Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tips to a Kindergarten Teacher, From a Kindergarten Teacher

This is a wonderful linky party hosted by Mary from Sharing Kindergarten!  Kindergarten is such a unique grade and I love it for so many reasons.  The end of the year is so sweet.  They know the expectations, they know what to do, and they are capable of working well together.  I always love this time of the year because we are in a rhythm with school.

But, I always have to remind myself at this time of year that there is always September (or August depending on what state you teach in!).  We arrived at this sweet spot because of September and all of the time we put in to practice the rules and expectations.

Here are some of my tips.......I could list many more.............but these are four that I think would be helpful to new kinder teachers and believe seasoned kinder teachers would nod their heads in agreement (and want to add in many I kind of do!).

1. Be Patient.

All teachers need to practice patience, but there are many days in kindergarten where patience becomes an art form - especially at the beginning of the year!  They are 5 years old.  Many have not attended preschool.  You have have a lot of ELL's in your class and they don't understand what you are asking them to do.  Everything takes a long time.  They just want to play when they come in your room and see how welcoming it is and how it is filled with wonderful items and toys.  They all want to ask you a question at the same time.  They don't understand how to take turns.  They don't "get" that when you are talking to one student in class that it is not OK for them to constantly call out for your attention (they do this ALL year!).  When a child doesn't listen, or follow a three step direction (or even a one or two sometimes), or can't remember the sound of /m/ even though you have just practiced it for 5 patient.

They need to be taught with love, kindness, and patience.  You need to be extra patient in the beginning days of school because it is so different.  It is the "front lines" as a friend of mine says and we are responsible for so much of the "training" that lets children know what school is like.  Being patient makes a big difference - in all of it - for you and the students!

2. Practice routines and procedures, and then practice again and again.

This one is sooooooooo very important.  Kinder teachers basically start school with a group of children who come from many different educational backgrounds.  Some have attended preschool while some have not. Either way, they need to learn about kindergarten routines and procedures.  For teachers - be organized and have structure in your classroom.  Children thrive and do well knowing the expectations. September, or the first month of school, is so important for teaching the routines and procedures of your classroom.  

Take for example, getting in line.  I do a line order and the children get in line alphabetically.  To them, it seems so very random, but eventually, they do get it and then there is not a fight about where children stand in line.  I say "Please quietly get in your line order for music" and they can do it.  But, we have to practice this - over, and over, and over.  Patience is VERY helpful in this procedure.  

You can't show them something one time and think they will have it.  You need to show them over, and over, and over again.  (Don't worry, remember what I said earlier in this post..........this will all pay off!).  If you practice at the beginning, and put in time with how your classroom runs, it will pay off in the end and you will be grateful you spent the time at the beginning of the year.  Think routines on everything: getting in line, sitting on the carpet, heading to their tables, getting supplies, sharing responses, "turn and talk" (there are many different names for this activity), getting water, going to the bathroom, etc.  This list goes on and on and they need to be told about ALL of it..........again, and again, and again.  Think back to tip #1!  Ha! Ha!

3. Spend time practicing fine motor skills.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have explicit lessons on how to hold a pencil, and how to write the letters in our name and how to hold scissors.  After we look at pictures, or sing songs, or talk about it with our friends, we go to our seats and practice.  I create name pages for them to practice and walk around and look at how this child is holding the pencil.  I help them move their fingers to the correct placement and I have grips that I put on pencils for some children to hold their fingers in place and start getting that routine of pencil placement in place.  There is a lot of writing in kindergarten so get them practicing and comfortable with the pencil at the beginning of the year.  You will find many children need to build stamina in holding pencils and crayons as well.

We also talk about how to hold scissors and I show them - open, close, open, close..............we talk about how our thumb goes on the top and in the small hole............I show them how the opposite hand holds our paper...........and then we go to our seats and practice cutting.  I have lots of pages where we just practice cutting nothing in particular.  We practice cutting straight lines and curved lines and shapes.  Often the children want to keep their scraps (I'm fine with that!).  Eventually, we will cut an art project, or parts of worksheets, so I want them to have plain ole' practice before we need to do it "for real."

4. Create lessons that incorporate movement, song, dance, and visuals, etc. and give them time to explore and play.

You will find that at the beginning of the year you need to incorporate so many different modalities of learning to keep them engaged.  They are 5 years old and need to move.  They can't sit for long periods of time.  Children love dancing, singing, walking around the room waddling and quacking like a duck, looking at pictures that represent your point, etc.  They NEED this movement and it is better for your sanity and their learning if they are given this movement.  As the year goes on, you still incorporate all of these activities within your lessons, but the length that they can sit and listen slowly increases. However, singing songs to teach children rules, or high-frequency words, or about shapes does help, so keep singing!

Children need to time to explore.  Before giving out math manipulatives for a lesson, give them out and let them play with them, otherwise your lesson will not go as planned.  We spend a few days with manipulative at our tables and on the carpet just exploring.  I rotate them around (practicing for center rotations here as well!) and let them play with each manipulative without any expectations.  Then when we need to use unifix cubes for counting, they can do it.  They will still try to play, but they understand the difference and are capable of using the manipulative appropriately.

Children need time to play and just be children.  I call it "Activity Time" in my room and they LIVE for this time of the day.  They love to play, engage in building complex castles with foam blocks, work out social situations in the playhouse, create projects for their parents, or me, or their friends, or for themselves in the art and writing center, etc.  Yes, they are playing, but they are learning and talking and sharing and working and practicing language, etc.  Play is learning and learning is play!

Phew!  Keep in mind, this is ONLY 4 tips :)  Kindergarten is loads of fun and the pay off with their end of the year learning is amazing.  Have a wonderful start to your year.  I hope this was helpful.  I can't wait to read what other kinder teachers have to say in this fun linky party!  Thanks for stopping by and make sure to link back to Sharing Kindergarten to read and learn from other kinder teachers.


  1. Hi Suzanne!

    I just found your blog from the Sharing Kindergarten linky. Can't wait to look around a little more, but I wanted to let you know that I love your first tip - I had a similar one! Be patient and remember that they are 5. So important! :o)

  2. I sometimes try to rush them along... and they aren't ready. Then I have to pull out some more patience and understanding... and try again.
    Thanks for linking up!
    Sharing Kindergarten

  3. I loved reading your teacher tips! I can't agree with you more! Patience, patience, patience and practice, practice, practice!! Your advice about practicing those find motor skills is great too! Thanks so much for linking up and sharing your awesome tips!!

    Warmest Wishes,

  4. Love your tips Suzanne! Fine motor practice is so important. I love all the different ideas you have to practice this. Also, you couldn't have said it better, Kindergarten teachers definitely need a lot of patience, especially in the beginning. Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. Suzanne - I love your tips!! I love your first tip about being patient! I have had parent volunteers who say to me, "You are so patient!" I think it is so important to remember they are only 5 and 6 and we definitely need to be patient with our kindergarten friends. Being patient definitely does make a big difference!
    ~Heather :)

  6. I love all of these great tips! Especially practice and practice again, and incorporating fine motor - those are both so important and will really benefit kinders all year long! Thanks so much for sharing!