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Circle time: New beginnings

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By Jenny Mosleyfounder of the Whole-School Quality Circle Time Consultancy

Deliver the theme of ‘new beginnings’ through fun whole-class circle games

This article was originally written in the context of the SEAL programme (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning), but these circle time activities could be used within PSHE education, or to address specific issues which arise in your classroom.

These three circle meetings are designed to help children settle comfortably into their new classroom with you, their new teacher and focus on building strategies for managing feelings. Don’t forget to establish some ground rules for circle time, so that children know what to expect and feel comfortable expressing themselves in this environment.


Sit the children in a closed, inward-facing circle. Welcome them to their new class and introduce the idea that you are aware that, sometimes, it can feel worrying to be in a new situation. Reassure the group that everyone will soon feel settled, especially if you all work together.

Session 1 Flag it up

Learning objective

I know I can seek support from other people when I feel angry, worried or sad.


Make simple triangular flags from straws and paper. Let the children colour them in.

Meeting up

Ask the children to ‘flag up’ in response to simple statements. For example, Flag up if your name is Polly; if you are wearing socks; if you are a boy, and so on.

Warming up

Go round the group and allow each child to hold up their flag and complete the sentence, I am (name) and my flag is (blue, spotty…).

Opening up

Ask the question, Does anyone have any worries about settling in? Invite the children to Flag up and share their worry with the class. If, after hearing it, a child thinks they can solve the problem, they need to put their flag in the air and complete the sentence, Would it help if…? The person with the worry should then give their honest response, ending with a Thank you.

Make a list of relevant questions, such as If you are feeling upset, what can you do? Then say, Flag up. Children who know the answer can hold up their flag and offer a solution. Work through your list and then encourage the children to share worries of their own.

Cheering up

Chant together:

Kind flag, helpful flag;

Shake it, wave it.

Turn it round and round.

Hold it high up in the air and put it on the ground.

Calming down

Finish the session by telling the children to stand up and wave their arms gently like a flag fluttering in a warm, gentle breeze. Say, Let all your attention go, and slowly let your bodies droop and flop back onto the chair as if the breeze just stopped.

Session 2 Cool cats

Learning objective

I have a range of strategies for managing my worries and other uncomfortable feelings.


Read the story of Puss in Boots before you begin.

Meeting up

Introduce a fluffy toy cat or puppet to the group and get the children to pass it around the circle. Let them stroke it and make cat noises, for example purr, meow, hiss. Ask for their favourite cat stories, where a cat used up one of its nine lucky lives.

Warming up

Pass the cat from child to child while each completes the following sentence, If I were a cat I would enjoy… (having freedom; curling up in a bed; defending my territory, and so on).

Opening up

Talk about how Puss in Boots is victorious because he is a clever, cool cat. Encourage the children to name a few troublesome situations in the school and ask how the ogre in the story would deal with them. Volunteers can act out the ogre’s response. Tell the children to pretend to be cool, clever cats and flag up how they would respond. Ask, Who would you rather be, an ogre or a cool, clever cat?

Cheering up

Join in this rhyme:

We are little kitten cats.

We are cool and clever cats,

Just like me, just like you.

Calming down

Invite everyone to scrunch up their faces like an angry ogre. Then ask them to raise their eyebrows up and down and wiggle their noses vigorously. Finally, get them to relax their faces and gaze at everyone calmly. Tell the group to do this whenever they feel worried or find themselves frowning like an angry ogre. Say, Wiggle your nose and go calm. You’re in charge.

Session 3 A helping paw

Learning objective

I understand that I can only change some things, but with help from others I can put up with the things I cannot change.


Tell the story of Goldilocks before you start – let the children fill in the key phrases by flagging up the answers.

Meeting up

Give each child a toy to hold. Clap your hands and call out the names/titles of two of the toys. The two children holding these toys should swap them with each other. Continue with different toys.

Warming up

Ask each child, in turn, to hold up their toy and complete the sentence, My (train/caterpillar/teddy, and so on) likes… (coal, cabbage, a hug…).

Opening up

Display a cuddly teddy bear and remind the children of how the three bears in Goldilocks liked to have porridge. Then make your bear look miserable and ‘growly’. In a deep voice say, I don’t like my porridge, grrr.

Ask the group to help the bear, by coming up with suggestions for how to tackle the problem. Use the starter, Would it help if… Let the bear say, Thank you to each contributor and then choose a plan from all their answers.

Cheering up

Give the bear a voice. Have him ask, Is there anyone here who is also pleased with themselves because now they can put up with certain things too? Invite the children to flag up their answers.

Calming down

Everyone needs to scrunch up their bodies and pretend to be a bear that hates eating porridge. Then tell the children to stretch out from their toes to their fingertips, because now they should feel strong and open to new ideas.

Further information

For more resources, or for information on the Whole-School Quality Circle Time Consultancy visit


  1. Helen Adcock
    on 31 August 2011

    New beginnings games

    Great ideas. Just what I need for my first day with my Year 1s after 14 years in Key stage 2! Thankyou.