Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kindergarteners In Training

I think the hardest part of being a kindergarten teacher is all of the training we have to do at the beginning of the year.  I am going to be brutally honest right now:  every year, during September only, I wish I was a 1st grade teacher.  Yes, I, the one who loves teaching kinders who, normally, wouldn't trade her kindergarten job for the world, wishes to be in a different grade.  Oh, and, don't get me wrong, I don't think you first grade teachers have it easy, I just think that they SHOULD have a better idea of how to do things like "sit on the rug", "line up at the door", "walk in the hall (oh, yes, and please do so in a straight line without talking!)", "tell me, is that a lunch or a snack box?" or even simple tasks like "take out a pencil".  Kinders, however, do not know how to do these things, nor do most of them have the capacity to listen long enough to find out how to do these things, let alone why we need to do these things.  So, how do we do it?? There are helpful online courses focused on early childhood education that can give you different insights and techniques in teaching kinders.I am sure we all do it differently and in our own special ways, but I have a list of what I think are some important things to do to "train" these young students to listen when they need to so that they can learn to their optimal level during their kindergarten year.

  1. Establish what your "attention grabber" method is and practice, practice, practice...Before we can even begin to worry about the fact that they can't write their name (or hold a pencil the right way for that matter!) and can't cut, we need to figure out how to command their attention.  Whether your method is the monkey face, counting down, or clapping a pattern, your students need to know that when you make that request, it is time to stop, look, and listen.  They do not come to you knowing this.  Even if they were in a preschool, chances are good that it was a different signal than yours, so they all need to learn what your expectations are when they hear the signal.
  2. Positive Praise Goes a LONG way... Try as hard as you can to ignore all of the blurting and children getting out of their seats the first week of school.  They are likely not doing it to be naughty or to interrupt you, but because they just don't know any better.  Will it help them to constantly say "NO!"?  Maybe, but chances are that they will learn from their classmates who are listening much more quickly.  I am CONSTANTLY complimenting my children who are sitting on their bottoms listening, raising their hand to speak, and sitting at their table spot ready to work.  I call them my "professional kinders" and say how quickly they are learning to be a wonderful student.  They all want to be professionals and want to make me happy and do indeed follow suit!


        3. Understand your students... Planning for the beginning of the year kindergarten should be thought of in 15 minute increments.  That is the longest that the best kindergarten child can sustain his/her attention.  They need to move even if it is just to their table spots after listening to  a story.  But, even better, incorporate movement songs and stories into your routine to engage their little brains (and get them loving to learn!). I use TONS of Dr. Jean and www.HeidiSongs.com to teach basic concepts as well as get them moving.  They need time to get to know each other as well.  That means extra recess, extra cooperative play times and longer snack breaks for the first couple of weeks of school.  They aren't going to be optimal learners until they feel comfortable with you, their classmates and have tried everything that looks interesting in the classroom out.  Don't worry about "losing academic time" at this point.  If you do create a good balance of socializing and learning in the beginning, it will actually gain you more time to teach as the year goes on and give them the confidence they need to put their all into their academic learning.

      4.  Be an actress/actor...These children need to be entertained and it is your job to do it.  Use
           puppets to teach concepts, put a hat and funky glasses on (they will love to believe it is a
           different teacher) to gain their attention for that last lesson of the day!  Be excited about
           learning and they will be, too!

What is some advice you have for beginning kindergarten teachers?  Leave it in the comment section!

7 comments:

  1. With my first year teaching kinder and the past 2 years being in first grade... I am wishing I was a 1st grade teacher right about now. I completely agree with the positive praise! I love the idea of professionals... I will have to use that next week! I have found that the more excited I am about something, the more they are. At this time of year, it is easy to get frustrated because they don't quite know how to do things because, well, we haven't gotten the chance to teach them yet! When I go into the day expecting them to be sweet babies who don't know the rules yet, I'm not as frustrated as I get when I wish they were 1st graders! :) Anyone else ready for October when they just get it and we get to do fun Fall activities?

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  2. lol I totally agree with you! I got swithced to 1st grade this year and the one thing I get a good giggle out of is watching the K teachers trying to train up their kinders! My firsties seem so grown up and they already know so much, I am much more relaxed than I was at this time last year, even though I am still adjusting to the change in grade levels.
    I will admit to sneaking into the K classes on occasion just for a quick hug and talk with those adorable littles, they are just too precious at the beginning of the year! I think they make kinders extra cute and sweet just to compensate K teachers for all of the extra training they have to do at the beginning of the year!

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

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  3. Oh my goodness, this sounds just like the conversation that we kindergarten teachers had on the playground the other day! 3 out of the 4 of us all said we didn't know if we could stay in kindergarten any longer simply because it is so exhausting to train them! I do, however, notice that MOST of them are getting better (we've been in school for 2 1/2 weeks), so hopefully in another week or two they'll get it together, haha! ;)

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  4. Thanks for sharing! It is so true. I just said this week that it was more exhausting to train the kids than to teach them. I'm headed to school tomorrow with a better attitude and some new tools in my belt to handle kindergarten.

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  5. Very true! I totally found myself wishing I taught first grade this past week, especially when a little girl had me button and unbutton her pants every.single.time she went to the bathroom the first day. So exhausting, but they'll get there eventually! :)

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  6. Thanks for this post! I am teaching Kinder again after a 10 year break (3rd, 2nd, 1st, math...everything else) and WOW! What a difference! Reading this post reminded me what is important!

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  7. Man do I wish I'd found you...about 4 months ago. My degree is in 1-5 and I have been in love with 2nd grade and NEVER thought I'd be in Kindergarten. Then the first job I was offered in a classroom was in Kindergarten. I felt like I was drowning as a first year, coming into a classroom a couple weeks into school, AND we split classes. I feel a thousand times better now and love these ideas. :) Can't wait to use them when I get back after Christmas break

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