Elements of Waldorf: Circle Time

Night DanceI look out our picture windows and see the neighbor, who is walking his dog, staring in and laughing. I don’t blame him. He’s probably never seen a mom dancing and skipping around the front room. I laugh too – not out of embarrassment, but out of delight – delight that is intensified as I look into the sparkling eyes of my daughter as she dances around with me. Circle Time may be our favorite part of the school day.

In a Waldorf education, Circle Time does not end in preschool or even kindergarten, but continues through elementary school. It holds an important place in the beginning of the school day, as a transition from free play or outdoor play into more focused school time. But it is more than  simply a method of transition – it is important to the Waldorf philosophy of learning. 

circle-1Why do Circle Time?

  1. Brain Development – Science has proven that the development of the body is in direct correlation with the development and ability to learn academically. Like any other body part, when the brain is exercised, it developes and can more easily be used to learn new information.
  2. God’s Word. What could be more important for raising children who are passionate pursuing God than a love for His Word. Circle Time is the ideal time to memorize verses and passages of scripture – that God will use to sustain and ground your children throughout their lives. Psalm 119: 11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
  3. Language – both foreign and native. Through poems and songs children acquire enunciation, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and language comprehension as well as a love for the flow and sound of language.
  4. Math Facts – Children move from counting to skip counting to multiplication tables in daily recitation, song and movement – making the facts hard to forget. Mental math and verbal story problems are also added into circle time as the grade progress.
  5. Memorization – Days, months, seasons, grammar facts, historical timelines, scientific information – anything that can and needs to be memorized can be done with a song and a dance.
  6. Music – Through singing, playing rhythm and wind instruments, and rhythmic movement children’s brains are being exercised. Numerous studies show there is a direct correlation between music and speech, language, reading, larger vocabularies, and the ability to memorize.

circle-2How to create a Circle Time?

  1. Establish a rhythm. Just like daily rhythm – circle time has a rhythm – breathing in and out moments. Breathing out includes big motor, movement, dance, rhythmic instruments, loud recitation. Breathing in may include the lighting of a candle with a verse, sitting on the floor doing finger plays, and quiet voice recitation. For best results – alternate breathing in and out.
  2. Establish goals and move towards specifics. Start by setting up what you want to memorize (Skip counting by 7s, Months of the Year, Greetings in Spanish.) Then find poems and verse to fit what you want to teach. Then add the detail of movement, rhythm and song that you will teach each with – keeping in mind the alternation of breathing in and breathing out. 
  3. Establish a base. Use two or three verses for the entire year. Change a couple seasonally. Switch 3 or 4 for each new block. The idea is to progress through the learning of new facts, but new facts are learned within a safe, established, comfortable rhythm and verse. – Keep in mind that the 2 or 3 verse you use as your base are more likely to be remember for life, so make them count.
  4. Establish a time frame. Think 20 – 40 minutes for circle time depending on the age of your child and the amount of material you want to recite.

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Let’s not over-intellectualize Circle Time. It is fun! It makes learning fun – and this is a good thing. A 2012 German Study  found that 85% of Waldorf students had a positive attitude towards school and and were enthusiastic about learning. The students in the study reported that school was “fun” and “not boring.” (Jiménez, Fanny “Wissenschaftler loben Waldorfschulen”, Die Welt, 27 September 2012). I know that on the top of my list of “Why I Homeschool” is “To create a love of learning” and “To create lifelong learners.” Circle Time helps do this.

 

 

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So, I may look silly twirling circles with my daughter in my living room – but I’m so glad we do it.

