50 Ideas, Tricks, and Tips for Pre-K Teachers

Teaching pre-k made a little easier!

Tips for pre-K

Pre-kindergarten classrooms are bright, welcoming, warm, and never dull! Whether you’re welcoming your first batch of 4-year-olds or are a seasoned veteran, here are 50 ideas, tricks, and tips for pre-K teachers from the WeAreTeachers Helpline and around the web to make your classroom shine.

1. Choose an appealing theme.

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We love this “Super”-themed classroom from one of our Facebook community members.

2. Stay crystal-clear with parent communication.

This is most likely a parent’s first experience with school, so be clear with your expectations.

Include information about the “schedule of the day, snacks, discipline, how to get in touch, and what to do if they get scared, have a tantrum, or are hurt” in your newsletter. —Kelly J.

3. Use mascots.

Give your classroom some additional energy with creative mascots at each center.

“I teach pre-K and my classroom theme is superheroes. Each center has a ‘mascot’ and the Hulk and She-Hulk are the mascots for the dramatic play center because they change and are dramatic.” —Ariel E.

4. Use a master copy binder.

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Instead of filing the worksheets and papers you use every year (or copy and recopy for kids who need extra practice), file them in a master copy binder. It takes up less space and keeps your most-used worksheets close at hand.

5. Make time for morning meeting.

It’s a great way to reinforce calendar and core skills and build community. Watch how this pre-K teacher leads morning meeting in her classroom.

6. Try Conscious Discipline.

“I am a huge fan of Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey. It helps teach children social and emotional skills they will use the rest of their life.” —Erin K.

Check it out here.

 

7. Teach a story-time transition.

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“Hands go up, hands go down”—when teaching pre-K, help students stop and transition to story time (or substitute other rug activities for story time to use this chant throughout the day). Find the poster at Teachers Pay Teachers.

8. Teach pre-K students pencil grip.

Reteaching fine motor skills is hard! Teach pre-K students proper pencil grip from the get-go and future teachers will thank you. (Here’s information about what proper pencil grip looks like from OT Mom.)

 

9. It’s never too early for writing.

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Pre-k students aren’t too young to start writing. We love this Valentine’s Day idea that has students write basic sentences.

 

10. Make calendar time active.

Pre-kindergartners need to move (a lot). So one of our biggest tips for pre-K is to let them wiggle! Incorporate movement into your daily routine, like calendar time. Michelle M. recommends having students jump for each day of the month they count, or have gestures to show the weather (rain movements if it’s raining).

11.Consider laminating your books.

Books in a pre-K classroom are loved … well loved. Here are two tips for pre-K teachers to keep your books from falling apart (or at least slow it down).

“Take out the staples of the books and then laminate them.” –Samantha L.

“Use the wide packing tape to cover and reinforce books.” –Cheryl M.

12. Use the two-minute rule.

Plan lessons that match your students’ attention spans. “Remember, you’ve got two minutes, then move. Pre-K students can’t be expected to sit and listen for long.” –Laura C.

 

13. Start journals.

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Start your pre-K students on a journaling routine with blank books that you make by stapling white paper together. Set time each day for students to write and draw in their journals. (Get more tips for pre-K on Teach Preschool.)

 

14. Teach concepts multiple ways.

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Pre-kindergartners are figuring out how they learn, and they like to experiment with new ways of doing things. So plan for a few ways for kids to experience each concept such as having students find shapes in a salt box or making shape pictures using tangrams. (Find 20 ways to teach shapes at Gift of Curiosity.)

 

15. Have a clear, predictable schedule.

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Your day, and year, will go smoothly if your pre-K students know what to expect. Check out this schedule from Fun-a-Day that includes “sign in” and lots of center time.

 

16. Plan fine motor practice.

Pre-kindergarteners will need to hit the ground running in kindergarten, and that includes using scissors. Use these free grass and snake cutting sheets for practice.

17. Don’t shy away from science.

Students start learning science basics from the first day of school, check out this geography lesson for one way to teach pre-K kids about land, water, and air.

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18. Find free books online.

Printing (and laminating) free books is one way to build your library or send books home with your students for their home library. Online alphabet books teach letters and reinforce concepts of print knowledge. Two places to find a bunch of free alphabet books: DLTK Teach mini-books and First School books to print and color.

19. Use Mr. Potato Head to teach the five senses.

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It’s funny and memorable—Mr. Potato Head is a great way to emphasize the five senses. (Find more tips for pre-K at Northwestern Kiddies.)

 

20. Make templates.

For each activity you create, make a cardboard template (use an old cereal box for the cardboard) so you have a sturdy model for the next time around. (From Northwestern Kiddies.)

21. Sing letter sounds.

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Switch out the first letter of silly songs, like this example from The Wheels on the Bus, to reinforce letter sounds and help students hear how words change when you change the first letter.

 

22. Build collections of books on one topic.

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Even though they’re pre-readers, pre-K kids like to look at books on the same topic, like this selection of books about bugs. Organize your books by genre or topic to teach pre-K kids how to learn from book collections.

 

23. Stock the sensory table.

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Sensory tables are about more than just play, they engage kids in thinking about their senses and how they interact with the world. Bubbles, goop, water, ice, and sand are all experiences that can enhance your classroom sensory table. (Get more tips fore pre-K at PreKinders.)

 

24. Teach the alligator method for using scissors.

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Holding and using scissors are one of those key ready-for-kindergarten skills that the kinder teachers in your building will thank you for later. Try teaching pre-K students the thumbs up alligator method.

 

25. Plan for pretend play.

Pretend play develops language, creativity, and social skills while helping kids figure out their world. Check out this pretend play veterinary office and this produce stand—two great ideas for the pretend play corner.

