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Why We Love Group Time

Here I will explain why we love Group Time and Group Snack Time and why it is so important to us.

The advantage of the age we live in is with Facebook, Pinterest and blogs we get to hear about other settings and their philosophies, ethos and views on different aspects of the nursery day. 

I am seeing a growing trend in settings ditching group snack time and moving towards a rolling snack time and also moving away from a group circle time. I will first outline the reasons why settings seems to be moving towards this way of doing things and then I will explain why Busy Bodies does not do it that way. 

Rolling snack time and not doing group time means that we do not impede the creativity or the flow of play. I agree that stopping the children and bringing them all together into the group or at the table for snack does stop their individual flow of play and moves it from child led to adult led. I would also agree that when you give the children the opportunity to choose their own snack time this is very empowering and will promote a wealth of independence. I know all these things but still love group time and group snack time. 

Group time and group snack time is something I have always done. Since my first job as an assistant in a nursery at 16 I was introduced to and involved in group times and snack time. 

My ability to do group time has changed over the last 15 years as I have grown in experience and confidence. I have discovered what has worked and what has not worked, I have changed the time spent during group depending on the group of children infront of me, I now incorporate more visual aids, puppets, etc. Group time is now a big part of our day and for some of the children it seems their favourite part, joining in with the story, singing some songs or telling everyone their news from home.

Most learning in Busy bodies happens at work time (free flow time, whatever you want to call it) as this is when children are involved in their own play and they are in a better place to develop new learning and reinforce current learning. An example of this is 14 years ago we used to do numbers at group time and the children would have a go at identifying numerals and counting to 10. We now understand the benefits of teaching in the moment and introducing numbers or counting whilst playing with the children at an activity of their choosing.  

When I took over as the Manager the staff team and I thought about what we wanted to achieve with group time and how we were going to do it. We found that some group time activities were at a level that was to advance for some of the children and therefore too easy and  boring for some of the children. Other children were at the other end of the scale and couldn’t follow the story, couldn’t join in with the songs, etc and therefore were not included in the group time. This is a real challenge to ensure that the 5 – 8 minute group time is not wasted time for the children in the group. One way to do this is by splitting the group in some way. So the younger children may do a songs/ simple rhymes whilst the older children or more developmentally advanced children may do CVC words and early phonics. This way the content of group time is pitched at a better level for the group of children. 

The other way we have made group time more fun and a big part of our day is made it shorter. We have one group time of around 5 – 8 minutes in the middle of the session and then another small group time before lunch or 3:30. This shorter group times act as a transition to the next part of the daily routine which helps children understand the progress of the day and means we can always link back to the daily routine board to see what is happening next. This shorter, sharper group times suit the younger children who we would not expect to sit in one place for extended periods of time but also work for the older children who can take an active part in the group time or even the lead.  

I love group story time. Sharing a story with a group of children is one of the highlights of my work. Watching them listening to me, excitedly anticipating what may come next and joining in with phrases and actions is a real joy. Listening to stories, enjoying books and being part of a group are all disappearing in this day and age and I think are skills and parts of life that I want the next generation to have or to at least have experienced. 

Other group time strategies include:

Moving the location. Outside is brilliant. Reading Walking Through the Jungle as you walk around the outdoor environment is brilliant fun. 

Puppets and visual aids. Sometimes I will just grab a range of puppets from the puppet box and make up a story as I go. 

Acting out the story with the children as the characters from the story. 

Getting the children to choose the songs or sing the song by themselves infront of the group. 

News time or show and tell. Let the child tell you or show you something that means a lot to them. 

We also do group snack time instead of a rolling snack time. The reasons are very similar in the fact that the advantages to sitting down as a group (children and practitioners) outweighs individuals having their own snack time, in my opinion. Snack time and lunch time and pretty much any time you get a group of children together around a table is a fantastic opportunity for children to build relationships, communicate with eachother and share views and opinions. Some children will learn off other children, some children will help other children, some children will take pride in being the person who is giving out the fruit/ toast /etc and some children will just sit and observe the other children, carefully observing what they are doing and how they are doing it. We are together, celebrating food and friendship and seeing us as more than just a group of individuals but a ‘collective group’. We may have different views on broccoli (I hate it) we may all be different in our own individual ways but we are all here together and that is a special time to celebrate. 

So that is why my setting will continue to do group time and group snack time. I am a big believer in free flow, child centred, child lead time at pre-school and they are key components of my practice and the settings ethos but………

Whilst we are all individuals we are also part of a group and community. Occasionally, we should come out of our own bubbles and try to enjoy being part of a group; sharing time, stories and activities with others. Seeing ourself as part of a group of other individuals with shared interests and activities will support us in building a strong foundation for the future.

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