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May I Have Your Attention, Please?

By Allie Magnuson on August 6, 2010
  • 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.

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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:

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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

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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:

I also have a number of songs about behavior in general:

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

Comments (12)

Renee - I am glad you came to my site. I hope you continue to follow me and see how I help the youngest learners grow and progress. Best wishes for a successful year. ~Allie

I just visited your sight. I start school in a few weeks. I'm glad you addressed the importance of kindergarten in a child's life. I look forward to following you and your school year.

Victoria - thank you for your kind words. We are lucky to be following in your footsteps. I hope you check back often.

~Allie

Nancy - Thank you for your kind words. I bet rules and routines look similar but yet different in the upper grades. The concept is pretty much the same isn't it?

~Allie

Mary - You are right - our kinders grow and mature so much in a year that when we get a new group in, you forget how much you have to show them every little thing. Thanks for the positive words.

~Allie

Megan - thank you for your kind words. I really enjoyed reading all of your blogs. You are an awesome teacher and I hope I can follow in your steps.

~Allie

John - I'm glad you found the rules helpful! I present those three rules, and then help the children think of - and demonstrate - actions they would take to follow those rules. If they come up with something negative, such as "Don't hit," ask them what they would do instead: "If you're not going to hit, what are you going to do?"

Check back every Friday for more hints and ideas!

~Allie

Wow, you included a plethora of good links! I am excited to see everyone has gotten started with their posts for the 2010-2011 school year! - Victoria

Love, love, love this!! Allie, you are an inspiration!

Allie, I want to go back to kindergarten. This is awesome. I praise kindergarten teacher everywhere for the "little things" that are acutally not so little and require a lot of effort. Those of us teaching at higher levels often take it for granted.

Allie, Welcome to the Scholastic.com family! I hope you have a fantastic year. I am looking forward to reading your posts this year! Smiles, Megan Power

I have question. On the rules you have three main rules which I thought were amazing because it covered many rules* in three simple to remember sentences. My question, do you have the children work with you to get to the rules or do you present them to the classroom and have the children demonstrate the rules?

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