26. Use books to teach social skills.

From apologizing to managing feelings to building friendships, social skills are an important part of teaching pre-K. Start social skills lessons with books that kids can read again on their own later.

27. Get versatile.

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We love this sorting idea, and when you’re done sorting shapes, you can use the container to sort letters, colors, fruits, and anything else that fits!

 

28. Buy reading buddies.

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Pre-kindergartners are learning how to read, and that includes “reading” to their favorite toys. Encourage kids to read aloud and practice what they know about reading with a stash of reading buddies (stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys) in the book corner.

 

29. Consider an emotion buddy.

Use this trick for one student or your entire class: “Have a stuffed animal, Anger Bear, that can be a student’s best friend to talk to when she gets mad. They can cry to it, talk to it, and let it all out.” –Sarah F.

30. Read names.

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One big accomplishment for pre-kinders is recognizing their names. Here are ways to teach students their names, including Play-Doh and sensory bin ideas.

 

31. It’s one of those tips for pre-K we can’t say enough, MOVE!

Whether they’re spraying letters with a water bottle, doing letter hopscotch, or doing a letter relay, it’s important to integrate movement when teaching, and practicing letters. Here are more ideas, like gluing letters to the circles on a Twister mat and having kids read the letters as they play.

32. Make Common Core math fun.

If you’re looking for pre-kindergarten examples of how to teach Common Core math, look no further than Engage NY. Their pre-K math site has videos, modules, and lessons.

33. Build an abacus.

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When your students are learning to count and add, turn a giant cardboard box into a life-sized abacus for kids to work on. (Get more tips for pre-K on The Imagination Tree.)

 

34. Use clothespins.

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Clothespins strengthen kids’ pincher grasp, which helps them hold pencils and scissors. They also strengthen academic skills, like this activity that has students placing a clothespin at the appropriate number on each card. (Get more tips for pre-K on 1 Plus 1 Plus 1 Equals 1.)

 

35. Try different themes from A to Z.

The best way to plan pre-kindergarten lessons may be by theme. Everything Preschool has a list of themes that’s alphabetized, including airplanes, carrots, and mittens.

36. Pay attention to transitions.

Transitions can make or break your day in pre-kindergarten. Teach Preschool has ideas for making your transitions smoother, like moving one group at a time, so that one group is getting ready for snack while another is cleaning up.

37. Let parents stay on the first day.

Kids whose parents stayed a few minutes and offered them words of encouragement did better when their parents left. (More tips for pre-K separation anxiety at Pre-K Pages.)

38. Keep your call to action simple.

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When you want students to stop what they’re doing and listen, keep it simple. This “Hands on Top, Everybody Stop” poster will reinforce that simple direction.

 

39. Try interactive read alouds.

Interactive read aloud is a strategy that uses the same picture book for repeated readings that get more advanced as the teacher moves from comprehension to inference questions. The repeated readings help students build vocabulary and understand stories. Find out more about how to implement interactive read alouds in the early grades at Reading Rockets. Then check out this video of a pre-K interactive read aloud lesson.

40. Share the classic picture books.

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Need a picture book? Here are 50 favorites to choose from. Pre-Kinder is the perfect time to introduce kids to classic books they’ll remember long into elementary school.

 

41. Try rainbow retelling.

As kids learn how to retell stories, give them rainbow retelling bracelets. When students move the red bead, they tell the characters, orange for the setting, yellow for the problem, and so on. (Find more tips for pre-K at Growing Book by Book.)

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42. Experiment with science.

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Pre-k kids are naturally curious, and adding science experiments into your week peaks their curiosity while helping them understand how the world works and how to ask questions. Here are 20 science project ideas.

 

43. Use common school supplies.

Rather than having kids bring supplies for just themselves, think about which supplies you can pool. Pencils, crayons, and other supplies can go into common bins for everyone to use. The benefit: you don’t have to worry about kids losing their crayons, and you can monitor supplies that much easier. (Get more tips for pre-K classroom management at First Grade at Last.)

44. Start the day right.

One of the best ways to manage your class is having a good entry procedure. Standing tall at the door, greeting each child, and having clear expectations for what kids do when they’re in your classroom (put their backpack and coat in their cubbies, choose a book, sit at their seat) is one way to start the morning. (Read more tips for pre-K classroom management at Scholastic.)

45. Organize the end of the year

How you organize your materials before heading out for summer vacation will influence your next school year. Store games and activities by month or theme so they’re easy to find and ready to go when you need them. We’ve compiled some great packing up tips here.

 

4 6. Create math tubs.

Centers are a great way to differentiate math work. The teacher blogger at Hubbard’s Cupboard puts math materials—counters, cubes, links, and more—in tubs for students to use during math work.

 

47. Cover your easel.

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Cover your easel with wrapping paper and clear vinyl (sold at Hobby Lobby or WalMart) to create a surface that is easy to clean and fits into your classroom better than a bare wood frame. (Find more tips for pre-K teachesr on Prekinders.)

 

48. Map the classroom.

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Create a map of your classroom to start a unit on geography and teach basic map skills. (Also from Prekinders.)

 

49. Teach geography.

Once your students are familiar with mapping, build in more geography lessons and ideas, like having them create A-to-Z books based on their city or state’s people and places. (More ideas for incorporating geography into pre-K classrooms from True Aim Education.)

50. Give kids an end of year note.

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The end of their first year of school is a big milestone for kids, commemorate it with a note that they’ll be sure to keep.

What are your best tips for pre-K teachers and classrooms? Share in the comments to be included in an upcoming post! 

Posted by Samantha Cleaver

Samantha Cleaver, PhD, teaches middle school special education and writes about her favorite thing to do, reading.

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