How to Survive that First Week

This contribution to thr Performance Pyramid as made by Kimberly Hill and Jenna Turner in Fall, 2015.

Watch "Kindergarten Cop" Video at the bottom of the page to view how rough that first week of Kindergarten could possibly be.    

 

Teacher Preparation:

All children are different especially kindergartners. These children, starting mandatory school for the first time, will be at various skill levels. Some of the students will have gone to preschool while others may have stayed at home.  

Kindergarten is certainly not what is used to be. Most students will have some preparation, but not all! Furthermore, kindergarten is way more academic based than most teachers remember. It is more than just learning the alphabet and numbers. Students are learning sounds, sight words, and basic math skills. Some can even read!

 

 

 

 

 

   Prepare a letter to send to the parents before the first day of school to give an insight on what it will look and feel like. Everyone’s emotions are at an all time high during the first day of school. Therefore, taking a little time to prepare is beneficial to all. This letter should include things like:  

  • Prepare your child- talk about starting school everyday for a few weeks before. This will keep them excited about going.
  • Crying is a normal thing!! It does not mean they do not want to enter the classroom.  THEY DO, they want to go explore but they need their parent their to hold their hand and tell them everything is okay.
  • Do not feel horrible about walking away from your crying child - trust the teacher that they know what to do.
  • Your child will be starving and eat all the time now. It is advised to have a snack for them after school. There is only one or two opportunities for them to eat in kindergarten.
  • Your child will sleep a lot in the first few weeks. It is an adjustment, maybe adjusting earlier bedtimes would be helpful.  
  • They might not want to go back after the first day - send them the second day and focus on the fun things they did, not the rules!
  • They might not be the best behaved child at home for a while - they did not learn this in school.  They tend to use up a lot of their positive behavior at school, so by the end of the day they are over-tired, irritable and tend to act up more.         

What you do on the first days of school will determine your success or failure for the rest of the school year.  

 

  

Parents Preparation:

 If a parent’s oldest child is starting kindergarten for the first time, they might not know what to expect. One place to start is with teaching the child how to write his or her name before starting their first year. Honestly, any preparation from the parent is highly appreciated by the teacher. There are several websites online that are beneficial for parents. These websites aid the parent in preparing for kindergarten. For example, here is a website that offers “getting ready for kindergarten” handouts: http://www.getreadytoread.org/transition-kindergarten-toolkit/preparing-parents/getting-ready-for-kindergarten
These would be extremely beneficial to pass out to the parents. The handouts could be placed on the school’s website or at the local library. Academic skills are only one part of kindergarten readiness. Here are more questions to rely on to parents to see if their child is ready for kindergarten:

  • Does my child have the oral communication skills to make her needs/wants clearly understood?
  •  Can my child separate from me for hours at a time without distress?
  •  Is my child able to follow one- and two-step directions and adhere to rules? 
  •  Can my child sit still and pay attention for at least 10 minutes?
  •  Does my child get along well with other children? (i.e. Is he able to cooperate? Does he hit, kick or bite?)
  •  Is my child able to complete personal need tasks independently or is she willing to try? (Can she button or snap her pants? Zip her coat? Use the toilet without help? Wash her hands?)
  •  Does my child know how to use crayons? A pencil? Scissors?
  •  Can my child state his full name, address and phone number?

Again these questions should be posted somewhere that is easily accessible for parents. The school’s website would be a great location as well as at kindergarten sign up to ensure that the child is indeed ready to start official schooling.
Here are also a few books to prepare for kindergarten: 

 Parents should often be reminded that learning never ends. Therefore, it continues at home! Teachers should encourage parental involvement at home. This includes: reading to their child, playing games, and/or asking what their child is learning about at school.  

 For parents, it can be a little frustrating if their child is behind. Some parents even panic; reassure them that their child is fine! Again, every student is unique and will have different strengths and weaknesses.

