As my daughter bounces toward me, water bottle in hand, I ask excitedly, “HOW WAS IT?!!!!!! WHAT DID YOU DO?!!”
Usual answers go something like this: “Good. We did beam [or insert last piece of equipment they used].”
That’s it. No more detail. No displays of skills.
We’ve had a version of this “conversation” each and every week.
The thing is, I know they did more in class. The director worked really hard to create a theme and stations focused on specific skills (I know because I helped her). But my daughter wasn’t telling me about what she did. This didn’t match up. So, next week I watched the whole class and figured it out.
The coach missed the critical (but oh-so-simple) part that almost all programs leave out…
The Closing Circle.
What is a Closing Circle?
Closing circle happens at the end of class, where you gather gymnasts in a circle to connect one last time before leaving the gym.
During this time, you chat about what you did that day, focusing the conversation around the ‘focus’ skill and theme. Sometimes, when you’re feeling extra show-y, you can let the gymnasts take turns showing their new skill of the day. After that, the coach gives stamps on the back of gymnasts’ hands, sings a goodbye song, and off to the lobby everyone goes.
Closing circle is a sprint, not a marathon. It lasts about three to four minutes. Short and sweet, but filled with meaningful connection about that day’s gymnastics.
Simple, But Powerful Impact
“How was it and what did you do?” are the first thing every parent asks their preschooler as they finish class.
But, what they’re really asking is:
Did you have fun?
Are you progressing?
Did I get the value I was promised for the money I’m paying?
Parents want to make sure their child is loving class, their child is progressing, and they are getting the value that was promised. They want to hear the skills their gymnasts are learning, as well as watch their child giggle, gain confidence, and work hard during class.
Most times, young children list the last thing they did in class because it is the one they can remember the best. Closing circle helps the gymnasts reflect and recall the most important skills from the class, not just the most recent.
The purpose of a closing circle is to help your young gymnasts synthesize their learning. This means, taking allllllll the stuff your gymnasts have learned that day, and helping them make sense of it all. It’s a little bit of reflection, and a little bit of reinforcement of new skills.
It is a challenge for gymnasts to think about all of the things they did, let their brain process all of that information, choose one thing, then have the high level language skills to talk about it with their parent. It’s our job to help kids with this process. If you think about your class like a craft project, the closing circle is making the glue dry and set, getting all the little pieces to stick together and make sense.
The closing circle allows gymnasts to remember the focus skill, practice it one more time, recall the language that goes along with that skill, then share it with their parent in a meaningful way
Remember, typical kids are learning brand new words and movements when they come into the gym. They don’t hear the words “handstand” or “releve” in their daily lives, so it is important for coaches to support them while they acquire their new bank of vocabulary words and large motor movements from the gym. Repetition and synthesis are key.
In Closing (ha!)…
Closing circle is actually my favorite part of class. I love watching how, in a short time, gymnasts can go from not knowing how to do a certain skill in opening circle, to totally nailing the skill during closing circle! This time also allows me to make sure each child knows more gymnastics than when they walked into class. The pride each child has during our circle time is priceless.
Once my daughter’s coach implemented closing circle, I started getting more meaningful answers after class. Last week, when I asked what she did, my daughter smiled and said, “We did flamingo kicks like this [insert cutie doing amazing flamingo kicks with pointed toes and a huge smile on her face].”
That reaction is worth every penny.