12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year

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How to start kindergarten on the right foot with 12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year. These tips to start kindergarten successfully will cover setting procedures, using the alphabet and names in addition to connecting with parents. Starting kindergarten successfully is a planned event and these 12 tips can be applied whether you are a new teacher or have been teaching for years.

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year

Setting the foundation for strong readers and writers can begin the first week of kindergarten! I’ve got a few ideas and resources to point to that helped me get my year off to a great start.

Looking back to what worked well, I hope these tips and resources can help you gather for next year or remind you of just how far you’ve already come from the beginning of the year with your class!

Setting Procedures

1. Have a classroom management plan in place. Even if you think you may want to tweak it later on. Get it down in writing for yourself, come up with short phrases you think you can use to refer to often and decide what language you want to use so that when the time comes day one, you’ll feel prepared and won’t be searching for the right words.  Example (“Make a better choice.” “You chose to…” “This is your warning for…”)

2. Be prepared to explain the why behind procedures and choices in short, concise terms. My favorite is explaining why we will follow directions the first time, and explaining what a {fun} teacher I am if I have to explain things 23 times, 23 times, 23 times, 23 times.

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks

Think Cards from Behavior Plan and Parent Notes | TpT

3. Consider how updating a color card or clip chart system can work for you to help keep track with students, but best communicate to kinders and parents about their choices. Often these systems put emphasis on colors to help track choices, but it’d be best if the colors can be used in connection with your classroom system as a way of reporting choices. That way the colors are not the focus. For example, I used “think cards(TpT) in my classroom. These are cards a student has to reflect upon if they have chosen not to follow a classroom rule or procedure. They speak a positive confession like “I will {insert good choice}.” They do use colors like the typical color card system to then report home the number of think cards or the number of great choices they made. They are much more likely to remember their choice if that is the focus during the day as opposed to a color.

4. Plan for both the positive and negative. Of course we want to focus on the positive! Something new I am trying this year and love the flexibility with is using reward coupons for students who have made excellent choices. These are free once you have them in place and they love the choices.

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks

5. To incentivize in the moment, if you have a great-smelling chapstick in hand – you’re good to go! I fondly call them “smelly spots” and these are treasured, invisible marks used in our classroom  to reward little moments to recognize great behavior, citizenship or responsibility. Students love recalling their excellent choice each time they get a whiff of the back of their hand.

Alphabet

Learning the alphabet is what we do! And learning it as fast as possible seems to be our goal with the new Common Core Standards. Why not practice letter sounds right along side identifying letters so you also meet the needs of those who are ready? The Letter Factory Video is a great way to promote the sounds the first couple weeks of school. You can shorten it to a half hour after watching the entire thing once. By just reviewing the alphabet portions you may find that students can connect a physical and kinesthetic motion to each letter of the alphabet which you can easily incorporate into any alphabet chart or chant!

{See how easily you can use the /a/ as a “frightened” motion to always refer to for your kinesthetic learners}

Using Names

Starting with student names is a classic way to begin working on letter recognition, sight words and sound production. So, how can you effectively use names?

1. Create class books the first weeks of school that feature their names. These quickly become the most read books, since they learn quickly to read their friend’s names and feel successful at “reading!” This year, I was inspired by April from Chalk Talk to create a class book based off of the classic coconut tree story of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks

We started with abc all on one page to kick it off, and then it left us with 23 letters left. Yes, done on purpose since there are 23 of us in the room! This helped us order the pages when it came time to binding the story. We each got an alphabet stamp to go in the box, and some students felt lucky to have the beginning letter of their name. We glued in our picture {taken on the first day} and colored the border around after writing our names.

2. Actually plan which names you can use right away in your interactive writing and which names you can use later on as you grow in phonics so that you always have a “go to” list. I write down who will be our anchor names for bits like “er” or “br” since these will help us become effective word detectives! Go to last names if you’re in need of trickier sounds to get, but usually you’ll be amazed to find exactly what you need.

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks

3. Put their names everywhere and in mobile places so they can always carry a model to wherever they are working in the classroom. Pencil boxes are a great solution to making this work!

Basics

I’d be at great fault if I didn’t say that kinders need to practice the basics. Oh boy, do they ever. This year I am thankful that we included secret gluing techniques into our first weeks of school and edified great lunch procedures {activity that gave us great cutting and gluing practice}.

The best tip I have to getting down the basics of whatever multi-step process you have going on is to create a social story for it. My definition may not be the exact one, but create an actual book with simple text and photos of you following each step. Not only will this help students with special needs, but it will help all students live through the experience before they ever do it. The power of literature. {Yep – even literature written by moi}

12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks

Social stories to consider creating:

Why feature yourself? Because on the first day, you are the superstar and the only one they’ll know. Make yourself the main character and they will love it. Plus, you’ll love the opportunity to {sit – phew!} read a short story that is teaching exactly what you want them to know in preparation for the next 10-15 minutes of your day.

Connecing with Parents

Making a connection with parents is part of our job, and as uncomfortable it can sometimes be to have to calm parent fears at the same time as kinder ones, it comes with the territory. What can help?

  • Have an open house or informal meeting night where students can meet you, drop off supplies and you can get materials needed for the first day into parent hands. They’ll feel better knowing what to expect.
12 tips to start a successful kindergarten year - KindergartenWorks
  • Have a parent-friendly class procedures letter ready to go home day one. Make every topic short, relevant and include clipart. Make it attractive so parents will want to read it. Keep it brief. Mention hot topic things that most first-time school parents will want to know like: gym shoes on which days, library books due what day, birthday treat policy, homework policy, book logs for at home reading, sending money to school {your preference} and student daily folders. Include your preferred method of contact and also send it by email once school has started, so they can always have a reference copy.
  • Call them. Yep. Just do it. It does take your time. Its not comfortable. Do it anyway. I always “knew” that it was a good thing to do and that it would be appreciated by parents. This year was the first year I actually did it. I called after the first week just to let them know their child had a good first week {no matter what} and wanted to see if they had any questions. A little time on the front end can have a huge pay off over the entire year. It’s a great way to start that phone documentation log you always knew you should have going.

More Back to School:

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I hope you find these 12 tips of value to you! If you like this post, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly just like this one. What are your tips for starting kindergarten? – Leslie
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About Leslie atKindergartenWorks

Leslie is the author of KindergartenWorks. She teaches kindergarten students how to be pretty incredible along with teaching them to read, write and think for themselves. She enjoys graphic design, learning new things and sharing with teachers. Google+

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