Help! I’m Teaching Kindergarten for the First Time!

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Are you a first year kindergarten teacher? Or are you a veteran teacher who will be teaching kindergarten for the first time? Either way, I know that this teaching assignment can feel daunting! In my years of teaching kindergarten, we welcomed a new team member almost every year. This is why I have always loved to help new teachers find their footing in kindergarten. Keep reading for some of my tried-and-true tips! 

Tips for teaching kindergarten for the first time

Tips for Teaching Kindergarten for the First Time

Kindergarten truly is a grade level unlike any other, but it's also one of the most rewarding teaching assignments. Your students will represent a wide range of preschool experience, life skill proficiency, and academic ability. It can feel overwhelming to support a room full of brand-new kindergarten students. But there are a few things that will help this go more smoothly for you.

1. Don’t Assume Knowledge

This is the first tip since it’s one of the most important. When you are creating your lesson plans, don’t assume pre-existing knowledge. Many of your students will have never been in a traditional classroom before! Be sure to plan additional time into your lesson plans to pre-teach routines and concepts to your students. This will save you and your students a lot of frustration!

For example, you’ll want to teach your students how to use the sinks and paper towel holders before their first restroom break. If you are using color names in your directions or lessons, be sure to hold up an example of that color. Before you start a craft project, make sure they know how to use school supplies safely. Don’t assume that students have this knowledge already. It’s better to move more slowly and catch all of your students. 

Children in a classroom working together

2. Create Realistic and Reliable Routines

Routines are absolutely essential in a kindergarten classroom. You’ll want to establish routines and procedures from day one, so your students can get used to the flow of the school day as soon as possible. 

However, these routines should be realistic! Don’t expect to get through all of your subject areas in the first few days of school. Set a couple of goals for what you’ll accomplish that day and consider anything else a bonus! You will gradually add to your daily routine, but the overall flow of the day should be the same from pretty much day one.

You’ll also want to include plenty of transition time between activities at the beginning of the year, especially when leaving the classroom. This will give you time to teach and practice procedures like lining up quietly or sitting appropriately at carpet time

Our Carpet Expectations bulletin board with three posters.

3. Use Visual Supports

Visual supports are a must-have in kindergarten! Young students are still developing the language skills they need to follow multi-step directions and understand new vocabulary. Visuals can help to bridge that gap!

You can use picture direction cards to help your students remember the order of steps in a task. A visual with the steps of the arrival routine can help students navigate the classroom more independently

Finally, a visual schedule is probably one of the most helpful things that you can do for your kindergarten class. This can ease so much anxiety for your new students and will also cut back on frequent questions like “Is it time to eat?” or “When can we go home?” interrupting your instruction.

4. Make a Plan for Behavior Management

Another important thing to consider when teaching kindergarten for the first time is what you’ll do for behavior management in your classroom.

Child adding a pepperoni to a pizza chart

Consider how you want to reinforce positive behavior choices as well as how you will address misbehavior. In my experience, focusing on rewarding positive behavior choices will naturally decrease challenging behaviors. One of my favorite ways to encourage students to make positive choices is with a whole-class reward system. It’s low-prep and easy to implement, but it can make a huge impact on student behavior.

Glow and grow notes are another great tool for behavior management in kindergarten. Students are always eager to take home a glow note to their parents! This leads to my next tip: Prioritizing communication with parents.

Glow and grow notes on a table with a pen

5. Prioritize Parent Communication

One of the best things that you can do for behavior management is to develop a strong relationship with your students’ parents and guardians. Communication is key to developing these relationships.

You can set the tone for this open communication by gathering contact information from them at the beginning of the year. Your school likely has this information in a digital format, but this gives you a chance to have parents communicate their preferred contact methods.

A variety of parent communication tools

You’ll want to make sure that your first contact with parents is about something positive. You will have a lot going on during the first week of school, but prioritizing positive communication with parents will set the tone for the entire school year. 

6. Focus on the First Week

The first week of kindergarten is unlike any other week you’ll experience in any other grade level. As important as it is to have the “big picture” for your lesson planning, the bulk of your attention as you approach the school year should be focused on that first week.

Even if you were able to plan more than that, it’s likely that you’ll make significant adjustments after you meet your students on that first day.

First Week of Kindergarten Workshop

Since the first week of kindergarten is so important in setting the tone for the school year, I have put together a First Week of Kindergarten Workshop to help you make a plan! This workshop is full of my tried-and-true tips for starting the year on the right foot. 

In addition to one hour of tips from a veteran kindergarten teacher, you’ll receive editable lesson plans and activities for the first five days of school. I’ll also include other helpful printables like visual supports, information cards, and meet the teacher templates.

Save These Tips for New Kindergarten Teachers

If you’re teaching kindergarten for the first time this year, be sure to save this post! Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest. You’ll be able to come back to these tips and resources when you’re ready to start planning your first year of teaching kindergarten.

Help! I'm teaching kindergarten for the first time

Amy

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