A common question in a Montessori setting is, "Should there be circle time in the Montessori classroom?".
What is Circle time? A time in which the children are gathered (in the shape of a circle) to learn information together (talk about the calendar, the weather, current news, give a demonstration, sing songs, read a book, etc.).
Why a circle shape? To allow the children an equal view of each other and the person conducting the Circle. And it will enable the person conducting the Circle to have a good view of all the children.
When is Circle time? The timing of the Circle will vary according to each school. Some hold it upon arrival of the children - used to start the work period. Others use it during the work period to give a class lesson on basic rules, demonstration of materials, etc. And other teachers use it to close the work period and say goodbye to the children.
Various Montessori organizations hold different opinions on the use of Circle time. Regardless of the views, it is used frequently throughout Montessori schools but varies significantly from school to school. Some schools have a set time and procedure that is followed every day. Other schools allow the teachers the freedom to hold a circle according to the daily needs of the children/teachers.
But the question is - do the children need Circle time? Or is it used by the adult/teacher as a method of corralling the children so that information can be delivered to the masses? Do Montessori schools have circle time because parents expect it? Or do they have it because they feel it's valuable?
If you are familiar with Maria Montessori and her work, you would agree that it would seem logical that Maria Montessori would not be pleased with the idea of 'Circle' time - regardless of the time of day it's held. She would most likely say that the circle time:
- is directed by the adult and not by the natural desire or curiosity of the child
- interferes with the natural uninterrupted work cycle of the child
- forces the children to sit still when their whole being is desperate to move & touch things
- does not follow the natural curiosity of each child
If the school obligates you to hold Circle time, perhaps you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Are variations of circle time even possible?
- Can I make circle time more child-led?
- Can children opt not to participate in circle time, remaining at their work instead?
- Is there a time in the day that would be less intrusive on the children's work?
- Can the information given at circle time be shared in another way?
To have circle time in a Montessori classroom or not? There's a lot to think about.