to further the child’s knowledge, asking questions that scaffold the child’s learning and bump it up to the next level.
In a traditional preschool what is often called Circle Time has several predictable elements: a transitional call, specific places to sit, such as carpet squares or shapes on a rug, calendar activities, talk about the weather, and maybe a rhyme or story focusing on the (teacher selected) theme or concept on the week. It often ends with a discussion of what is to come during the day and a dismissal to learning centers or small group activities. When we were homeschooling, we utilized many of these elements in our primary school circle time.
In Circle Time as presented in Seasons of Joy, which was based off my own experiences in Waldorf parent-child classes, there is also a transitional call to circle, often accompanied by a visual reminder that something important is about to take place, such as the lighting of a candle. Children are encouraged to be active and moving during circle, utilizing songs, stories, fingerplays, music, and movement that involve the whole body. These activities are teacher-led and carefully planned out. The ending of Circle Time is signaled, perhaps with a transitional song again and the extinguishing of a candle, and children then move on to the next predictable part of their daily routine.
Meeting Time also may have a transitional song and predictable format, but also may have a specific agenda to explore children’s thoughts and questions. Sometimes a leading question might be presented. Other times, observations might be made about children’s work and discoveries, giving the children’s work back to them for further exploration. Children’s thoughts and ideas might be documented but are definitely listened to and taken into consideration so that further activities and provocations might be planned.
Obviously, in a home setting, all of these might be less formal than in a school, with the exception of a Waldorf-inspired circle, which is probably more structured. Do you have a daily circle or meeting time? Which method works best for you?
Looking for circle time ideas? Be sure to check out Spring Seasons of Joy!