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Circle Time


It's 10:00 AM and all the children have arrived, eaten, and settled in for a day of learning. Susan sets up the chairs for her 13 students in a semicircle at the front of the room. It's time for circle--that time of the day when everyone discusses who's here, who's not, what's for lunch, and what special activities are slated for that day.

Susan starts her hello song on the record player. As she and her assistants (accompanied by the children) sing the song, Susan picks up a blank felt board. She then walks over to the symbol center and grabs a picture communication symbol for "hello," as well as the printed word "hello." She walks around the room shaking children's hands, saying hello, signing hello, and pointing to the "hellos" on the felt board. The children respond by shaking her hand, signing hello and shaking the hands of other children.

Susan moves on to discuss with the children who's here and who's absent. "Can anyone tell me who's absent today?" she asks as she looks around at the empty chairs. "Jenny," yells JR. "That's right," says Susan as she takes Jenny's picture off the people board and places it on the felt board. "Jenny . . ." (she points to Jenny's picture) . . . "is . . . (Susan takes the word "is" off the word board) . . . late." Susan takes the word "late" off the picture board so that on her felt board it now says, "Jenny is late."

Susan holding up communication board and signing.While holding the communication board, Susan signs the word "late" as she says it.

"Where do you think Jenny is?" asks Susan in a teasing tone. "Sleeping," says James by signing "sleep" and speaking it. Susan takes the picture communication symbol for "sleep" off the Things We Do board and replaces late with sleeping. "Jenny is sleeping. She'll be here soon. Do you want to read this sentence James?" Susan brings the felt board close to James and he points to each word as he says, "Jenny is sleeping."

One by one Susan has each child select either their name or their picture with their name from a felt board. Some of the children--like JR, James and Robert--choose their name from among all the children's names and put their names on the People board at the front of the room.

JR choosing his name from the communication board Susan holds.JR chooses his name from among his classmates'.

Mark is a child with severe visual impairments and cerebral palsy who has difficulty discriminating between more than a few objects. To limit the demands of the task, Susan puts Mark's name alongside one other name on the board. Mark chooses his name correctly and places it over his picture.

It's time to discuss what's happening today. "Today is Thursday," Susan reminds the children as she takes the word Thursday and puts it on the felt board. "What happens on Thursday? What special activity do we have?" One of the students yells out, "Library." "Good!" says Susan, "We have library today. Who can help me find things we do at the library?" James raises his hand and Susan calls him to the front of the room. As they stand in front of the Things We Do board, James pulls off picture communication symbols for words like "book" and "read" while Susan discusses his selections with the class. "That's right. We check out books, sometimes Mrs. Smith reads to us." Then James picks the "cry" symbol from the Feelings board. Susan looks puzzled and questions James about crying in the library. He says "sad" to her and she gets it. "Oh! Sometimes the books we read are sad! Yes, that's right, James, sometimes the books we read are sad."

James looking for picture symbol on the communication board Susan holdsJames adds the "library" symbol to the communication board describing Thursday's activities.

JR is the next volunteer. He adds things to the Library board like sitting down and no talking. Each of the children seems to have his or her own idea of what going to the library means. Once the board is full, Susan comes back to the group and moves among the children, going through the symbols one by one. Many of the children say the symbols along with her or sign them as she says them.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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