Sunday, May 11, 2008

Circle Time Activities in the Montessori Classroom

NAMC montessori circle time activities

In the Montessori Classroom, the day begins with morning circle. This is a time for the classroom community to come together and to greet one another. It's also a time where the teacher might review concepts such as calendar, time, and weather or introduce a new work or group lesson. Often, songs are sung, poems are recited, or bodies become aware with creative movement exercises such as yoga or tai chi.

Experienced Montessori teachers have their morning circle routine planned for the day and committed to memory. For the new Montessori teacher, it's easy to ask "What do I do?" Here are a few excellent suggestions for ideas for circle time.

Some Ideas for Circle Time Activities in the Montessori Classroom

Circle Time Guidelines

  • Involve children in circle time by encouraging participation.
  • Use a familiar word or phrase to alert the children that it's time for circle. This year, I use "Good morning, my friends. Will you please join me for circle?"
  • Preschool aged children enjoy singing the “clean-up” song. I start singing softly and the children join in as the song continues. At the same time, they start putting their work away.

Here are some ideas of clean up songs you can use:

This Is The Way...

This is the way we tidy the room, tidy the room, tidy the room,
This is the way we tidy the room
To make it nice and neat
This is the way we sweep the floor, sweep the floor, sweep the floor,
This is the way we sweep the floor
To make our classroom neat, etc.

You can continue adding verses for as long as you like: roll the mats, wash the tables, tidy the shelves etc.

Time To Put Our Work Away

(Tune of: London Bridge is Falling Down)

It's time to put our work away, work away, work away
It's time to put our work away and sit down very quietly
It's time to tidy up the shelves, up the shelves, up the shelves,
It's time to tidy up the shelves
And sit down very quietly
It's time to roll up all the mats, all the mats, all the mats
It's time to roll up all the mats
And sit down very quietly, etc.

It works best to choose a well known nursery rhyme or simple song that most children know and then make up the words accordingly to suit a Montessori classroom.

  • Hold circle time in the same place each day. (Unless it's a special occasion, such as gathering with the rest of the school around the school flag pole.)
  • Keep it positive! You want the children to enjoy and look forward to circle time.
  • Have clear guidelines and expectations of behavior during circle time.

Circle Time Role Playing

Sometimes, the best way to get the point across to children is to role play a specific situation. If, for example, you have an issue in your Montessori classroom where the children are not including certain children during play time, you may want to role play the situation. Then, go around the circle and allow each child to voice an idea on how to solve the problem. If there is a disagreement, make sure that both sides are heard and then ask what should have happened or what else they could do.

You might also choose to read a story about an issue that's happening in the classroom. The Berenstein Bears books are excellent for teaching conflict resolution. Read the story and stop when the conflict climaxes. Ask the children what they would do and how the problem might be solved. Finish reading the book to see what happens.

Non-competitive Games

Games in the Montessori school should be non-competitive and all inclusive. In the game "When the Warm Wind Blows" the children play a non-competitive game of musical chairs while helping the children get to know each other, learn sportsmanship and resolve conflicts, such as the problem of two children reaching the same chair at the same time.

Have the children form a circle with their chairs. The game leader removes his/her chair and stands in the middle of the circle. The leader must think of something that many in the group have in common and say something along the lines of "If you like playing on the swings/ chocolate ice cream/ the color blue…change chairs when the warm wind blows."

Everyone who likes that item, including the leader, gets up and finds a new chair. The one left standing is the new leader and moves to the center of the circle to continue the game.

Group Lessons

The next two examples are ideas you can use to reinforce a topic that's being taught in the Montessori curriculum. These two examples demonstrate activities you can do when discussing the Work of Air. (from The Giant Encyclopedia of Circle Time and Group Activities for Children 3-6: Over 600 Favorite Circle Time Activities Created for Teachers by Teachers, edited by Kathy Charner, copyright 1996)

Air Bag

(or discovering that air takes up space) (ages 3+)

    NAMC Montessori circle time activities paper bag
  • You will need a small paper bag for each child and the teacher.
  • Show the children a small paper bag and say "I'm going to put something in this bag."
  • Hold the bag up to your mouth and blow air into it.
  • Ask the children to guess what's in the bag. (Some children will guess right away and others it may take a few guesses or more time to think).
  • NAMC Montessori circle time activities popped paper bag
  • Ask the children to hold their hands over their ears and then pop the balloon.
  • When "air" is guessed, ask the children if they'd like to fill a bag full of air and hand each child a small paper bag.
  • Let the children "pop" their bags. (Encourage recycling with the "popped" bags).

Feather Races

(Ages 3+)

  • You will need: tissues, feathers, masking tape.
  • Show the children that air moves things by holding a tissue in front of your face and blowing on it.
  • Ask them what happens.
  • Put a feather on the palm of your hand and blow on it.
  • Again, ask the children what the observe happening.
  • Give each child a feather and encourage them to experiment with how air moves things.
  • Ask the children to pick a partner to with whom to have feather races, where each child tries to blow their feather across a line of making tape.
  • Afterwards, write a group story about the feather races.
  • Older children can brainstorm and experiment to see what other classroom objects can be blown across the room. Create a chart of things which can and cannot be blown across the room.

Circle time isn't just for attendance. Sometimes, when the work cycle becomes disrupted, I will gather the children to circle to "re-center" ourselves. Circle time is a place to regroup and reconnect. Some of my students have even said that circle time is their favorite time of the day. Circle Time activities are outlined in NAMC’s 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori Classroom Guides.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Sunday, May 11, 2008.


  1. This was really informative and very helpful, thank you so much.

  2. Iman,

    Thank you so much for your kind comments. Have you done anything in Circle Time that your children have really enjoyed?

  3. I am a student teacher, but I am lucky enough that the head teacher encourages me to take her place whenever I need to. I noticed that the kids LOVE singing in the circle, and there isn't a children's song that I don't know, being a mother of three. So I try to sing a different song each time. Yesterday was "ring around the rosie". Then we opened the circle wide and I invited each of them, one by one to sit in their usual place. Also, the kids love stretching and the head teacher did that with them. I would love to gather more ideas for the circle time since my main idea is singing. I also sing songs that I make up on the spot with their names within. They absolutely enjoy that.

  4. What if a child doesn't want to come to circle time? What if they have something else that they would rather do? I thought Montessori was about developing independence in the young child, and freedom to choose. How can you tell which children are actually interested in or listening to what you are talking about? Do they just come to 'circle time' because that is what is expected?

  5. What an excellent question! Children are invited to come to circle, should be free to decline to come, just as they may decline a lesson. I don't believe in forcing or enticing a child to stop their work to come to a group lesson or circle. The children who wish to come may come, and those who wish to continue working may do so, as long as they are working and concentrating, and not disturbing others. You can gauge the interest of children by their behavior. If they are concentrating and participating, then all is well. If they begin to lose concentration and fidget, then it is time to wrap up and dismiss them to go back to work, or out to play.


Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!