Alphabet Review
Build word skills with an alphabetical review of books, field trips, classmates, classroom activities, routines, or any other subject. After choosing a topic for review, name one letter of the alphabet at a time (or display the letter in print). Invite volunteers to describe the topic using words or phrases that begin with that letter. Write responses on chart paper. Afterward, review the list with children to look for unfamiliar words, synonyms, antonyms, similes, metaphors, and other interesting words or phrases to further discuss or explore.

Sense-ational Vocabulary
Inject vocabulary and expressive language skills into your circle time routine with this quick exercise. Display an object or picture that is related to a topic being studied and can be used to elicit sensory descriptions. Then name each of the five senses, one at a time. Ask children to use words and phrases related to that sense to describe the item (if using a picture, have them imagine the real thing). For example, for the sense of hearing, they might describe an elephant with phrases such as “has a voice like a trumpet,” “makes the ground thunder when it runs,” and “swishes tail softly.” Record responses on chart paper and post in a writing center to inspire the use of sensory descriptions in children’s writing.

Growing Minds
Here’s a way to invite discussion about topics that are on your students’ minds. Display a large tree cutout with the title “What’s Growing in Our Minds?” Place a supply of pencils and sticky notes nearby (you might use tree-related paper shapes such as leaves, apples, or acorns). Invite children to write questions or statements about topics that interest them, such as a question about a book you’ve recently shared, a weather fact they’ve learned, or ways to work towards resolving a conflict. Then, have them post their notes on the tree. During circle time, discuss a few of the posted notes with the class.

Calendar Calculations
Use this year-round calendar activity to sharpen math skills. Post a large, 12-month wall calendar (available at office supply stores). Label birthday-cake notepad pages with each child’s name and birthday, display the pages around the calendar, and use yarn to connect each one to its corresponding date on the calendar. During circle time, invite a few children to find their birthday on the 12-month calendar and compute how many months or days away that date is from the current date—or another date on the calendar that marks a special day or event, such as a field trip. (Keep paper and pencil handy for children who have difficulty using mental math to figure out their answer.)

Punctuating Routines
Provide punctuation practice during circle time by writing a related sentence on chart paper, leaving off the end punctuation (example: “Everyone is here today” or “Will the clouds bring rain”). Together, decide what type of sentence is represented—a statement, question, command, or exclamation—and whether it might carry a sense of emotion, such as excitement, surprise, or fear. Identify the punctuation that best completes the sentence, add that mark to the end, and read the sentence aloud. Point out to children how the expression in their voice helps reflect the punctuation of the sentence. Over time, introduce a variety of sentences and punctuation. Or use different punctuation with the same sentence to help children understand how punctuation affects meaning.

Get the Scoop on Students!
This getting-to-know-you idea can be used throughout the year. Write “Scoop of the Day!” across the top of a posterboard. Create sections to resemble a newspaper page, and label each with a heading such as “What’s New With _________?” “_________ Meets _________ Goal!” “My Book Review on _______.” Make up generic headings that children can complete with their names, interests, and accomplishments (example: “Jamal Meets Addition Facts Goal!”). Laminate the poster and let children use it to introduce themselves. They can complete the headings, write or illustrate their “news” in the different sections, and then share the paper during circle time. —Mackie Rhodes