You’ve been a teacher for a few years now and you know it takes a lot of patience. Teaching Kindergarten can be especially difficult because these kids are still learning the basics – like how to share, what to say when they need help, or how to make friends. It’s important to set high expectations for your students. If they’re used to getting what they want from their parents, this will make them feel empowered in the classroom.
Read on for 9 ways to help your students succeed – from creating a positive classroom environment, to making sure you set clear expectations and provide the proper support.
The Kindergarten Classroom
Now that you know what you’re getting into, you’ll want to focus on creating a positive classroom environment.
As a teacher you want to ensure your students are healthy, feel safe, and feel comfortable with all the changes that take place throughout the year. For most kindergarten students this will mean many sensory breaks, calming activities, time to build relationships with their teacher, and a much more structured schedule. Now that you know what you’re getting into, you’ll want to focus on creating a positive classroom environment.
A well-established routine is vital for a child to thrive. They need a clear routine to know what to expect every day. Since this is such a new environment, establishing the following routines will help with creating a positive classroom environment:
– Every morning they must get dressed and eat breakfast.
– They must get proper sleep.
– They must adjust themselves in the classroom.
Teaching Procedures for Kindergarten
Before you start teaching, make sure you are organized. Check your emails and sign up for a school newsletter so you can stay informed about what’s going on with your students and school. Keep a file with all the cards you need for each child in case you need to look them up when you don’t have a written schedule.
Before you teach, make sure you know where each child sits on the map. These should be set up by alphabetical order. If your students are lined up on the rug, you can put the chairs at the two end corners and stack them like a ramp so your kids are easy to get up and down.
Learn to write numbers before you start teaching. It will take a few weeks for your students to be able to recognize numbers 1-20.
Setting Clear Expectations
I’ve noticed a common pattern among first-grade teachers.
Instead of setting clear, specific expectations, many of them begin their class with “Good Morning!” The children are too young to understand what this means. Instead of thinking about how they can help students be successful in their schoolwork, they simply assume the students are ready for the day.
For most kindergarten teachers, this is simply not enough. It’s important for you to make sure your students are understanding the expectations you set. Don’t take the first step in class by asking them to “tell me about your mommy.” Instead, provide an example and use words like “she cooks…” or “she cleans…” or “she gets things for you.
Set high expectations
One of the best ways to prepare your students for Kindergarten is to set high expectations from the beginning. You have to be consistent with your expectations or you’ll find yourself constantly stressing and worrying about whether or not you’ve raised your expectations enough. By starting out by setting the bar high, you give your students the sense that they can perform well in the classroom.
The following are some of the major ways to set high expectations for your students:
Understand how different aspects of the classroom work together to help your students succeed.
You need to understand how to teach and model teaching skills – in addition to helping your students learn to become successful learners. For instance, there’s an art to teaching reading skills.
Use positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement should be the name of the game. Your students don’t understand the concept of holding back. As a Kindergarten teacher, your job is to get your students as many experiences as possible, so you can teach them about accepting and acknowledging mistakes – as long as they’re made in a positive way. At the end of the day, they want to be able to tell their parents what they’ve done and they want to be able to tell you if they don’t know something, so they can learn. So, it’s important that your classroom environment is full of positive reinforcement. It’s important to reward students for small and big things they do so that they know you appreciate their efforts. It’s important to acknowledge that a student is trying – even if they make mistakes.
Providing the Proper Support
It’s easy to feel like you’re alone with this group of kids. You’re in their faces all day, and you don’t really get a break. Although you may not need an extra hand, it’s important to make sure you get regular breaks and that you speak to your colleagues to see what they need help with. Sometimes you’ll just need to be reminded to take a second to refocus and think about the other children in the class. It will also be beneficial to discuss this with your colleagues so that you can support each other.
Getting to Know the Parents
You may not have as much time to spend with your students’ parents in the beginning, but you’ll definitely need to build a relationship with them if you want your students to be successful.
Spend individual time with students
Spend time helping each of your students. It’s important that you can know each of your students’ names and have fun with them. Give them a call out when they’ve made a great effort and pat them on the back when they make a mistake. Students should learn to be responsible for their own behavior and how to manage their time.
If they struggle in the classroom, it’s important to spend more time with them individually. Try to make their learning journey more fun and help them develop empathy. Show them that you trust them and they can handle it.
Make your classroom child-friendly
Make sure your classroom is child-friendly and you keep a good variety of activities available to all your students. Give your students everything they need to make learning fun.
Teach children communication skills
Communication skills are the most important thing you can teach your students at this age. Kids have limited vocabulary so you’ll need to use lots of vocal instruction. Practice starting conversations with simple phrases, like:
Hello, how are you?
I see you found your desk.
I see you’ve made a new friend today.
What would you like to do?
Do you have any ideas about how we can get the two kindergarten rooms working better together?
Help them make friends
If you’ve taught more than a few kids you know that most of them have similar interests.
Avoiding Kindergarten “Hurdles”
To create a positive classroom environment, you need to be supportive of your students’ goals and be honest about the hurdles they may face along the way. For example, one student may be concerned about sharing. You could tell them that it may be difficult for this student, but they should talk to you about it. Another student may feel nervous about speaking in front of the class, so you could tell them that it may be challenging for her, but that they can always practice in front of the mirror. The key is to be honest and realistic. When you address these hurdles, you’ll show your students that you’re a kind and empathetic teacher who’s dedicated to their success.
Helping kids learn to share
Spending time with your kids every day can be difficult. When a toy is taken away and then returned to the class, it can be frustrating. If you’re feeling this way, try these strategies:
Read books to your kids and help them see the difference between fun and too much. When things get too hard, talk to your kids about how sharing isn’t a competition. Help them understand how being a good friend is more important than having the toy they want.
Encourage them to make a list of toys they want to share. Let them be the “judges” and choose which toys they want to take home. Help them keep track of how many toys they shared, and be there for a hug when they make a good choice.
Be patient when helping kids learn to share. Take a deep breath and remember that this is a process for them.
Correcting inappropriate behavior
Kindergartners are easily distracted and eager to please their teachers. In an attempt to work together or even to prove their independence, they may forget their manners. Don’t get discouraged; it takes practice! Use strategies to deal with their disruptive behaviors – if your students are throwing items and having temper tantrums, try talking to them and explaining why this behavior isn’t appropriate. And if they aren’t interested in learning how to write their names, try the letter-making writing activity or even just practicing recognizing letters on a page. Remember, teaching takes practice and patience.
Getting rid of the “whining kid”
When a child does act up in class, it’s often a simple matter of educating parents to be more understanding of their child’s frustrations.
I know we’ve just been introduced to some of the things you have to teach in kindergarten, but do not stop there. I’m positive you have a great kindergarten teacher who can help. Do not take your responsibility for helping your students lightly.