Dragon Circle

Dragons are too much fun to bypass just because we don’t celebrate Michaelmas. So we are starting the New Year with a Dragon Circle theme – and reading about Dragons, and storytelling about Dragons. I for one am looking forward to it.

dragon 6

This is the day

The Lord has made

I will rejoice

And be glad

(Psalm 118:24)

Each week add new motion

1) Stand Still – Move Arms

2) Do 1 + say as March

3) Do 1, 2 + Clap Rhythm

4) DO 1, 2, & 3 + March & Clap together

Dragon 13Fairies are flying,

Elves are skipping,

Dwarfs are dancing,

Giants are tramping,

Hunters are galloping,

Dragons are prancing,

And the children tip-toe

(Follow the Leader by Dorothy Harrer )

dragon 11

I’m tired of being a dragon, (March)

Ferocious and brimming with flame, (Stomp)

The cause of unspeakable terror (Stomp louder)

When anyone mentions my name. (Stomp louder)

I’m bored with my bad reputation (March but drag the beat)

For being a miserable brute, (March lower to ground still dragging)

And being routinely expected (March lower to ground still dragging)

To brazenly pillage and loot. (March – Hands grabbing imaginary things off floor & out in pouch)

I wish that I weren’t repulsive, (Stomp in Place)

Despicable, ruthless, and fierce, (Making Fists – show strong arms)

With talons designed to dismember (Show Claws)

And fangs finely fashioned to pierce. (Show teeth)

I’ve lost my desire for doing (Sigh)

The deeds any dragon should do, (Slump shoulders, shake head)

But since I can’t alter my nature, (Snap to attention – shrug shoulders)

I guess I’ll just terrify you. (Run Around Room Roaring & Tickling)

 (A Dragon’s Lament by Jack Prelutsky)

Dragon 10

Turn around once (whee)

And Swing your dragon tail (wiggle bottom)

Turn around twice (whee, whee)

And flap your wings like sails (flap arms)

Turn around three times (Whee, whee, whee)

Then Stomp your foot and roar (Stomp & Roar)

Jump up high, then sit on the floor. (Jump, sit)

(1,000 Fingerplays & Action Rhymes by Barbara Scott)

dragon 12

 Dragon, dire and dreadful beast

Deep in darkness dwells.

The evil deeds he does and sees

None dare ever tell

(http://thewaldorfconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Waldorf-Academy-Verses-Lesson-8.docx)

Pounding on the floor with hands to rhythm as you chant – 2 or 3 times get faster each time.

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 One little,  Two little. Three little dragons

Four little, Five little, Six little dragons

Seven little , Eight little. Nine little dragons

Ten little dragons roar

Ten little. Nine little. Eight little dragons

Seven little. Six little. Five little dragons

Four little. Three little, Two little dragons

One little dragon snores

Finger play –  counting fingers

Now in Spanish

Uno, dos, tres Drogones

Cuatro, cinco, seis Drogones

Siete. Ocho, nueve Drogones

Diez Drogones rugido

Dies, nueve, ocho Drogones

Siete, Seis, cinco Drogones

Cuatro, tres, does Drogones

Uno Dragon ronca

Count Fingers again

dragon7

 (Act out:)

All curled up in my small little shell

Rolling around in this place which I dwell

Wondering what the world will be

I’m ready to break out – I’m ready to see.

I knock and I scratch, I push and I shove

I hear the shell crack and I see blue sky above

I bust out and shake the dust off from inside

I stretch my bones tall and spread my wings wide

I leap to my feet and breath my first fire

To soar through the air is my greatest desire

(Dragons Coming Out Party by Joyce Pinero – my first attempt at writing a verse)

dragon 5

 Good job my courageous one

Now our circle’s almost done

To be brave you must see

God is always with you and me

(Give child a hug and squeeze)

dragon 14

Jesus, help my eyes to see
All the good Thou sendest me.
Jesus, help my ears to hear
Calls for help from far and near.
Jesus, help my feet to go
In the way that Thou wilt show.
Jesus, help my hands to do
All things loving, kind, and true.
Jesus, may I helpful be,
Growing every day like Thee.

(Little Folded Hands, Prayers for Children) 

Face you child, Hold their hands and say prayer together

Dragon 15

For Storytelling I’ll be telling the tale: The Dragon of Ghent

Read Aloud Book: My Father’s Dragon,