I’m heading into my seventh year of teaching and all in kindergarten. Each year, I get the jitters and am nervous. The first year, I was nervous that I was in kindergarten. I went from student teaching in third grade to kindergarten. I let my principal know at the time. He told me it wasn’t much different than third grade. Knowing what his personality was like later, I think he must have been joking. It is way different. Although, if he wasn’t joking, there are similarities and practices by all teachers.

Talking to another teacher is like talking to family. It’s a similar experience to when I find out you are from Montana. I was born and raised there. There’s an understanding of the culture and how different it is from the outside world. There’s just something special about it. That is what teaching kindergarten is like. When you are a kindergarten teacher, you are very special. It takes a special person to teach the littles.

Planning for the first day can be daunting when you may not know your kids or specialist schedule. That being said, there are things I teach every year in the same order for the sanity of a classroom. And Lord, I pray, I get to it swiftly when I have a 9 AM prep the first morning of the first day of school. Now you know why I’ve started a fitness routine prior to school starting. I feel like Rocky – teacher edition!

Here are the essentials of any lesson plan for the first day of school and the amount of time I dedicate to each task. They will need modification to fit your schedule, need and class culture. Please also keep in mind that although I have a “teaching,” time attributed to each activity or task, it often takes way longer, you won’t get everything you want done the first day, and teaching time then takes practice, practice and more practice. This means that it takes longer than the teaching time in parentheses and your time will go by quickly. Also keep in mind that at our school, kindergarten goes to lunch last. So our mornings are much longer than our afternoons.

