Planning for the first week of kindergarten can be overwhelming. There are a million and one things to remember and do and, let’s face it, there is a reason people compare the first weeks of kindergarten to herding cats!
But take a deep breath, because i’ve got you. These 5 tips are guaranteed to make your first week of kindergarten a success (even if things still go wrong… because they will, but it will be okay!).
Focus On Building Relationships
For many of our littles, that first day of kindergarten can be terrifying. They are at a brand new school with new adults and new kids and new rules. It’s important to begin building those relationships with students as soon as possible, and to reassure them that this is going to be an amazing year.
If you have the opportunity to meet students before the first day of kindergarten, try to talk to them about what they like and some of the cool things they are going to get to do in kindergarten.
If you don’t get to meet students before school starts, consider sending a meet the teacher letter or recording a quick video introduction, possibly with a picture book read aloud. This will make you feel less like a stranger to your students.
When your kiddos arrive on the first day of kindergarten, greet them and let them know how excited you are that they are in your class. You may have students you need to comfort, and that’s okay.
I keep stuffed animals that students can hold for comfort (Tip: Get inexpensive stuffed animals from the dollar store just in case you don’t get that animal back).
One year, I had a student who was too terrified to enter the classroom the first day. He ended up going home, but before he left, I gave him a stuffed penguin and asked him to get the penguin ready for school. He brought the penguin back the next day and was ready to go! That penguin ended up “visiting” our room throughout the year.
You will also want to build relationships with parents. For many of your parents, this may be the first time they have ever left their child somewhere without them. Reassure them that you are going to have a lot of fun, that their child will be successful, and also remind them of how dismissal will work.
Routines and Procedures In Your Sleep?
It can be tempting to jump into academics as soon as possible, but the majority of your first week of kindergarten should be practicing routines and procedures. The more time you spend practicing routines and procedures now, the more successful your year will be.
I often hear from kindergarten teachers throughout the year who feel like there’s a time in their day that is just a hot mess. Whether that is walking in the hallway, carpet time, centers, etc., I can almost always say that this is because routines and procedures weren’t practiced enough.
So how much is enough? Well, I want my students to be able to follow these routines and procedures in their sleep (Maybe an exaggeration, but my husband will tell you I sleep talk our procedures those first weeks of kindergarten!).
Practice, practice, practice. You may have to practice a routine or procedure multiple times in a row and that’s okay!
As you practice your routines and procedures, be sure to praise students and point out what they are doing well. Even if it sounds ridiculous!
When correcting students, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just say what needs to happen matter of fact. When I had someone observing the first day of kindergarten, one of the things they pointed out was that if they were listening to my tone and not my words, they would have had no ideas if I was pointing out what was going well, teaching, or correcting a student.
And then remember, even if you introduce and practice a procedure and routine on one day, you will most likely need to revisit and practice it again the next day.. and the next day… and the next day. It takes MULTIPLE times in context to learn something new and make it a habit.
Procedures and Routines to Teach the First Week of School
- How to unpack at the beginning of the day
- How to make a lunch choice
- Attention signals
- Transitioning from place to place
- How to sit at the carpet
- How to listen
- How to ask a question
- How to line up
- How to walk in line
- Using the bathroom
- Cleaning up
- Where to put papers when finished
- Packing up and dismissal
And that’s just the short list! You can find the full list of routines and procedures to teach at the beginning of kindergarten here.
Don’t Use Any Supplies You Haven’t Introduced
When my students enter the classroom on the first day, they do not have ANY supplies out at their table other than trays of old broken crayons to color their welcome coloring page. They do not get any of their new supplies until I have explicitly taught them how to use each supply correctly.
This might seem like overkill, but it will save you from a LOT of headaches later on.
Believe it or not, some of your students may never had the opportunity to use crayons, scissors, or glue before. And some may have never had to adhere to rules for using those supplies responsibly.
I introduce each supply in isolation. I show students the tool and how to use it the correct way. I model the correct way to use the supply. We also talk about what might happen if we use the supply incorrectly.
Then, students get to practice using that supply and ONLY that supply.
Yes, this takes a while! We won’t get to most school supplies on the first day of kindergarten. But by the end of the week, we will be “kindergarten experts.”
You can find practice activities for each school supply in my first week of kindergarten pack.
Give Yourself WAY More Time Than You Think
When planning out your day, it’s okay to over plan, but be flexible. At the end of the year, our students are so independent, that it can be easy to forget just how needy they are at the beginning of the year and just how long a simple activity can take.
Be mindful of this when planning your days the first week of kindergarten.
Planning to make a back to school craft? Give yourself ample time to go step by step together and to clean up. Don’t start it half an hour before lunch!
Normally have twenty minutes for pack up at the end of the day? Plan for AT LEAST forty-five minutes to get packed up and make sure everyone knows where they are supposed to be.
Plan Time for PLAY!
That first week of kindergarten can be overwhelming for you, but it can also be overwhelming for your students. Plan in lots of time for brain breaks and for play.
At the beginning of kindergarten, their attention spans and stamina is short. Plan for small, bite-size chunks.
For example, after I introduce a math manipulative, I give my students time to play with it. For example, when we introduce playdough, I have them make playdough balls to match numbers I say. That lasts for about five minutes, but then they get 10-15 minutes to just play with the playdough.
If we are sitting on the carpet for a while, I will make sure to break up the time with chances to get up and move. Once of my favorite brain breaks for the beginning of the year is a round of head, shoulders, knees, and toes!
After specials, we have “social skills” time when my students get to just play and learn how to interact with each other. While play isn’t something we are normally allowed in our day, I believe it so important that first week of kindergarten.
If your administration isn’t on board, you can try convincing them by letting them know all the important skills you are assessing during this time – academics, social, emotional, problem-solving… so much!
Planning For Your First Week of Kindergarten
Hopefully planning for your first week of kindergarten is feeling much less overwhelming for you know! Just remember, go slow to go fast.
If you’re still a little unsure of what that first week should look like, i’ve got you covered! I’ve planned out your entire first week of kindergarten for you.
In my first week of kindergarten pack, you will find:
- 5 days of lesson plans
- More printables than you can ever use!
- Materials to teach procedures, routines, and how to use supplies
- Transportation display and tags
- Meet the teacher materials
- And SO much more!
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