September is a time when many children head back to school. Here’s a great song to start off the school year with your preschool or kindergarten class.

This is an original song, therefore, remember to mention S. J. Little anytime you write down or record this song.

We Get To Go To School

Song by: S. J. Little

Tune similar to: If You’re Happy and You Know It

 

We get to go to school, hip, hip, hooray! Hooray

We get to go to school, hip, hip, hooray! Hooray

We get to go to school and that is very cool.

We get to go to school, hip, hip, hooray! Hooray

 

To help you out, here is a quick audio recording of the song.

Other verses:

We can make friends at school, hip, hip, hooray!

Alternatively, consider using this song as your welcome-to-school hello song. To do so, change up the words to say, “It’s time to go to school, hip, hip, hooray!”

 

I hope you enjoy this song and I wish you all the best as you start the new school year. Don’t forget to smile and have fun.

 

What is a Transition?

In the preschool and childcare world, a transition is any time children are switching between activities. This could include moving from the classroom to a gym space or the bathroom. It could also include changing from free play to circle time or snack time. Arrival and departure times are transitions as well.

These parts of the schedule are often difficult for young children because they have to leave something they are enjoying (such as free play) or they have to wait. Waiting is hard. It is a skill for young children to learn.

So how can we make transitions smoother? Check out the tips below.

1. Give a Warning

Two minutes before you need to transition, briefly get everyone’s attention to let them know that they have only two minutes left in the current activity.

Typically this can be done for the group as a whole, but some children need to be individually told. Get down on their level, touch their hand. Make sure they’re listening when you tell them.

2. Explain What’s Next

Children don’t want to leave the fun thing they are doing, therefore, give them something to look forward to. Briefly tell them what’s next. If the next activity is not one they enjoy, mention the following thing as well. For example, “First we will go to the bathroom, then it’s gym time.”

3. Praise Good Behaviour

What can we adults do to help transitions go smoother? Do you see a child doing what you want? Let them know with a quick high five and a “Good job.”

At times we get so caught up redirecting undesired behaviour that we forget to praise the good behaviour. Not only does this lead to the children not knowing what you want them to be doing, but it also can result in even more undesired behaviour. Why? Because children need attention. When they aren’t getting attention for good behaviour, they begin to mimic the undesired behaviour because that is what gets them the attention they crave.

Sometimes, though not always, ignoring undesired behaviour while praising desired behaviour can work wonders in making transitions smoother.

4. Sing a Transition Song

Preschool age children tend to respond well to songs. Using a song to let them know it is time to transition rather than simply telling them is a long standing strategy that works.

The classic example of this is the Cleanup Song.

Other transition specific songs can include:

  • Line up songs
  • Stand up songs
  • Sit down songs

5. Sing General Preschool Songs

If your transition includes waiting or lining up and walking to a different room, singing regular preschool songs can be a huge help in keeping the children focused and in line.

These songs could include:

6. Assign a Job

Some children respond well to responsibility. It makes them feel important. Therefore, give them a task to do.

When walking in a line-up, tasks could include:

  • Leader of the line
  • Caboose of the line (their job is to make sure no one gets left behind)
  • Hold a younger child’s hand
  • Carry something for you

When cleaning up, tasks could include:

  • Look around for any pieces of toy food that need to go back to the kitchen
  • Hold the bucket so the other children can put toys in
  • Clean up a certain area of the room

7. Play a Game

When waiting, simple games can help everyone have a better day, even the teachers. Some of these can be done while walking as well.

Try one of these games:

  • I spy
  • Find the Body Parts (pat your head, etc.)
  • Pretend to be… (can you walk like a giraffe?)
  • Stretch (copy me while I touch my toes)

8. Smile

As you are transitioning, don’t forget to smile. If you are uptight and irritable, the children will sense it. If you are smiling, everyone will enjoy the experience better.

I hope these eight tips help make your transitions smoother. What are your favourite transition strategies for preschoolers, toddlers, or other young children?

Need more help with clean-up time? Check out the article: 3 Clean-up Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers

 

Are you teaching about community helpers, such as mechanics, or is your theme transportation? Is your child simply excited about cars? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’ll want to check out the preschool fingerplay below.

The Three Little Blue Cars fingerplay promotes learning to count to three, problem-solving, and builds vocabulary.

Three Little Blue Cars

Original words by S. J. Little

Tune/rhythm: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

 

Three little blue cars driving down the road,

One popped a tire and could not go.

“Oh no!” said the driver. “What shall we do?”

“Call the mechanic to make you good as new.”

 

Two little blue cars driving down the road,

One hit a big tree and crushed his bumper.

“Oh no!” said the driver. “What shall we do?”

“Call the mechanic to make you good as new.”

 

One little blue car driving down the road,

He blew his engine and smoke billowed out.

