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Circle Time in a Minimally Verbal Classroom #1

This post is full of ideas for creating a language rich circle time in a minimally verbal clasroom.

Circle time is my baby.

When I started my current job in 2002 and had one class of highly-impacted and self-contained students, I knew I wanted to lead the class in some way. Circle became my “thing”.

I now serve three self-contained classes and do circle in each of them. Each classroom’s circle looks somewhat different from the others because of the needs of the students in that room. I will be doing posts about how I serve each classroom.

For this first post, I am detailing a K-1 self-contained classroom of 8 students. Half of the students are non-verbal and half are minimally verbal (echololic or one word utterances). One child is highly verbal and has a strength in language. Two of the students are very active and spend much of circle time throwing items, running away, hitting themselves, or rolling on the ground. One student falls asleep during circle. Another student starts laughing hysterically and cannot contain himself. My circle time is 30 minutes long and I lead it 4 days/week. Every day is a little different and we don’t get through everything every day… but here’s what we try!

The iPad app that I use for my mid-tech circle time communication is called Sounding Board (free), and I have downloaded my own images so they match the ones on the board.

Who is here today


    • Social greetings
    • Name identification
    • Categories
    • Multi-word utterances with support

1. I start circle with a little chant. I find the name/picture of each student and present it to them. They verbally or with the iPad say, “I’m here” and “I am a boy/girl”.

2. The students then put themselves onto the board.





  • Identify and label schedule words
  • Multi-word utterances with support
  • Sequencing

I talk through the morning schedule with the students. Sometimes, I have them picture match (identify) the schedule word on my iPad as well. For breakfast, the verbal students use a sentence strip and a choice of many breakfast items to say “I ate…” We discuss what we did “first”, “then”, “next”, and “last”.


Letter of the week


  • Letter recognition
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Vocabulary
  • Story comprehension

1. Every week (approximately) the class has a new theme letter. In this classroom, they use this letter for phonics instruction, art projects, sensory bin, etc. In circle a student presses my old-school Leap Frog toy (I have 3 of these because I love them!), and sing along with the toy. We then press the alphabet song button and we (aka “I”) sing and sign the alphabet. Although the alphabet toy that I use is no longer sold, (Amazon affiliate link) this looks a good alternative.

2. The letter of the week gets extra fun when I bring out the Alphabet Book of the week. We turn the pages on the iPad for bonus screen fun.

3. The students reach into the mystery bag and pull out items that begin with that letter. For example on “M” week, they pulled out “milk, mad, magnet, meat, etc.”

4. Finally, We discuss the Core Word of the Week and use the file folder activity to practice using the word.




  • Vocabulary
  • Match pictures to words
  • Day of the week

1. I choose one student to determine the weather. Usually, they require maximum prompts. Then I ask them to find that same picture on the iPad for their practice. My highly verbal student is the official “day of the week” helper. We then sing a little song that I created many years ago and the chosen students verbally (or with the iPad)  state the day and weather.

2. The students then use the Seasonal Dress Up File Folder and put the appropriate weather onto the board.

3. A student is then chosen to decide what clothing should be worn that day. The student puts that clothing item “on” the girl or boy.



Song time


  • Participation
  • Categories
  • Basic repetitive sentences

The Alphabet File Folder Song  focuses on the same letter of the week that the class is using for their theme. Each student takes a turn choosing a verse and placing it on the Velcro (note, that even my very low students can participate in this activity). We (usually just me) then sing the song with the accompanying verse. We continue until every student has had a turn.


Greet the teachers


  • Social greetings
  • Receptive and expressive names
  • Multi-word utterances

Sometimes this part of circle gets lumped in with the “Who is here” portion. During this time, the students are shown a picture and asked to  name that teacher. Then all students are encouraged to wave at that teacher and say, “Hi…. How are you?”



Oral Motor Song


  • Imitation
  • Basic concepts
  • Vocabulary

Please no lectures about the efficacy of oral motor exercises. These songs are really just having the kids practice imitation skills. They practice sticking out their tongue, blowing, making raspberries. They also are exposed to basic concepts within the different songs “fast/slow, big/slow”. I made up most of these songs. 😉



Make sure to check out ALL of my circle time posts!

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  1. I love this post. I do a lot of push in therapy to high needs sped rooms. I collaborate with the sped teacher and we usually try to do a theme each week and a different activity. It really is a lot of lesson planning though and I think this is a great idea to use. I would love to see what you do with the older ones because I push in to a fourth grade sped classroom with a wide range of levels as well. Thank you!!

  2. Thank you for the blog!! This almost describes my class to a T. I am a new teacher and have been looking for some teachers with similar student population. My circle time has many of the elements, but I use a Tap IT Board and everyone takes turns coming up and participating.

  3. I am interested in your Oral Motor song! I have a minimally verbal child who had a TBI. She is attempting to verbalize a lot but mostly uses vowels. Her oral motor skills are extremely weak. I have been concentrating on her using her Maestro to communicate, which she does well in structured activities but does not use spontaneously. I think I may focus more on oral motor now that she’s attempting more and motivated and thought a song would be a fun aspect to use. Thanks.

  4. I’m interested in your oral motor song too. Thanks for the ideas for circle time!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I am trying to provide staff who will be teaching my students who use AAC next year, and I think this will blend in well with what they are already doing.

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