 
 

Tips, Tricks, and Ideas:

  • Have the students wear name tag for at least the first week. This is not only for you but the students will learn each other's names as well!
  • Make learning the procedures fun and interest like going on an adventure around the room, to the lunchroom, or to the bathroom.
  • Have something for the students to do on the first day as soon as they get there like crayons and paper.
  • "Get to know you Game” - Have students sit in a circle everyday for the first week. Pass a squishy ball around and have a different question each day for every student to answer. Students say their name then answer the question.
  • “Five in a bag” - Give each student a brown paper bag to take home and ask them to put five things or drawings in. Gather and give each student a chance to share their “five in a bag.”
  • Go on a tour of the classroom - The classroom will be a foreign place to the students. The tour will let the students feel more comfortable in the classroom. It will also take out the students asking what everything is for in the classroom.
  • Be prepared for anything and everything on the first day of school (bands-aids, extra clothes, belt, squishy ball). Make sure you are prepared to get through the whole day as well.
  • Show interest in every student and get to know each personally. This goes both ways, share about yourself. Keep an interest book on your students because you cannot remember everything!
  • It is important to establish: listen visuals, auditory signs, and attention grabbers for when it’s time to get quiet.  These attention grabbers must be used regularly to be effective. Students can even suggest news ones. Here are a few ideas:

  • Date all papers!  It is helpful to teach the students how to put dates on papers so you as a teacher are not overwhelmed by having to guess dates for everything.  This is especially important if you save students’ work for portfolios.
  • Eat lunch with the children. Once or twice a week pick one or two different children to eat lunch with.  This allows you the chance to get to know every student and create relationships with your entire class.
  • Have fun and interesting read-alouds for the first week of school. Suggested read-alouds: You’re Finally Here by Melanie Watt, If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff, The Way I Feel by Janan Cain, and Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin.  

  • Make the classroom jobs fun. An example: Star Worker Jobs 
  1. Line Leader King/Queen - Serves as the line leader for the week and sets the example for the others while in line.

  2. Attendance Secretary - Responsible for taking the attendance sheet to the office and makes other trips to the office as necessary.

  3. Paper Doctor - Passes out and collects all papers and other materials as needed to perform classroom assignments.

  4. Pencil Mechanic - In the morning the pencil mechanic distributes pencils from the pencil box to the students.  In the afternoon, he/she collects and re-sharpens the pencils for the next day.

  5. Clean-up Custodian - While all the students are responsible for keeping their desks clean, the clean-up custodian goes around the room at the end of the day to check that everything has been picked up and put in its place.

  6. Lunch Room Managers - Sets lunch tables with utensils and napkins.

  7. Milk Farmer - Passes out the milk at lunch.

  8. Door Police Officer - Opens, holds, and closes the door for the other students.

  9. Electrician - Turns the classroom lights on and off as needed.

One of the most important factors in arranging for a smooth first day of school is setting up clear routines.

 

 

How to organize for the first day:

Create a welcome environment: Arrange the room so it feels safe, inviting, and comfortable for you and your students. This allows the classroom environment to feel more like a home. The students should have some say in how the classroom can change to help them learn better.

 
Organize a new student bag: This is for kids that come a few days late.  It is equipped with anything that they will need to be prepared for the class.
 
Organize classroom supply: Most grades have a grade level supply list. Know what you are going to do with all the supplies. How many pencil do they need to start with? Is each student going to have individual supplies or table supplies? Organize them how you wish but know your plan beforehand.
 

Set up classroom routines: The schedule for the day should be displayed in both written and visual form. Most kindergarten come in not being able to read so pictures will be extremely helpful for the students. PRACTICE each part of the routine several times until every student knows the routine well.

 
Suggestions:

Don’t use the word rules- use the “correct” way of doing things. Discuss and model the right way of doing something and why we do it that way. Also have the students model the “correct” way to do things. 

Minimizing tears: Invite parents into the classroom on the first day but do not let them stay too long. Make sure to incorporate a  fun way to take the attention away from the separating their parents. Here is an example:
 

“You will have a room full of parents on the first day, so to have a smooth goodbye I wrap a box with Kinder Bear (any stuffed bear) inside. After the kids are sitting on the carpet I tell them that I have a friend I'd like them to meet, but that he's shy. I pretend to listen to the bear and tell the kids he wants you to say bye to mom & dad so he can come out and play. The parents will ​'get' the message and leave and the students will be eager to meet Kinder Bear!” —Denise B.
 

