Kindergarten is fun!
Kindergarten is a fun and exciting year. If you’ve never taught kindergarten before or if you’d like to learn some new tips and tricks, keep reading! Kindergarten is a wonderful age of learning, exploring, and enormous growth. Just like any other grade, kindergarten has its challenges. A few years ago, I was unexpectedly transferred to kindergarten. I was so nervous and I had no idea what to expect. The only experience I had in teaching was in the upper grades. I thought kindergarten was scary. How in the world do you keep 25, five your olds busy all day, let alone engaged?! I want to share with you the ten things that I wish I had known when I started teaching kindergarten.
#1 – Have every procedure thought out
Ok, I know this sounds like overkill, but trust me, you’ll thank me later. Most kindergarteners have never been in a school setting. Some of them might have gone to preschool, but the structure of kindergarten is much different. Have every procedure you can think of thought out exactly the way you would like your students to do it. You might get lucky and have a few students who have older siblings and know how to “do school”, but for the most part, you’ll need to teach them everything, like how to color in the lines, how to use scissors correctly, how to use a pencil, how to properly use a glue stick. The list goes on. Here is a great, free list of classroom procedures and routines.
#2 – Now that you have procedures, it’s time to have a routine
Kindergarteners need structure and predictability. If you don’t have those two things, you might as well practice herding cats, because that is what your classroom will feel like. My daily routine looks like this:
- 9:00 – Morning calendar
- 9:30 – ELA/Centers/Guided Reading
- 11:30 – Lunch
- 12:15 – Whole group math
- 1:00 – Math centers
- 1:30 – Recess
- 2:00 – Writing
- 3:00 – Done for the day
Our specials (music, PE, Computers, Art) differ from day to day, but the students eventually pick up when the specials are. Students know what’s coming next and they can mentally prepare for it. Of course, you have some flexibility, but try to stick to a day to day schedule.
#3 – Be Organized
In kindergarten, we don’t grade papers, but we do a lot of assessments. I have a 4″ binder with a tab for each student and their assessments for the year. You need to have a system for all those assessments and other forms of student data, like observations and standardized tests. You should also think about how you’ll organize guided reading groups, centers, and other resources.
#4 – Behavior management
This is a big one. You must have at least two strong behavior management systems in place. I say two because you should have one to fall back on. Not all students are going to respond positively to the same incentives. In my classroom, I use Class Dojo. I love this tool, my parents love this tool, and most importantly, my students love this tool. Students can earn points for following classroom rules, being kind to others, or whatever else you want to add. You can also take points away, which is optional. My favorite part about this tool is that you can communicate with parents directly. This is by far my strongest tool for communicating with parents. Best part, it’s free! I also use a team point system. Table teams can earn points when they are working cooperatively. Winning teams get a prize at the end of the week.
#5 – Build a community
Kindergarteners are a special group. They’re still at an age where they aren’t embarrassed by their parents and miss them all day long (most of them). As teachers, we are in loco parentis, in the place of a parent. It’s important for us to show our students how much we love and care about them. We also want our students to love and care for each other. When we build a community in our classroom, students are more willing to participate in discussions and share their thoughts and ideas. In my classroom, we do a morning meeting. There are four parts to a morning meeting. The Responsive Classroom has tons of wonderful ideas for morning meetings.
- Greeting. Every student greets one another by name. There are tons of fun ways to do this.
- Sharing. Students share something about themselves and others actively listen. Other students can ask questions and show interest as well. You can determine what they share each day or leave it open.
- Group activity. Make it fun and interesting. It can be academic or not. Regardless of what game it is, students are building connections and relationships.
- Morning message. Give students a message to help them get their day started on the right foot. Make it interactive.
#6 – Know your standards
Find out what your state standards are and study them. Your standards will tell you exactly what you should be teaching and what your students are expected to know when they leave your classroom. The better you know your standards, the easier it’ll be to filter through lessons. When you know your standards, you’ll be able to plan better.
#7 – Communicate with parents often
Just like kindergarteners are nervous to leave their parents, their parents are nervous to leave them. As a parent of a kindergartener, I know how hard it is to leave your 5-year-old all day, even though I’m right down the hall from her. : ) Send notes home, make phone calls, send emails, or use Class Dojo. However you do it, let them know you’re available and you care about their child. I use Class Dojo every day in my classroom. I post videos or pictures to show parents what we are doing. Don’t stop your lesson and take a group selfie, but if you’re teaching something fun, send parents a quick note about what’s going on in your classroom. They will totally appreciate it.
#8 – Be patient
It’s important to remind yourself that kindergarteners are only five or six years old. They’re babies. It will take time for them to learn all of your procedures and routines. Don’t get frustrated, just keep practicing.
#9 – Do lots of hands-on activities
Kindergarteners don’t need a lot of worksheets, they learn through using their hands. Incorporate hands-on learning as often as you can.
#10 – Sing songs and have fun!
Kindergarteners love songs! You will capture their attention and they’ll be engaged. Makeup songs. Seriously, you can make up a song for anything and they’ll love it. If you’re not much of a singer, don’t worry, you can use songs from Youtube or Go Noodle! My students love the brain breaks on Go Noodle. Kindergarteners have an attention span of about 15 minutes, so it’s important to incorporate a lot of brain breaks. And most importantly, have fun! Kindergarten is an exciting year and your students will make enormous growth.
For more tips on classroom management, see my post on How to Regain Control of your Classroom.