May I Have Your Attention, Please?
- Grades: PreK–K
Kindergarten is an introduction. An introduction to a school and a school community, a classroom and a class community, to encouragement and enthusiasm (hopefully!). And, of course, an introduction to rules and routines. The first six weeks of a child's academic life set the stage for the next twelve years.
Because the first six weeks of kindergarten are so formative, it's best to keep your main focus on the four key introductions, mentioned above, rather than on work. Collaborative learning can only happen in a trusted and well-organized environment.
Miss Bindergarten, our class mascot, is one of the first introductions my own students make. She watches over them and guides them throughout the year.
A Good Rule Is Simple, Fair, and Positive
There are really only three things a kindergartner needs to know in order to make the right decisions:
Get your students thinking about what it means to follow these three rules: "How will we take care of each other?" Help them understand what they should do, not what they shouldn't do: "If we're not going to hit when we're mad, what are we going to do?" Have them describe the actions: "What would being nice look like?"
Routines Help Reinforce the Rules
Remember that kindergarten may be your students' first school experience. They've certainly never had you as a teacher before, and they don't know what your expectations are. You have to demonstrate everything, and even then, you can't assume that they will understand or remember. Practice, practice, practice!
These two types of routines are essential in kindergarten:
1. The daily routine, or the daily schedule. A daily routine establishes consistency. Being able to predict the events of their day gives children a sense of security and stability. Adapting to a daily routine happens naturally as the days go by.
2. The activity routine. Many activities make up the daily routine. An activity routine teaches self-help skills that make children more independent.
These are the routines you — and they — have to master.
If You Want a Child to Do Something, Show Him How to Do It
Here are a few of the activity routines that you must practice with your students to reinforce your expectations and make the day go smoothly. Students will try hard to do what they are told if they know how to do it.
Movement & Transition Activity Routines
- How to get into, stand in, and walk in a line
- How to enter the classroom in the morning, and after specials, lunch, and recess
- How and when to move around the classroom
Materials Activity Routines
- Where to put coats, backpacks, lunch boxes, and homework
- Where the supplies are, how and when to use them, and how to put them back
- How and when to sharpen pencils
Behavior Activity Routines
- How to behave in a circle
- How to listen, and what "quiet" and "ready" signals look like
- How to behave when Teacher is busy
- How to work independently, and how to work in a group
The bathroom poses a special challenge. Show students how to 1. knock, 2. check to see if they made a mess (and how to clean it up), 3. flush, 4. wash their hands, 5. use the soap and paper towels, and most importantly, 5. recognize that they have to go, and to ask permission.
We All Make Mistakes
Sometimes a child will forget to follow the rules, and sometimes so will you. The solution: take time to reflect on your mistakes and regain self-control. Give your students consequences that are relevant and respectful. They will be sure to get back up and try again.
Mix Consistency With Variety
For a routine to stick, you have to do the same things in the same way every time. Changing standards cause confusion and uncertainty, which is stressful to a child. But it's okay to be flexible if the need arises. A balance of activities — individual and group, quiet and noisy, indoor and outdoor, work and play — is healthy and vital. During playtime, let them do anything that doesn't break the rules.
Books & Songs to Start the Year
I've assembled a list of books for new kindergartners that I like to read aloud at the beginning of the year.
I also use songs to help children learn their new classroom routines:
- In the morning we might sing "Good Morning" or "Everybody Wave Hello."
- For transitions, "Circle Time," "Center Time," "Lunch/Snack Time," "Line Up!," and "Clean Up" are helpful.
- For dismissal, "The Goodbye Song" is great.
I also have a number of songs about behavior in general:
- "The Nicest Classroom"
- "Jump Down, Turn Around"
- "Attention Please!"
- "Quiet Voices/Quiet Feet"
- "The Calming-Down Song"
- "Be a Good Friend"
- "How to Take Your Turn"
- "Little Magic Words"
A few ingredients are all it takes to make kindergarten introductions go well. With the right amount of patience, practice, and praise, you can make a child's impression of school and teachers a positive one in preparation for the next twelve years.
Do you have any good rules or routines to start the year off right? Let me know your ideas or suggestions in the comments!
Have a terrific weekend! ~Allie