I love teaching kindergarten because students are at a magical age where they’re curious about everything, constantly soaking up the world around them and they love you unconditionally. I love that I provide their first experience to what school is about. However, teaching kindergarten is an exhausting career and the first day and even first week tends to be extra exhausting. Over my few years of teaching, I’ve figured out some tips to making the first day of kindergarten run smoothly.
1. Go on a classroom and school tour.
At some point in your day (I do this toward the beginning of the day), take your new bunch of babies on a school AND classroom tour. I’m lucky because I have an assistant teacher so we split students in half and while I’m giving a classroom tour, she gives a school tour. Then, we switch kids so all students get to tour both the school and the classroom. If you do not have an assistant you’ll just have to give both tours. You may even want to split your tours into two days.
What to do during your school tour:
1. Make sure you stop by the bathrooms. I have my assistant show students where the bathroom is and she lets students use the bathroom so they can get familiarized. Go over bathroom rules while you’re there.
2. Stop by the office and introduce your kiddos to the secretary AND principal. This is a nice treat for the secretary and principal as kindergarteners really are the cutest at school! (Shh, don’t tell the other grades.)
3. Show students where they will be eating snack and lunch. Go over snack and lunch rules during this time but also remind students of the rules right before snack and right before lunch. I found a TpT freebie about lunchtime manners that I like to read the first week before lunch.
4. Let students explore where they’ll be playing. My assistant walks students by the school play structure and also where our outside toys are at the back door of our classroom.
What to do during your classroom tour:
1. Show students where their seats are. In my classroom, I have spots for them to sit at our carpet and seats at a table. They already know their rug spots because I give the classroom tour after we’ve done circle time. It’s a good idea to practice transitioning from their rug square to their tables.
2. Point out where your daily schedule is and how you’ll tell them what the schedule is each day. Also tell them what subjects you’ll be covering in kindergarten.
3. Explain any behavior management systems. I like to only briefly discuss my whole class and table point systems because they’ll catch on as you use them. What I focus on during this part of the tour is our clip chart. I have students sit around the clip chart and explain how it works. I point out where their clips are and that each student has their own clip. Then, I give examples and have students practice moving their clips up and down. Important: when you pick a volunteer to ask to move their clip down for an example reason, make sure you preface the scenario with… “this is pretend” or “I know this would never happen..” so the student who is moving their clip down does not feel bad and is not traumatized on their first day of school. And, of course give an example of clip up behavior and have them move their clip back up.
4. Show different sections in your room. I like to show the different center stations and what types of things they might find there. I also show where our free play toys are and show them the options there. Last, I show them our library. I show this last because I have them practice taking a book from the library and find a spot to sit. We read in the library until the second group comes back from their school tour.
2. Start routines right away.
It’s important to get into your routines right away so students begin to learn the schedule and your expectations from the get go. I do circle time as the very first thing in the morning on the first day of school because that’s what we do every single morning of kindergarten. During the first week, I model all the jobs and then as the second week begins, I start having volunteers come up to practice the circle jobs.
I also start my behavior management systems right away and show them my expectations through positive reinforcement of students who are showing behavior that I am looking for. We do an activity about bucket fillers and we practice writing bucket fillers to a new friend in our class. All these routines start day one so students can get used to them and be successful right away.
3. Take a first day of kindergarten picture.
Your students are coming to you as tiny little peanuts and by the time the end of the year rolls around.. they will have blossomed into these humans who have grown and changed so much. I made a “First Day of Kindergarten” frame and a “Last Day of Kindergarten” frame in order to capture this growth. Tip: At the end of the year, I put together a memory book for my students as a keepsake and use these two pictures as the cover. Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself in the frame, this is your first day of kindergarten too!
Create your own frame with these supplies! (Affiliate Link)
4. Plan enough but not too much.
Every year, I forget just how long it takes kindergarteners at the beginning of the year than at the end to do things. Make sure you give yourself extra time for transitions especially. Kindergarteners are a little bit like lost sheep and it will take double the time for everything you ask them to do. If you find that you’ve given yourself too much transition time (highly unlikely) ask a get to know you question. Or you could play a game like Simon Says or go over school and classroom rules.
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. (And repeat right before.)
I remember my second year teaching, I went over dismissal rules and how we need to give a high five so that I know who is leaving and can watch who they are leaving with. Well, despite tip number 4, I did not give myself enough time before dismissal to repeat dismissal rules. And, as we walked out in our best line that first day of kinders could do, I turned to look as we reached outside and saw all students start running in different directions toward their parents. This gave my teacher heart the biggest scare ever as I tried to see who went with who. It was a huge disaster! Now, I make sure I repeat the rules and procedures right before they happen. I also tell parents to stand at our kindergarten tables so this does not happen again. This is just one instance where I wish I took the extra time to repeat, repeat, repeat. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Kindergarteners need extra repetition to get things stuck in their brains. Make sure you repeat everything: rules, procedures, directions, expectations, etc!
These five tips will help you have a successful first day of kindergarten. What tips would you add to this list?