“Oh no!” said the driver. “What shall we do?”

“Call the mechanic to make you good as new.”

This fingerplay lends itself well to visuals. Therefore, I put together a free printout for you. I recommend either printing it on blue paper or colouring the cars blue after you have printed them out.

Three Blue Cars Visual – Free Download

 

Have fun sharing this fingerplay with your little one!

Interested in more preschool transportation songs?

Take a look at the 9-1-1 Song, and the Taxi Song.

Toy planets behind title: 2 Educational Space Songs

 

I don’t know why it is, but I’ve had countless 2-4 year olds in my class who are fascinated by space. Whether we’re talking about planets or spaceships or stars, they love it!

While they do not fully grasp the concepts of the planets being in space and that we live on earth, they still enjoy learning the names and order of the planets and which one is ours. I would encourage you to find a poster or props that show all the planets in order.

To help you teach some of the basic realities of space, here are two simple and educational space songs to sing with your youngster who is intrigued by space.

The Planets Spin Around the Sun

Original song by S. J. Little

Tune: The Wheels on the Bus

 

The planets spin around the sun,

Around the sun,

Around the sun,

The planets spin around the sun,

We live on earth.

 

The sun is found in the middle,

In the middle,

In the middle,

The sun is found in the middle,

It keeps us warm.

Actions:

Planets spin around the sun – hold one hand in a fist to represent the sun. Move the other hand in a curricular motion around the sun to symbolize the planets.

We live on earth – point to yourself

Sun is found in the middle – hold the same hand in a fist as with the first verse, but this time point to that hand with your free hand.

It keeps us warm – hugging yourself, rub your shoulders as though trying to warm up.

Names of the Planets

Song words adapted by S. J. Little, original author unknown

Tune: 10 Little Indians

 

Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars,

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

All the planets out in space,

Spinning ’round the sun.

Actions:

If you have a poster or props of the planets, point to each planet as you name it.

All the planets out in space – motion broadly toward the sky

Spinning ’round the sun – hold one hand in a fist to represent the sun. Move the other hand in a curricular motion around the sun to symbolize the planets (same as with the first song).

 

I hope you enjoy these simple space songs for preschoolers. If you’re looking for more unique and easy preschool songs, click here.

Preschool child at circle time

 

How do preschool teachers do it? How do they keep a group of 2-4 year olds listening and engaged at circle time?

If you’ve ever asked these questions, then you are in the right place. As a preschool teacher for over 9 years, here are some of the tricks I use for keeping preschoolers engaged at circle time.

1. Routine

Young children do better when they know what to expect. Having a regular routine helps children feel secure and confident. Building a routine for your day as well as a routine for your circle time will help this. It doesn’t need to be precisely to the minute. Focus more on the order of events. For example, nap time always follows lunchtime, or we always start our morning with five minutes of circle time and then it’s craft time.

  • Tips for building routine:
    • Think about when your children will have high or low energy. For some children, doing a high-energy activity immediately followed by a quieter sitting activity can help improve focus.
    • Use transition songs:
      • For sitting down (after standing songs or activities during circle time)
      • For the beginning and end of circle time
      • For clean-up time
      • For transitions to or from regular activities such as nap time

2. Change It Up

Once you’ve established a regular routine, consider changing minor elements of that routine to add variety. Children are naturally curious and desire to explore. Adding variety within routine helps keep preschoolers engaged and attentive. Try to balance and interchange new and challenging with familiar and comfortable.

  • You could do this by:
    • Always beginning your circle time with the same hello song, but then change up the next song every few days to keep it new and engaging.
    • If you teach about a letter every day, introduce it the same way each time, but then use a variety of ways to teach it. Here are some of the ways I like teaching the ABCs: Teaching the ABCs at Circle Time.
    • Introducing new songs. Children who attend several days a week can sing the same song every day for a few days, but then benefit from something new. Depending on your class and the time of year (children get wiggly in spring), you may find it helpful to introduce new songs more or less frequently. After a week or two, you can sprinkle in older songs every so often.
    • Using a fun theme, such as one listed in this article: Exciting Preschool Themes, can help you find inspiration for new songs, crafts, activities, and stories. Once you’ve decided what your theme is, try searching Pinterest or Google for great ideas that go with your theme.
    • Find new picture books to read with your class. Your local library can help with this. I like to search for books based on the fun theme I’m using. With my two or three year old class, I might occasionally re-read a book at circle time. With a four or five year old class, I almost never re-read a book since new books tend to capture their attention better. (Yes, that means I am regularly visiting the library and returning with armloads of picture books.)
    • Tweak familiar games, activities, or crafts by changing the theme. This could be as simple as finger painting on an apple-shaped piece of paper rather than a regular paper. As for games, here is a simple game that can easily be adapted to various themes: 4 Sides.

