Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ten Tips to Survive the First Week of Kindergarten!!

It seems like the months between May and September really know how to fly by! Within a blink of an eye (or so it seems), summer is gone and school is back in session! As a kindergarten teacher, I get mixed emotions about the first week of school.

Starting out the year, you have ZERO knowledge about your incoming kiddos! You can't ask their teacher from the previous year because, well, you are the where they start!! You don't know the behaviors and attitudes of the beloved children who will be with you and to be honest, it can seem intimidating. Your room will have 20 kids who are in so many ways, NEW. New to the school, new to your rules, new to procedures, and new to each other. I do enjoy At the same time, I get to be their first teacher at this school! How amazing is it that I will get to watch my little rays go from kindergarten to fourth grade and know that I was their beginning?? I love teaching kindergarten for so many reasons, but one huge reason is because you are their foundation. Watching your kiddos grow academically and as little people is so rewarding. We start the year practicing our letters and numbers and I get the opportunity to watch them walk away READING and ADDING. Plus, they are adorable!!!

With all these emotions that filled me up for the week, I wanted to reflect on what helped me make it through! I have put together 10 tips on surviving the first week of kindergarten that I thought would be fun to share!

One: Seriously, make 10 copies. You will want to use it to see who is there, check off hot/cold lunches, forms brought in, to use to make sure all your kiddos are there before lunch/after lunch, dismissal! With the chaos of the first day, there are a lot of kinders who get to school a little late or get lost. By having a roster at hand, when a kiddo is brought in, I can immediately check if they are in my class or not. In short, the more copies, the easier the day will flow ;)

Two: At our school, we meet our students outside in the morning prior to walking in. I made it my goal to meet each student, shake their hand, and give them a big smile. This day can be hard on the kid and parents so I want to make them feel as comfortable as possible!! By calling each student by name and getting on their level, you are showing them respect and giving them a friendly feeling that will make it easier for them to part from their parents!

Three: Always spend the first week going over rules and procedures. These week is when your students are fresh to the whole school thing. By enforcing these rules at the get-go, you are strengthening your classroom management and establishing the expectations that you hold for your students. This is a crucial time to reinforce positive behavior!! We reviewed the expectations in our classroom, hallway, cafeteria, and playground at least 3 times a day. My students were experts and the do's and do not's of our school by the end of the week! Does that mean we are going to be a room full of perfect students? Of course not! But we have established a respectful relationship built on expectations and doing the right thing!

Four: I took every chance I could to find positive behavior and small success to celebrate with my kiddos! By showing them how excited I was when we accomplished  a task, they were ELATED!! We took a walk through the first floor practicing our straight and quiet line. When we made it back to our room, we had a two minute dance party! My students LOVED being about to dance at 9:15 in the morning! It made them feel confident and successful! Every time we had quiet transitions, answered questions correctly, raised our hands, and tried our best, we made sure to pat ourselves on the back/dance a little dance. I think by adding these little celebrations, my kids were way more excited to do what they were expected and got to have a little fun! When we line up, we all check to make sure our marshmallow toes are ready (because marshmallow toes are quiet, duh!) hands are at our side, and bubbles are ready to go! They LOVE to remind me of hallway expectations now :)

Five: Before the questions of where everything is begin, take a tour of the school. I took my little rays on a whole building tour on the second day. By day two, we had practiced our hallway walking and felt we were ready to show ourselves to the upstairs!!! Let me tell you, I have never heard such quiet feet in the hallway than I did when we walked past the third and fourth graders. My kinders REALLY wanted to show them that they were ready for school! I got to show them all the places they would be and it saved me from answering questions that would have otherwise preoccupied every second of the day! It also helped to make them feel more comfortable with the school. For many of the kids, it is their first time in the building so everything seems foreign. Once they get an opportunity to see and go through the school, it becomes THEIR school and that definitely helps to create a positive learning environment!

Six: READ!! Fill their minds with the concept and importance of reading from day one!! I loved watching my little rays eyes light up as we ready a variety of kinder stories that we were able to relate to ourselves!! We looked at pictures and I had them describe what they thought was going on. They loved answering questions and then asking their own! When it came time for buddy reading, my kids got very worried! I heard a whole lot of "But we can't read yet, Miss K!!!". I stopped them and asked them if they remembered when we looked at the pictures and received bobbing heads. I told them that to start off as a reader, you look at pictures and tell your own story! I explained how pictures are a very important part of reading and that each one of them was a reader. They loved hearing that and their confidence soared. I partnered them up and they chose a Big Book to read. As I walked around listening to them talk to each other about the pictures, I couldn't help but smile. They got SO into it! I added stuffed animals to our reading center as well so that they will be able to practice their whisper voices even more throughout the weeks to come!

Seven: Transitions, transitions, transitions! Walk into the room and sit at their table. Have students go to their carpet square. Line up. Repeat. By practicing the right way to transition, you will save yourself from MANY headaches. We drilled how to stand up, push in your chair, and walk to you carpet square. We practiced sitting criss-cross applesauce and getting back up to line up quickly and quietly. I was actually shocked at how quiet my kiddos transitioned! Let's hope it's not just because it was week one! I cannot put enough of an emphasis on transitions

Eight: Laugh. Take time to be silly, laugh with your kids, and when the building seems in chaos, LAUGH. There is something about laughing with your students that creates a special bond. I have found that when students know you laugh (I have had a kid ask me, "Miss K, are teachers supposed to laugh?") it makes them realize you are a person. I have a bubbly personality so I naturally laugh often, but being around my kids and getting the chance to be silly during our dance time or have fun playing on the jungle gym with them allows you to really connect with your students on a personal and genuine level. Never let your stress take over. There will be days where things don't go as planned. Laugh it off. Make a joke, do something goofy. Your kids will laugh right there with ya!

Nine: Hug your students goodbye. I always try to make a point to hug or at least high five each one of my rays as they leave for the day. I want them to know I love them and they are special to me! I never want a student to think that they aren't appreciated. By hugging/high-fiving my kids, I am hoping they realize they are "my kids". You never know some of the situations that your kids come from and that hug can mean a lot more than you even know!

Ten: Take a deep breath. There is no reason to stress over anything that happened. If all your kids made it home Friday, YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY!

Now go relax, get some sleep, and remember, only about 8 months left ;)


  1. What great tips, Molly! We are very fortunate at my school in the fact that we have an in-house Pre-K program, so most o our students have already been at our school half day for 1-2 years. We get the opportunity to meet them at Kindergarten screening in the spring, and some of the others who do not go to our Pre- come to screening too. This year is a bigger class, so we had quite a few we didn't meet beforehand, but I cannot imagine not having any idea of what was coming. Meeting the kids at screening helps me to get excited for the next year! :)

    Carlee Van Ness
    The Kindergarten Press

    1. That is awesome! I really like that idea of the pre-screening and being able to see the kids you may have! How big are your classes/how many kinder rooms do you have?