You join a special club when you become a kindergarten teacher. There are only a few of us who have what it takes to manage these littlest students who are often still moving in a hundred directions all at once when they arrive in our classrooms. We’ve scoured our WeAreTeachers Helpline and brought together 50 of the very best ideas for kindergarten teachers.
1. Start at the very beginning.
“Don’t assume they know how to do anything. Teach them everything. How to knock at the bathroom door, how to close it behind them, how to wash hands, throw away towels … routines, routines, routines.” —Shannon T.
2. Prepare yourself for kids with a wide range of skills.
“Be ready for kids who are readers, kids who have never seen letters, and everything in between. I love my kinders dearly and find so much joy in watching their little light bulbs go on for the first time! They’re a different bunch to be sure, but they’re a blast!” —Maggie V.
3. Use a washable stuffed animal as a class pet.
Low maintenance, high fun! Kids will love taking turns bringing it home to care for it over the weekend.
4. Keep activity sticks on hand so you never have a terrifying “What do I do with them now?” moment.
One of the most repeated themes on our helpline post about teaching kindergarten was that you should always over-plan for this age group. These activity sticks are a fantastic safety net when you suddenly find that your lesson when twice as fast as you expected.
5. Keep your kids moving all day long!
“Plan lessons/activities that last no more than 15 minutes, with some kind of movement activity in between. (Moving from the circle to the table counts, as does clapping a pattern, or ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes.’) —Anne H.
6. Take your class on a mini-adventure on the first day.
“I teach routines, rules, but I also go on some kind of ‘adventure’. My ‘adventure’ is going through the school to find where everything is, the bathrooms, the nurse, the front office, the cafeteria (which we practice going through the line), library etc. I’ve done fishing where I have fish (or a jungle animal if that was my theme) hanging at each place and they collect them in a bucket as we go around taking turns and collecting through the whole school. They love it.” —Dana H.
7. Choose amazing read alouds for the first week of school.
Read to your students often and all year long, but these 10 books are some of the best to start the year! No, David! and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom are kid favorites and kindergarten classics!
8. If you can, work through a couple of recommended professional development books over the summer.
Experienced kindergarten teachers are recommending The First Days of School, By Harry Wong and Angela Watson’s, Cornerstone.
9. Keep little fingers cleaner with this trick!
“Glue sponges! There are several videos online for making them. So awesome to not deal with the bottle of glue mess or those littlest who can’t close the bottle and spill glue in their supplies!” -Anita D.
10. All hands on deck!
“Get at least one extra set of hands for at least the beginning of that first day. They will all come in and need/want your attention and there is so much to do. As a retired teacher, I go in for the first hour every day for the first week of school just to help with ‘crowd’ control. Just an extra pair of hands that knows what it’s like to be a teacher.” —Judy N.
11. Plan your circle time well.
Make it short, sweet and active.
12. Read the perennial Kindergarten favorite, The Kissing Hand.
“It relates to their first day of school and has many activities.” —Betty B. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/60376451227522365/
13. Help the parents of your students on the first day. This is a tough transition for them too!
“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.
14. Connect with your students’ parents.
Make plans to keep the lines of communication open. Put out a stack of envelopes on back to school night and ask parents to address them. Use them later to touch base with the families in your class.
15. Keep in mind how close to “baby” your students really are.
“Remember they are 60-month-olds! That always gives me perspective the first few weeks as a K teacher.” —Michelle K.
16. Teach kids how to make friends.
Some of your students will do this naturally. Some of them will need your help. How to be a friend is one of the most important lessons they can leave their first year of school with.
17. Find fun ways to teach all of the routines your little ones will need to know all year long.
“For my lines in the hallway I say ‘There’s a cloud with marshmallows falling down (wiggle fingers like they’re falling from above), everyone, catch a marshmallow!’ Pretend to catch and say ‘now put it in your mouth and chew chew chew chew and keep your finger on your lips so it doesn’t fall out’ until you get to the cafeteria, playground etc. They’ll walk around with their cheeks puffed up pretending to chew. Some might say they ate it so tell them to catch another or it’s too big to eat the whole thing and keep chewing! I’ve heard teachers say ‘catch a bubble.’ It’s the same concept. When I need instant silence I say, ‘Catch a marshmallow!’ and there is quiet immediately.” —Heikel F.
18. Routine, routine, routine.
Veteran teachers said this again and again and again on our helpline. Probably more than any other age group in elementary school, kindergartners thrive on their routine. “Plan fun and easy activities for the first week so you can keep focused on the routine.” —Sarah S.
19. Combine multiple objectives into a single lesson.
Teach children number sense and fine motor skills at the same time. The kids will love using the hole punch, and will be improving their number sense at the same time.
20. Make keepsake drawings that will show growth from the beginning of the year.
“I would have them do a self-portrait the first day and then another one the last week and watch the difference! You will want to start and demo one of you just to give them an idea of what to do. You might be surprised at the results and your parents will save it forever—mine did. I still have one I drew as a kinder or first grader.” —Julia A.
21. Start the year with firm expectations and clear routines.
“Don’t worry about the curriculum. Just focus on the routines and rules. One of the best bits of advice I got from a professor was that the kids WANT to love you so don’t be afraid to be strict with the rules and set down your boundaries right out of the gate. I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I learned that the hard way. Have fun, play games, let them see your playful side but take the time to let them know what is expected of them.” —Julie S.