 

“No age is too young to learn procedures”

 
What procedures to teach the first week:

  1. enter classroom
  2. lining up
  3. leaving the classroom
  4. beginning the day
  5. ending the day
  6. taking out/putting away/caring for supply
  7. participating in group lessons
  8. obtaining help with assignments
  9. handing in finished work/homework
  10. what to do with unfinished work
  11. when and how to use the restroom
  12. when and how to use drinking fountain
  13. when and how to use the pencil sharpener
  14. being a classroom helper (jobs)
  15. getting into work groups
  16. using the classroom library
  17. handling seatwork pages
  18. preparing for lunch
  19. getting a tissue
  20. lunch count/attendance
  21. throwing away trash
  22. turning in lost items
  23. locating lost items
  24. pledge
  25. visitors in the classroom
  26. fire drill
  27. signals for attention
  28. helping other students
  29. organizing desk
  30. what to do during free time

This might seem like a lot of procedures to teach!  So keep in mind they do not have to be taught and conquered during the first week. In bold, are the suggested procedures to teach first.  Procedures should also be posted around the classroom and include visual aids so students can easily understand. Below are examples of a couple:

 

 

Good luck!!



Watch the Kindergarten clip "Happy" below to view how fun and great the first week of Kindergarten could possibly be!  

 

 

References

Clark, Christopher M.. “Asking the Right Questions About Teacher Preparation:

Contributions of Research on Teacher Thinking”. Educational Researcher 17.2 (1988): 5–12. Web.

Danling, Fu, et al. "A Comfortable Start For Everyone: The First Week Of School In

Three Multi-Age (K-2) Classrooms." Early Childhood Education Journal 27.2 (1999): 73-80. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

"First Day of Kindergarten: 8 Survival Skills." Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.edutopia.org/blog/starting-kindergarten-8-survival-skills-sarah-richard>.

"5 Things Kindergarten Teachers Wish Parents Knew." About.com Parenting. About.com, Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://childparenting.about.com/od/schoollearning/a/5-things-kindergarten-teachers-wish-parents-knew.htm>.

"Getting Ready for Kindergarten Handouts." Get Ready to READ. National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc., Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.getreadytoread.org/transition-kindergarten-toolkit/preparing-parents/getting-ready-for-kindergarten>.

Herzog, Danielle. "What to Expect When Your Child Goes to Kindergarten." Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/08/07/what-to-expect-when-your-child-goes-to-kindergarten/>.

"Kinder Tips, Hints & Ideas for Kindergarten Teachers." Kinder Helper. Kinder Helper, Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.kinderhelper.com/ArticlesFirstDay.htm>.

Maor, Hadar. "How to Organize for the First Day of Kindergarten: A Guide For New and Veteran Teachers." EarlyChildhoodTeacher.org. Early Childhood Teacher, 26 July 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.earlychildhoodteacher.org/blog/how-to-organize-for-the-first-day-of-kindergarten-a-guide-for-new-and-veteran-teachers/>.

Maypole, Melissa. "Kindergarten—What Teachers Expect and What You Can Expect." RED APPLE READING BLOG. 8 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.redapplereading.com/blog/2012/08/kindergarten-what-teachers-expect-what-you-can-expect/>.

Murray, Bonnie. "30 Classroom Procedures to Head Off Behavior Problems." Scholastic Teachers. Scholastic Inc., 2002. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/30-classroom-procedures-head-behavior-problems>.

Nelson, Karen. "50 Tips, Tricks and Ideas for Teaching Kindergarten." WE Are Teachers. WE Are Teaches. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.weareteachers.com/blogs/post/2015/07/07/50-tips-tricks-and-ideas-for-kindergarten>.

Steen, Bweikia Foster. "Promoting Healthy Transitions from Preschool to Kindergarten." The National Association for the Education of Young Children (2011): 90-95. Print.

Wong, Harry, and Rosemary Wong. "An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher." Teachers Net Gazette. Teachers.net, 1 May 2008. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.teachers.net/wong/MAY08/>.

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