Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kindergarten Teacher: Tips for the First Day of Kindergarten

Are you a kindergarten teacher?  Here are 7 tips to prepare for your first day of kindergarten.
If your have time and insight, you’ll see there are hundreds of things to prepare.   In my experience, this is the bare minimum that must get done before the first day of school:

1)    Clean the desks and chairs and arrange them in clusters within view of the meeting area.  You want to make a good first impression that kindergarten will be pleasant and organized.

2)    Place a high-interest book on every desk for the kids to sit and read first thing.  This will buy time to ensure everyone is settled, and to take attendance.  Place an extra book basket on each cluster of desks.

3)    Have a list of the class names to check off as kids arrive, and write name tags beforehand, if possible.  Write kids' first and last names as well as your class on the tags.

4)    Place name tags out on the desks before the children arrive.  Place them boy and then girl; and if you know certain kids will need extra attention, place them up front, closer to the meeting area.  Have extra name tags for new admits.
 5)    Prepare paper for children to write on, 30 pencils and 12 boxes of crayons in case they don’t bring their own.  These will be used a bit later on the first day.

6)    Prepare to talk about rules: classroom, bathroom, lunchroom and line-up.  It helps to have visual posters about each of these.
 Maybe the most important rule is to always show kindness and respect.  That's the glue that holds the world together, and you can tell the kids that kindergarten will be a "kinder-garten!"

If you'd like this Let's Build a "Kinder" Garten poster, it's here and it's free.
 7)    Have a fun book to read to the class, and questions for discussion.  Also, a few short songs to teach, and extra activities ready to go, in case you have extra time to fill.  And, of course, a super-kid award to send your kids home with a smile.

Here are some tips for those first few minutes when you meet your kindergarten kids:

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.  

For more essentials to prepare, as well as posters for teaching school rules, you might like this First Days of Kindergarten Teacher’s Kit.  It includes all you need, before, during and after that crucial first day.  You’ll find teacher scripts, lessons, posters, printables and tips—compiled by a long-term kindergarten teacher.

For even more thorough preparation, here’s the same Kindergarten Teacher’s Kit, bundled with School Rules and Bathroom Rules, with more charts, photos, points for discussion, a writing prompt about rules and bulletin board-ready rubric.
With preparation, you can have that calm and confident first day of kindergarten you've imagined!

I'll be thinking of you and wishing you all the best,


  1. This is a wonderful post with great tips for the first day of school! It takes away all the guess work, thank you for your hard work and thoughtfulness!

    All best for the new school year 2017-2018.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Mia! My first-day to-do list seems to grow longer the more I check off, but it's a pleasure to share it.

  2. Great tips. I like the school super hero award. I always have my students practice everything. We practice all of the rules. They have fun doing that.

    1. Thanks for responding, Kimberly! I love that your kids have fun practicing the rules--That's the goal :-) -- Renee

  3. Not a kindergarten teacher, but these tips can be applied across multiple grades. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for your insight, Jaqueline! It's true, that five-year-olds are (almost) as sophisticated as kids twice their size. :) -- Renee

  4. This will be my 6th year in kindergarten! I've learned that no matter how much you prepare, there will probably be a little bit of chaos! And that's okay! :)

  5. So true, Chelsea--even after 20 years, same thing: curve balls galore - ha, ha! -- Renee

  6. Very well thought out! Great tips!

    1. Thanks, AR! I appreciate your response!

  7. Thanks for your enthusiastic comments, Beth! I love your blog, too :) -- Renee

  8. Wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Mrs. Dinh; I appreciate it!