  1. Coming into the Building (5 minutes)
  • Kindergarten is so incredibly special. Our kids line up separate from the rest of the elementary building and walk in with parents. Families pour in. It’s the day you will see, mom, dad, auntie, grandpa, grandma, the neighbor, and all for one kiddo. It’s beautiful the support these kids, but if I’m not careful in my planning, it will create utter chaos! I’m the last classroom in the school, and so this means I coordinate with the other teachers earlier in the hall to take my class inside before the other classes, so I don’t lose any little bodies who don’t happen to have parents. There are always a few. Sometimes parents work, or the kids have older siblings with them who drop them off in the morning. I try to move the kids without parents toward the front of the line and walk inside before the other classes, so the big bodies of the parents don’t block the little ones behind them. It’s a safety concern.
  • Also, at this time, even though it is the first day of school, I have two kids hold the first door and two kids hold the interior entrance. I model this with their backs to the door. I say that the first two kids always hold the door. Parents usually help out with this. I make sure the kids without parents are not stuck holding the door. Starting from day one will continue to help with the chaos and will help the next day of school. It lets them and even parents know, that kids have responsibilities. (30 seconds)
  1. Classroom Entrance (10 minutes)
  • When families come into the classroom, I have coloring name writing sheets in place of name plates at each spot. You can find mine here. At this time, I take pictures of any remaining families who didn’t have conferences. Parents always have questions or need reminders, so give yourself and parents a little bit of grace with this entry time. And, if you’re like our school, right in the middle of this time is the pledge of allegiance. We just ignore it the first day of school. We start on day 2.
  1. Graceful Parent Goodbyes (1 minute)
  • I let parents know ahead of time at conferences prior to school’s start, that I will wave to them and say goodbye. On the first day, my speech may go something like this: “Thank you so much parents for coming in with your kiddos today. We hope that you have a wonderful day, because we know that we are going to have an amazing one! We can’t wait to let you know about it after school. Please remember to pick up your kids’ Remember, I don’t let them go until I see you, point and personally hand them off to you. Thank you for understanding our safety. Have a great day.” And I wave again.
  1. Attention Signals (5-10 minutes) And throughout the day practice
  • Immediately after parents leave, I say: “red light.” This is the attention signal that our team created prior to me starting and is the same signal we use in common across our grade level. This helps when we switch kids for different activities during the year. I put both hands on my head. For the most part, kids are nervous or are in a new environment and they quiet down immediately. For those who do and those who don’t, I still say: “red light means we stop what we are doing, put our hands down and place both hand on our head and face the speaker. This way I know I have your whole-body listening skills.” I also give a compliment to students who I see working hard. If it is the entire class, I praise the entire class. We need positives the first day. We need lots of them. I also let them know that this is an important signal. I have them look around the classroom and let them know they can answer my questions by raising their hand and waiting until I call on them. I ask them to tell me how many kids they notice. I ask them what would happen if everyone would talk at the same time. It would be noisy. I repeat that this is why putting on listening ears and focusing our attention on the speaker is so important. This year, I also plan on employing a doorbell that can be used by plugging into an outlet.
  1. Lining Up and Name Tags (5 minutes+)
  • This is when your routine may change based on your day. We usually have preps in the morning. I may teach lining up right away and let kids know the procedures for walking in line. I hold out my hand like I’m an airline pilot over their heads and say their heads should line up with my arm. I also show them “hallway hands.” I don’t offer different ways of walking in line until later, as I want consistency and there is already so much to remember – besides, that leaves room for tempting fingers to touch walls, etc. If we don’t, this is when we go to the carpet and I let them know how excited I am that they are at school. If you aren’t lining up to go to a prep, you can practice sitting at your seat, and calling students to line up (I wouldn’t call the entire class to line up the first day or until kids know the routine very well and can accomplish this safely. I suggest calling students by table colors, groups, etc.) This is also a great time to pin or hand out lanyard name tags! This way you know who is who before you go anywhere. Lanyards are great, just tie a knot toward the top, so the lanyard doesn’t drop into the toilet or something.
  1. Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee Name Game (20 minutes)
  • Another teacher introduced this name game to me my first year of teaching and it is still one of my favorites; however, depending on the kids, it can get very long. So, I try to keep the tempo moving and make sure I have at least twenty minutes or more to play the game. Otherwise, we won’t finish, and I don’t want to leave class for a prep or lunch without completing the game with everyone’s name.
    • To play the game, you chant: Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee, will you say your name for me? [You model] My name is Miss Mandy. [Class says] Hi, Miss Mandy. Then repeat. Hickety pickety bumble bee, will you say your name for me? [child answers] My name is ____. [class says] Hi, _____.
      • If kids are nervous or don’t want to answer, they can whisper it to you, or you can say it for them. If I do, I’m sure to smile and nod my head like they said it aloud, even if I didn’t hear them.
  1. First Day Read Aloud, Expectations (10-15 minutes MAX)
  • There are so many choices for read alouds on the first day of school. During this time, we discuss carpet expectations for reading corner and learning. We will have an anchor chart ready (I don’t write one the first day as I’m not sure attention spans yet, and different personalities don’t always allow for that luxury). Pictures are key. I even have pictures on my lanyard to show the first day. This is especially important for kids with high or special needs. It’s also very helpful for English Language Learners.
  1. Snack (15 minutes)
  • I don’t have enough time to have all kids wash their hands before snack; however, if it works out the right way, we have snack after our bathroom break. Otherwise, a little squirt of hand sanitizer is what each kid gets (I model how to rub it in the way you model washing hands in the bathroom). At this time, I have kids sit quietly at their seat, and I put in a read aloud on the screen (Scholastic Treasures are the best!).
  1. School Field Trip (60 minutes)
  • This is the time we explore our school locations and I teach many procedures Kid’s use this checklist throughout the first day or two at school). We may be able to do this all in one shot or need to break it up based on priorities because of specialists. I use time after specialists, that break up our morning, to continue our scavenger hunt/field trip of the building.
    • Bathroom (20 minutes) We go to the bathroom and teach expectations for the restroom. I only allow two girls and two boys in at any one time. I go over what it looks like to wash hands, take one paper towel and where to line up when they are finished. I remind them of the importance that we are quiet in the hallway because everyone is learning just like they are learning.
    • Both Recess Playgrounds (20-30 minutes): During the school scavenger hunt, we explore two recess playgrounds. I show them the playground for lunchtime and where they will line up. I also go over expectations for recess. We walk on the blacktop, go down the slide on our bottoms, no camping in the tunnel, hands are kept to ourselves, etc. Your school will likely have a certain set of rules already for you to communicate to students.
    • Lunchroom Visits (10 minutes): We usually go as classroom pairs and teach kids with the principal and vice principal how to get our tray, use the buffet, where to sit and the expectations in there. We have kids walk around and practice (without using trays) and pretend and walk through the procedure.

These morning procedures and activities on the first day are usually more than I will be able to accomplish. However, this is fairly accurate. Usually, the name game or read aloud have to be transferred to the afternoon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *