Saturday, August 1, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten: Tips for the First Few Minutes

The first day of kindergarten—never done it?   I’ve been teaching kindergarten for over 20 years, and done it more than 20 times (not counting the ones I do in my sleep!).

Tips for First Day of Kindergarten - First Minutes
Here are some tips for those first few minutes of your first day of kindergarten.

1)       Smile!  Yes, smile.  Not a fake beauty pageant kind, but a warm, genuine smile that comes from your deepest core.  The place that remembers what it’s like to be 5, and scared, shy and nervous.

2)       Greet each parent at the door, if that’s possible.  Say your name, and give a warm handshake.  Make them feel like they're joining your family.  They are!

3)       Ask the child, “Who are you?”  Then find the name on your clipboard sheet.  Ask the parents to check the spelling and correct it.  Ask if they prefer a nickname, and possibly if the child speaks English.

4)       Ask the parent to come in and check the posters on the wall, and then help their child find their seat (I have placed the name tags out on each desk: boy, then girl), and to read a book.  I have one book on each desk, and a basket of extra high-interest books in the center of each table.

5)       Needless to say: NO cutting, gluing, toys, or even coloring—nuthin’ honey, till you’ve talked about rules!

6)       I hang 3 posters for the parents.  The first tells when and where the dismissal is—for today and tomorrow.

7)       The second poster asks parents to help seat their child, put on their name tag, and have them read a book till we’re ready.  And meanwhile, they can place on their child’s desk ONLY these supplies, in order from largest on the bottom—if they have them—4 folders, 3 marble notebooks, a pencil case with 5 sharp pencils, a crayon box and 1 large eraser.  This way I can see who still needs to bring supplies.  The second poster also directs parents to place any extra personal supplies (extra pencils, crayons, and sharpener) in the child’s book bag. 

8)       The third poster requests—if they can—to please help put the shared class supplies into the right bin in the rear of the room.

9)       I have baskets, tubs and even large clean garbage bags (for all the paper towel rolls), one for each type of supply that parents send, such as markers, post-its, glue, and tissues.

10)   When all the kids have trickled in, give parents a friendly, “2 minutes, and we’ll ask you to go” heads up. 

11)   Meanwhile, take care of those last few things that MUST be done.  Make sure every child has a name tag, and take last minute attendance.  The school office may ask for a list of how many kids have showed up, as well as the names of your “no-shows.” 

12)   If a parent has a letter for you or money (for Scholastic News or the like), place it in a basket under your desk for safe-keeping.

13)   You can thank the parents for helping, then say, “It’s time to say good-bye, so we can begin!”  Remind parents to pick up their child, where and when.

14)   Usually, a principal will allow parents to stay for the first few minutes of kindergarten.  If not, please ask your principal if you could have a teacher aide help for those first few minutes.  If no one is helping, you can lead the kids straight into the room; have them wait at the meeting area.  Call each child in turn, and show them where you’ve placed their name tag.  Have each child in turn sit, put on their name tag and read a book till everyone is accounted for.

The first day of kindergarten will be memorable.  Most important is safety.  You want to set a tone of calm and orderliness. 

Equally important is setting a tone of expectation, that kindergarten will be fun and wonderful.

Are you a new kindergarten teacher?   Welcome to the club!   I’ve helped many teachers settle into kindergarten, and it would be my pleasure to help you, too. 

I’ve created a First Days of Kindergarten Teacher Kit, with scripts for exactly what to say and do on your first day of kindergarten.  Also, posters, charts, writing activities, awards, and tons of tips—all you need for your first week of kindergarten and beyond.

My First Days of Kindergarten Bundle adds a complete package on teaching school rules so they stick, and bathroom rules; with photos, chants, and discussion points.

If you'd like a comprehensive Kindergarten Back to School Mega-Bundle, it's here.  It includes kindergarten set-up, scripts, lessons; printables for reading and writing, and materials for math and behavior management that you can use all year.

Best wishes—and I’ll be thinking of you on your first day of kinder!

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