It happens to many of us in teaching. We get that email or call to our principals office and they want us to switch grade levels. Sometimes we smile and are thrilled about the change. Other times we go kicking and screaming, it seems.
That was me my first year of teaching. It was October and my principal had to move me from my dream job in first grade to add a new classroom of kindergarteners. I was crushed. I had no teaching experience with kindergarten. While the team was fabulous and I loved them all, they were all new, too! We were all swimming just trying to keep our heads above water together until our fabulous team leader returned from maternity leave. I wish I had known many things when I switched to kinder. Here are a few kindergarten teacher tips to help you be more prepared for those sweet babies than I was!
Know What to Expect
This sounds so simple, but it’s true! Remember they are babies! Most have just turned 5. They are new to school, new to a full day of activities, there are so many new people, new guidelines, new things to explore and at the end of the day, they are just so tired. For some kids this is evident in their behavior and in others they are just unable to focus. Keep that in mind!
I feel like this is a universal teaching rule, but my first year of teaching, I did NOT do this the first few weeks with my kinder babies that year. Not only were they finishing things in a snap, but they were ready to move on to something new every 5-8 minutes it seemed. It just took time to build up stamina for them to be able to do longer tasks. When I finally caught on to this and planned more activities than I thought they needed, we were doing much better!!
You are their first real school experience! If you are lucky enough to have students who have had some school experiences before coming to you, remember that you are still their first BIG SCHOOL teacher! Kids are excited, nervous, maybe even scared about being there because they aren’t sure what to expect. You have to sell school to them, my friend. Be excited–maybe even a little TOO excited about a few things, but be excited! When you are excited and joyful, it will be contagious for them. You have the power to lead them as they fall in love with learning! What an honor that is!
Stick to Your Routine
Kids THRIVE on a routine and especially for kids who are new to school, this will be one of the keys to helping your day go smoothly. As the year goes on, you can venture from your routine, but definitely stick to it at the beginning of the year. Display it in the classroom, refer to it often, and allow them to find comfort in knowing what to expect. They do best when they know what to expect.
I am far from being the American Idol, but 5 year olds think my singing is fabulous! Not only did I find that teaching concepts through song was extremely effective with my students, but also teaching routines and procedures through song was beneficial. If you are a too shy to sing songs with out some music, you can always simply play them through your computer or phone! YouTube has TONS of favorites, Dr. Jean is another favorite with many songs for learning and classroom fun, and there are many catchy tunes by Ron Brown!
In education today, we are beginning to see a big shift with play returning to early childhood. As both a parent and teacher, I see the benefit to this. My first year with kindergarten kids, I was so focused on teaching content, that I didn’t allow for enough exploration. Exploration with math maniuplatives, exploration with texts, exploration with science tools–the list goes on and on. There are so many opportunities for you to invite and encourage play while also providing them with opportunities to learn.
After my year in kindergarten, I feel in love. I never wanted to leave kindergarten. I had no idea that I would love it as much as I did, but I did! It’s a hard grade to teach, but it’s incredibly rewarding and sweet!
What kindergarten teacher tips do you have? I’d love to hear them and for us to share them!