22. Host a Pajama Day.
Have your kids come to school in their jammies and plan a whole host of fun activities for the day.
23. Classic kindergarten reads can help your kids adjust.
“Read Twas the Night Before Kindergarten and take a LOT of time to set rules and routines.” —Erica F.
24. Bring technology (in small doses) into the classroom.
Check out Mrs. Wideen’s Blog to find great ideas for using technology in Kindergarten. She recommends apps and lessons for iPads.
25. Keep in mind that the kids have expectations too!
“Kids go to their first day of kindergarten expecting to learn how to read that very day. So you have to do some choral reading of big books or poems so that they know that they have begun to learn to read. Just one big book. Read it many times that day. If they go home seeing themselves as scholars on the first day of school, you will have set the tone for the whole year.” —Becky N.
26. Take care of yourself. Teaching kindergarten requires a different kind of energy. Eat well and try to get an extra hour of sleep if you can.
“When I switched from second grade to kindergarten, I was exhausted for the first two months. It’s physically taxing.” —Karen E.
27. Laugh with your kids.
Kindergartners love to laugh as much as the rest of us! These 25 books will add some humor and levity to your day. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/287597126182200668/
28. Sneak the learning in with games.
“I like playing ‘I have, who has games.’ I take their picture on the first day of school and create an ‘I have who has game’ with their photos, it’s a great way for them to learn names plus I use their picture for everything” —Lisa G.
29. Connect with a community of educators outside of your own school.
Follow WeAreTeachers on Facebook for great discussions too.
30. Organize your instruction around themes.
When you structure your lessons thematically, you provide your kids with more “hooks” for learning.
31. Give your kids visual cues to help them follow your directions.
Anchor charts and classroom decorations can help them remember your expectations.
“I have my kids line up on numbers. They stay on the same number all year. This saves so much time. We can line up in less than 15 seconds. Their toes touch the number but not cover so I can see it.” —Debbie N.
32. Be kind to your wallet. Check out the Dollar Store for deals on all sorts of things for kindergarten.
This blog post from Kindergarten Works gives you all sorts of recommendations.
33. Fill your classroom library with these classic kindergarten books.
This chart lists 100 titles to teach with in your kindergarten classroom.
34. Teach with centers.
Here are three different posts with ideas on how to organize your center time. It’s one of the easiest ways to work through your curriculum in kindergarten.
35. Find a spot for some “reading buddies” in your classroom.
Gather together a few stuffed animals that your kids can make friends with and read to during the school day.
36. Count the days of school and celebrate when you reach 100!
There are so many different fun ways to celebrate the 100th day of school. We’ve got a whole collection of ideas for you on our WeAreTeachers Pinterest board.
37. Track all of the sight words you’re going to be teaching this year with a word wall.
You’ll find the kids referencing this wall often as they start to do their own writing.
38. Use “spacemen” or “space people” to help your beginning writers learn to use spaces between words.
Put a spaceman stick down when you get to the end of a word so you know where to start the next one!
39. Celebrate Dr. Seuss Day wholeheartedly.
Kindergarten is the perfect crowd for all things Dr. Seuss. WeAreTeachers has a whole board dedicated to the event on our Pinterest page. https://www.pinterest.com/weareteachers/dr-seuss-read-across-america/
40. Organize your classroom well.
Sometimes kindergartners don’t give you even a second to catch your breath. You need to be able to find everything you need for your lesson without a lot of fuss, otherwise you’ll lose them. Keep your classroom organized so that you can always find what you need for your next lesson. http://kindergartenschmindergarten.blogspot.com/2012/09/open-house-week-new-teacher-blog-tuesday.html
41. Bring your sense of humor.
Kindergarten teachers must have a sense of humor. The kids will likely be making you smile all day long with their adorable sayings, but make time to find some teacher humor too. http://www.thekindergartenconnection.com/2015/06/7-funny-signs-you-are-kindergarten.html
42. Keep a “sub tub” on hand for those days when you just can’t make it into school.
Fill it with lessons and activities that your sub can do with your students if you have an unexpected absence.
43. Teach kids exactly how to listen.
Don’t expect that they will come to you knowing what that looks like. https://www.pinterest.com/weareteachers/pins/
44. Teach word families.
It’s tried and true. Here are a few lesson ideas to get you started. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/368802656959908302/
45. Plan a wedding for Q & U.
The kids love this! It’s such a fun way to introduce the letters, and a little bit of spelling. http://kindercraze.com/2014/03/celebrating-q-and-u-wedding-in/
46. Take sensory breaks and brain breaks.
It’s proven. Brain breaks and movement promote learning for all age groups, but especially kindergarten.
47. Find fun hands-on ways to teach number sense.
Number sense is key in kindergarten. You’ll want to cover it again and again.
48. Use music for EVERYTHING.
“Music is needed, and is a good way to transition. Find a morning song and an afternoon song (can be the same tune with different words) to start and close your day. It makes a world of difference.” —Anne H.
“Check out HeidiSongs DVDs for letters, sounds, sight words.” —Lisa T. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/2251868540683085/
49. Plan fun annual events for your students.
Whether it’s a Kindergarten Tea or a spring BBQ, kindergartners love traditions.
50. And last, but certainly not least, give them lots (and lots) of time to play.
“Playtime teaches kids how to get along with others so that they can effectively learn in a classroom. It’s so important, especially in kindergarten.” —Michelle S.