Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Random Suggestions for First Year Kindergarten Teachers

     Someone recently said that the first week of kindergarten was like turning on a blender without a lid.   After 11 years of teaching kindergarten, I have to agree -- it is a pretty crazy time. My niece just got her first full time job -- teaching kindergarten -- and I was thinking about how I might help her and other beginning teachers manage that first wild month.  So I'm going to share some suggestions for survival.
1. Keep your iPad or camera handy all the time. Take pictures of each child alone and with their family when they come to open house so you can use them for the video you make for graduation.   You can use the pictures of the children for lots of things.  I cropped the faces and printed them all on one page like a yearbook page. Try to take lots of pictures all year.
2. Have name tags with lunch numbers ready to use for lunch time. You can get plastic name tag holders that clip on at Walmart. Lanyards are even better, but cost a little more. I even sent a letter home before school started to give them the numbers so they could start trying to learn it.  I sometimes offered a reward when a child could say their number.
3. Read The Daily Five book and plan to start teaching and modeling modeling modeling the procedures on the very first day. They can learn to sit in one spot and "read" books independently by the end of the month and that will give you time to work with groups. 
4. Let the children help you compose the RULES OF THE CLASSROOM.  I had 5 rules and we practiced them many times every single day with hand motions. Their first homework was to learn these rules. My rules: 1. Listen when others are talking. 2. Follow directions quickly. 3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.  4. Clean up your area 5. Work quietly.  Heidisongs and Harry Kindergarten both have good songs on you tube about rules. Pin them on Pinterest so you can find them quickly.
5. Print off a Donors Choose permission form and get parents to sign it with the other papers at registration. You will need it if you want to try to get them to fund things for your classroom. I got a wonderful rug, cd players and DVD players from Donors Choose.
6. Have a signal to get the attention of the children.  I had a wind chime that I rang when it was time to gather on the carpet and a few songs loaded on my computer.  Sing every day! My favorite was "Ready to Read" by Jack Hartmann. I also recommend the  "Whole Brain Teaching" method of calling "Class" and they respond "Yes" and look at me. 
7. I kept a box of Skittles on my desk to reward the quietest in the bathroom line or the first children to follow my directions. It is amazing to see what they will do for one Skittle. The only time I gave one to the whole class was when they got a compliment for walking quietly in the hall. 
8. Teach them the "Quiet Game" I learned this wonderful game from Heidi Butkus of Heidisongs. It is great for the bathroom line or for when you need them to sit quietly while you need to do something else, like talk on the phone or talk to a visitor.  Just choose one child to come to the front of the room and look for the quietest kid. They point or call the name of the one they choose, and that kid gets to come up and choose the next quiet one. No call backs -- can't choose the one who chose you. We played it every day while lined up by the boys bathroom and they never got tired of it.
9. Teach them a hand signal for going to the bathroom. We used sign language for toilet. They could give the signal and I just nodded silently and usually no one else noticed.  Otherwise it was contagiously and suddenly everyone needed to go.
10. Take them on a trip around the school on the first day and show them how to get their lunch, how to choose a library book, how to go down the slide, etc. Before they actually need to be there.
11. I recommend a whistle for the playground. My signal was 3 short blasts that meant Everyone knew to come running when they heard it.
12. Read lots of blogs. There are so many fabulous teachers who share ideas to make your job easier. And if you write your own blog, you can get to know some of them.  I highly recommend blogging!  Or follow some on Facebook, like Heidi Butkus, Deedee Wills, Deanna Jump, and Kreative in Kindergarten. They also have great stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers.
      What an adventure you will have this year!  When I started teaching, there were no blogs or TPT, NO Facebook or Pinterest.  Today you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips and soon you will have a room full of eager faces looking up at you.  I hope you love this opportunity to teach little ones to read and write -- it will be one of the most rewarding years of your life!!


  1. This is great stuff! Makes me ready to go back now - well not until after my beach trip ;-)


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