Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tips for a Kindergarten Teacher

Today I'm linking up with some fabulous kindergarten teachers over at Sharing Kindergarten to share tips for other kindergarten teachers!
So if you're new to kindergarten, coming back to kindergarten, or want new ideas for teaching kindergarten, then this is the place for you!
Kindergarten is it's own little world that is constantly changing and growing.  So unless you've ever taught kindergarten, you really have no idea how different it can be from the higher grades.

My kindergarten team and I always joke that at the beginning of the year, what you need to do most is model, model model.  Of course when we're joking around it usually sounds like waddle, waddle, waddle.
But modeling is exactly what every kindergartener needs at the beginning. 
Most people don't realize what a variety of kids you get in kindergarten.  There are some who have only ever stayed with mom all of their short lives, their are others who may have some experience with other adults in a mother's day out program a few days a week, and their are others who have been in daycare and preschool since birth.
So don't be surprised if you ask the kids to line up the first day of school and they all gather around you in a clump.  This cracks me up every year!  You have to actually model how to line up, where you stand, how you need to stand behind someone else, how to walk down a hallway.  This is something that teachers new to kindergarten always seem to find out the hard/funny way.
You need to model EVERYTHING!
Here is a quick checklist of things I model the first week of school:
  • How to ask to use the bathroom
  • Why we have to ask to use the bathroom
  • Don't forget to turn on the bathroom light
  • Never lock the bathroom door
  • Flush when you're finished
  • Always wash your hands
  • Make sure to push your chair in
  • How do we sit on the carpet
This list could seriously go on and on.  And I seriously act all of these things out myself.
Usually my teacher friend across the hall and I will team up during our phase in days, when small groups of kids come each day until 11:30.  One of use will act out the scenarios while the other talks it though.
Model a few things at a time or as the need arises.
And definitely don't expect things to be perfect right away. 
Always remind and model again with patience and love.
They will get day.

Nine years ago when I was told by my first principal that I would be moving to kindergarten I thought she was nuts. 
Of course in my head I was remembering the movie Kindergarten Cop and how crazy and wild those kids were at the beginning.
Then I realized that that did not have to happen.  I am way too OCD.
Kids crave structure.  Don't get me wrong, they love play and unstructured times.  But it's been my experience that kids feel more comfortable and secure when they know your expectations, when they have a general idea of the classroom schedule, and feel a sense of independence when they know where things are and where they go back.

I like to keep an anchor chart board at the front of the room.  That way parents and students know what we're learning about.
Plus it's super easy to pull the poster off the clip when we are reviewing a new concept.

Label everything!
This lets kids know where things are and where they need to put them back.
This helps so much during clean up because the kids can be independent, with a little training.

Once again with the labeling and also having different designated areas for things.

For example, the blue and green tubs are my blocks centers.  So when a group is assigned to Block Dock, they know exactly what they can and cannot play with.  And they know where to put it back.

One of the biggest organization tools I've used this year is my schedule chart.  At the beginning of the year I taught my kids how to read our daily schedule (with pictures).  This way they weren't always bugging me about when was lunch or when was recess.  They could look up at the schedule and see exactly what we had to do before lunch and recess.
This was a definite sanity saver for me!
And it would crack me up when someone would say "when is centers?" And another student would answer "look at the schedule!"

This one is so important, especially in kindergarten.
As kindergarten teachers, we are often the first adult who spends as much or more time with the child than the parents.  In some cases I've had parents who were very loving and appreciative of everything I did.  Then there were others who would write me notes daily asking why this happened or what was I going to do about that situation.  As tough as it is, those are the parents that need the most love. 
When I get frustrated I stop and think about how their baby, their whole world, is being entrusted to me.  It takes time and effort for some parents to trust and support you and realize that you want what's best for their child, just like they do.  Usually the ones that give me the hardest time are the ones that come back to see me when their child is in first grade and thank me for everything.  It's like they finally understand that everything I did the previous year for the support and love of their child.
So just keep working at it!
Sometimes if a parent is questioning things, I'll invite them to come spend some time volunteering in our classroom.  This way they can see what things are really like.  And most of the time when they leave they tell they can't believe how hard I work and that they are thankful for me. 

Mission accomplished!

This one can be a tough one depending on your supervisor's understanding of early childhood.  But seriously, they're five years old.  Let them play!
Over the past 9 years I have seen such a dramatic change in the expectations of kindergarten.  My county implemented those new standards, you know the ones I'm talking about, into our curriculum 4 years ago.  So the new standards plus the standardized assessments and expectations that come along with them, have made big changes.
But you have to remember that these are little kids.  They need to explore and learn to love learning.  They cannot be expected to sit and listen to a teacher all day.
Play is when students are learning how to take turns, resolve conflict, share, etc.  They need this time to learn how to socially interact with others.
Here are some ways I work play into our academic day:
  • Guided Math - letting the students explore through manipulatives
  • Guided Reading - letting the students play and manipulate words in Word Work
  • Play centers - after my students complete their work center (main course center), they may go to their play center (dessert center).  My dessert centers include Block Dock, Book Nook, Puzzles, Creation Station (play-dough), Observation Station (science), and Byte Site (computers). 
  • Recess - outside
  • Recess - inside - we are lucky enough to have a play room that is a dedicated room just for kindergarten to play in when it is too cold, too wet, or too hot to go outside.
  • Go Noodle - this was a lifesaver during my school's standardized testing weeks.  Kindergarten doesn't take the tests, but our recess, lunch, encore times are all affected by it.  So Go Noodle was my go to during those weeks. - My kids love the indoor recess, zumba, and the field trips the best!
Here are some pictures of my kiddos enjoying some centers and GoNoodle play time!


Looking for more tips for kindergarten?
Click the picture below to check out some more awesome kindergarten teacher blogs!


  1. Thanks for linking up!
    I love to label too... and my students love knowing where everything goes as well.
    Sharing Kindergarten

  2. Yes to organization! I've been teaching for 8 years and I still can't stay organized! Each year I work on getting organized and I do believe this year I can do it!
    Thanks for sharing!
    I Heart My Kinder Kids