I got some exciting news this week! This year, I’m in a new position as a reading specialist, and I found out that part of my job will involve working with bilingual Kindergarten students and teachers. Yay! I’m happy about this because a) I love primary and b) Most of my teaching experience is in Kinder.
Of course, this made me start thinking back to Kindergarten, and especially Kindergarten at the beginning of the year. And how…special…that first day is! If you are a Kinder teacher, you know what I mean. 😉 I have had runners…criers…wanderers…you name it, it can happen on the first day of Kindergarten.
Fortunately, even though a lot of Kinders are like deer in headlights for the first few days, they pick up the routines and procedures of being in school fairly quickly. By October, things usually calm down significantly (so if this is your first year teaching Kindergarten, hang in there!). Here are some things that I did on the first day that I found helpful:
1. Write out your schedule, minute by minute. Personally, I was nearly as disoriented as the kids are on the first day! I could easily have missed special classes or lunch if I didn’t write everything down. When I say “minute by minute,” I mean that I would write something like this:
8:30-8:40: Teach how to hang up backpacks (under child’s name tag, using the hook). Show students their desk name tags. Have students sit in their assigned seats.
I did the whole day that way – very detailed. However, at the same time…
2. Be flexible! I never stuck to my first day schedule. Not once! Things would take less or more time than I expected, I would have a crier or some other interruption, or I just decided to change things up based upon how the kids were doing.
3. Keep plans simple. There are tons of “first day” activities out there on the Internet. And I’ve seen some very cute ones! But at the school where I taught Kinder, it was many of my students’ first experience with being at school. I didn’t do any cut-and-glue projects at all on the first day. Instead, we did things like: learn songs, practice walking in the hall safely, practice sitting on the rug quietly, practice attention-getting routines, learn how to use crayons, and so on. I always included some type of play activity at the end of the day, even if it was something simple like playing with math manipulatives or table toys. Maybe you have students who went to preschool or are able to do some of those cute first day projects…but if you don’t, don’t stress. 🙂
4. Introduce routines and procedures sloooowwwly. I was always tempted to try to teach everything right away, but that just doesn’t work out well with Kinders (usually!). I planned to teach procedures and routines in a way that sort of gradually released responsibility to kids over time. The way I planned this out was by asking myself these two questions:
1. What do I want each part of the day to look like (ultimately)?
2. What are the procedures that kids will need to know in order for this to happen?
You can click on the picture to download planning sheet if you want to be super organized and OCD about it, like me! 🙂
Then, I took different colored highlighters and assigned a color for each day. For example, if school started on a Monday, I might use the color blue for Monday. Then, Tuesday would be green. And so on. I used my color coded highlighting system to plan which of the procedures that I would teach on each day.
And one last tip…
5. Remember that the kids and their parents are 10 times more nervous than you are. I did get pretty nervous about the first day, but then I read an article talking about what it was like for a parent to drop their child off at school for possibly the first time. Since I don’t have kids myself, this gave me a fresh perspective about how difficult this day can be for Kinders and their parents. I stopped wasting my energy being nervous and started using it to help make my kids and their families feel more comfortable!
I hope you have a calm and wonderful first day of school! If you are interested in a unit on friendship (for PreK – 1st) to help develop those important social skills at the beginning of the year, click on the picture below.