Tips for Teaching Carpet Time Expectations


Whether you call it carpet time or circle time, gathering young students for learning while seated on the carpet can pose some behavior challenges.  In order to make the most of this learning time, it’s important to teach students about the carpet time expectations.  When students understand how and why they are expected to behave at the carpet, they are more likely to exhibit these behaviors. Keep reading to find six helpful tips for teaching carpet time expectations to young learners.

Carpet time Expectations

6 Tips for Teaching Carpet Time Expectations

1. Practice Carpet Time Voice Levels

Some students come to kindergarten having never been in a school situation before.  When we think about teaching students about classroom voice level, we often think that it’s to keep students from using loud voices all of the time.  However, voice level charts are also helpful for students who tend to use whisper voices when speaking up in class. 

Teaching students about classroom voice level options is more than just putting a poster on the wall. Students need to be given the chance to experience how each voice level feels and sounds. The best way to do this is to practice each voice level together as a class.

Listening chart and individual voice level posters

2. Teach Students to Show They Are Listening

The next carpet time expectation that is important to teach students is how to show they are listening.  The five things that I like to encourage students to practice are:

  • My brain is thinking.
  • My eyes are watching.
  • My ears are listening.
  • My mouth is quiet.
  • I sit on the floor.

Do I expect every student to exhibit all five of these listening indicators all of the time?  No, but it’s good for students to learn that these are good ways to show that they are listening at carpet time.

3. Provide Multiple Options for Sitting at the Carpet

It is very helpful to provide different options for sitting at the carpet for circle time, since students develop their gross motor skills at different rates. You might have students in your classroom who are just not physically able to sit with their legs crossed for extended periods of time.

Five small posters with children demonstrated sitting positions

I like to give students five different options for sitting at the carpet. These options keep students’ legs, feet, and hands occupied so they are less likely to bother the classmates around them.

  • Pretzel: This is your traditional “Criss Cross Applesauce” with legs crossed and hands in the lap.
  • Pineapple:  Students sit with their legs and feet under them, hands on knees.  If students choose this option, it’s a good idea to let them sit at the back of the carpet so they don’t block other students.
  • Puzzle:  Sit with legs bent to the side and hands in the lap.  Some teachers might refer to this as “Mermaid” sitting.
  • Pirate: Students can hold one leg with the other leg bent underneath.  This one-legged sit often reminds students of a peg-legged pirate.
  • Peak:  Inspired by a mountain peak, students bend both knees and hug them.

Having multiple options for sitting at the carpet makes it simple to redirect when students are having trouble sitting appropriately at circle time.  You can remind them of the specific options for sitting and ask them to choose one, rather than giving a general request to sit up straight.

4. Use Visuals for Carpet Time Expectations

After explicitly teaching carpet expectations, it’s important to revisit these expectations often as students learn how to behave appropriately during this time. As you know, one of my favorite ways to revisit expectations is through the use of visual supports.  

By having visuals for speaking, listening, and sitting, students can be quickly reminded of the expected behavior for carpet time. I have found that it’s helpful to use visuals with pictures of actual children rather than clipart.  It makes it easier for students to see themselves in the photo example and allows them to recreate the expectation in the visual.

A bulletin board with visual supports  labeled "Our Carpet Expectations"

5. Encourage Class Community

Carpet time is one of the parts of the day when your class is physically at its closest.  This can become a time when students are easily annoyed and distracted by each other or it can be a time when they come together to learn and grow. By setting the tone for a positive carpet time experience, it is more likely that this will be a time to build classroom community.

Remind students that they should show they are listening whether it is the teacher speaking to the group or one of their classmates.  Encourage them to use the appropriate voice level when doing turn-and-talk so that other students can still hear their partners.  Remind students that the way they sit on the carpet can impact the people around them.  All of these carpet expectations can help young students see that they are part of a community and that their choices can impact others.

6. Reward Positive Behavior

Another way that I love to encourage classroom community is by working together toward a common goal.  My whole class build-a-reward system is a great option for rewarding positive behavior at carpet time.  As students are learning the expectations, it’s helpful to identify a common goal that the class can work towards each time they come to the carpet.  As they meet this goal, they can earn a piece of the behavior reward.  This simple reward can go a long way in supporting positive behavior at carpet time.

Carpet Time Visual Supports

Would you like to get a closer look at using the carpet time visual supports that I mentioned in this post?  Check out this video where I talk more about them.

Carpet Time Expectations – Printable Resources

The carpet time visual supports that I mentioned above can be found in a Carpet and Classroom Expectations bundle. These visual supports will help all of the students in your classroom as they work toward meeting your expectations for carpet time. If you’d like to take a closer look at what is included in the bundle, you can find it in my Teaching Exceptional Kinders shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Expectations Posters - Classroom Management Visuals

Save These Carpet Time Tips for Later

If you’re short on time, be sure to add this pin to your favorite teaching tips board on Pinterest.  You’ll be able to quickly find these carpet time tips and resources whenever you’re ready to download and print.

Tips for teaching carpet time expectations, with a bulletin board of visual supports.


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