3. Interaction: It Shouldn’t Just Be The Teacher Talking

Try to add interactive elements to your circle time so that your preschoolers can actively participate.

  • Interactive elements could include:
    • Singing action songs. These songs provide a level of interaction to circle time but don’t stop there.
    • Asking questions. Ideally, ask questions that every child gets an opportunity to answer. With a large group, open-ended questions may take far too long to allow the children to answer. Instead, for example, when your theme is pets, try asking each child a simple question such as, “What is your favourite type of pet?”
    • Encouraging participation. Watch how you react when a child attempts to add a comment or answers a question with the wrong answer. Your tone of voice and body language will tell the whole class whether their participation and attempts to answer even when they don’t know the correct answer are welcomed or not.
    • Using visuals. Including an activity with visuals the children can hold and touch helps keep them interested at circle time.
      • Matching – Make some matching visuals, such as my free Zoo Animal Skin Matching set. Secure one of each match on the wall or bulletin board. With the matching visuals, invite each child to come up one at a time. Hand them a visual and have them match it to the visual on the wall. Be sure that you have enough visuals for each child to have a turn. If you don’t, consider reusing some of the matches until every child has had a turn.
      • Sorting – Similar to “matching” above, have some visuals the children can hold and a background to sort them on. Invite them to come to the front one at a time. Give them a visual and encourage them to place it on the appropriate part of the background. This can work well for sorting colours, or dividing vehicles into land, air, and water vehicles.
      • Singing – I have a set of Old McDonald puppets I made from colouring pages. On days when I have enough time for every child to have a turn, I invite one child at a time to come stand with me at the front and choose one animal. They get to hold the animal while we sing that verse and then return to their spot on the carpet.

4. Keep It Short

When beginning a circle time routine, start short. Only do circle time for a few minutes at a time the first few days. Gradually, as the children get used to having circle time, you will be able to make it longer. However, be careful not to go too long. Otherwise the children will begin losing interest and you’ll have a harder time keeping them engaged.

  • A good rule of thumb is that a child will have as much attention span as their age. For example, a 3 year old will likely be able to pay attention for 3 minutes. Therefore, for 3 year olds, keep the pace of circle time fast. Don’t spend more than 3 minutes on each song, story, or most activities.

5. Alternate Between Quiet Listening, Singing While Sitting, and Standing With Big Actions

Especially if you have a wiggly class, finding excuses to have the children stand up or do full-body actions will help them be able to sit attentively for other parts of circle time. Using transition songs can be helpful when it is time to sit back down.

  • Ways to get your children standing up include:
    • Stand-up songs, such as this one: The Flamingo Song.
    • Rather than simply counting something, such as the days on the calendar, invite the children to stand up and stomp the number you are counting – one stomp for each number you say.
    • Do stretches.

6. Pay Attention: Are Your Preschoolers Engaged or Distracted or Bored?

Your children will give you cues. Each day, take time to reflect on how circle time went and how you might be able to improve it next time.

  • Are you struggling to get the children to stay sitting? You might need to find something new and exciting for circle time. Alternatively, if it is the younger children who aren’t engaged, you may need to find something simpler and more interactive for circle time.
  • Are your children goofing off when you read a book? Perhaps it’s time for a shorter and more engaging book such as one of these: 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books or try one of the methods in my article about Ways to Engage Preschoolers with Stories.
  • If there is another adult in the room, reflect with them on which part of circle time you seem to be losing the children’s attention. Sometimes an adult watching from the back of the room will be able to pick up on signals you might not be able to see while you are leading circle time.

7. Be Engaged

  • If you (and any other adults in the room) are interested in circle time, your children are far more likely to be interested and engaged as well.
  • Make eye contact with the children while you lead circle time.

8. Pick Your Battles

Choose carefully which behaviours you allow or disallow during circle time, especially when you are the teacher leading circle time. Every time you interrupt what you are teaching to correct a child’s behaviour, you are in danger of losing the attention of the other children.

  • Do your children really need to sit cross-legged at circle time? In some situations, yes, but in other situations, allowing them to sit with their legs stretched out in front may be just fine.
  • Is a child speaking out of turn? Glance around to see if they are distracting the other children. If not, you may be able to ignore their comments for the time being.

Mastering the art of keeping preschoolers engaged and listening at circle time is a skill that takes time to be learned. Even a teacher, who has led successful and engaging circle times for years, may find him or herself needing to step back and re-evaluate when a new class isn’t responding as expected.

So what is my final piece of advice? Take time to pause and reflect about how circle time went each day and try to think of one thing you could improve the next time around. In this way, you will develop the skill of keeping preschoolers engaged during circle time.

Need help choosing which type of seating to use for your circle time? Read 5 Types of Storytime Seating

Looking to create your own curriculum? Here’s a great place to start: Create Your Own Preschool Curriculum for Free