What to Plan for the First Day of Kindergarten


There is so much wrapped up into the first day of school in kindergarten. A kindergarten first day is important to teachers, students, and parents!

Here is what I do ahead of time to prepare for just the first day.

What to Plan for the First Day of School in Kindergarten

These preparations help me keep myself on track the first day of school since we have no routine established, have a lot of kindergarten procedures to learn and we have the attention span of a goldfish.

I say that lovingly and {most} kindergarten teachers will agree.

Staying on track

I write out just about every little thing I can fit into my lesson plan template. I write it out in note form (what makes sense to me) and try to plan in this order:

  • teach
  • move
  • teach
  • move
  • teach
  • move

There are no times listed since I have no idea how long any of these items will take me with the new group of kinders, but I try to use my general sense of kindergarten time-space continuum to plan smart.

I do have anchor points in our day – which are specials, lunch, and dismissal.

If you’re a newbie kindergarten teacher, just do your best and aim to get them moving every 10-15 minutes!

It feels a little bit like herding cats the first few days of school but remember we’re laying the foundation for a year of tremendous growth.

Lol. This funny kindergarten teacher shirt says it all!

Next, and this is magic for me, I take that plan for the day and cut it to fit on my wrist. I make a lesson plan bracelet.

What to plan for the first day of k

Let me first explain what types of things go into my first day of kindergarten lesson plans and then I’ll list them out for you in the order I use them.

Cover the basics – right away

We start by ourselves since we say goodbye to parents outside as part of our morning routine.

I teach them where to put their lunch boxes and backpacks since that’ll be the way we normally start our day and then I move right into teaching them about the bathroom in our classroom.

Seriously? Yep.

There is always a kinder (or seven) who have to use it right away so it’s the best way to get them started off using proper procedures right away and sets them all at ease.

I also teach procedures like how to blow your nose, using your elbow germ-catcher and using a kleenex to get pesky nose germs out.

I’m not going to expect that someone has taught them these things, but I can expect them to do it now that I have taught them. Nose picking in our classroom is so.not.allowed.

This was my first year starting kindergarten with a projector, so that comes with its own set of introductions and we do a “lite” version of the calendar.

Cover the major expectations or rules

Before we’re too far into our day I go over the classroom expectations along with both the rewards and consequences. I find it helps us start the year off smoothly and then I can begin to hold them accountable since the ground rules are set.

It comes down to that we are here at school to learn and so every choice we make needs to work towards that and there are consequences for making choices that prevent that in ourselves or others.

I try to use natural consequences first and always reinforce that the two things in life we can control are our actions and our attitudes.

Plan time to play

Oh yeah, and I plan in playtime.

I schedule it regularly for the first two weeks of kindergarten.

I use this time to snap a photo of each child that will eventually make a class list for specials teachers, substitutes as well as our class name chart and word wall.

I also try to plan in an extra recess into these first few days and it is a great morning break since our mornings are long.

Plan simple activities

Whatever activities you pick – make them simple. Oh gosh, make them simple.

The goal isn’t to be super creative or super-teacher… your goal is to make students feel welcome, learn how to use things in the classroom appropriately, and begin to learn “how to do school in this classroom.”

So pick a simple set of manipulatives to use or a coloring sheet and pick lots of books to read. Find ways to get them to move. A lot.

Plan a flexible ending to the day

And our afternoon is relatively short (about two hours).

Knowing this, I plan an activity, more procedures (so we know what to expect at the end of the day and dismissal) and an activity — if time provides — that can always finish the next morning.

Mrs. Miner’s Secret Gluing Techniques is my end-of-the-day rescue. We can do it rather quickly (for some) and can finish it in the morning (for others) and it helps make the point of learning how to not glue big globs.

Plan things that build on each other for the next couple of days

If you want to do calendar time then just pick a couple of things to do and add one new thing every day (or every couple of days to help lengthen their attention span)

If you plan to teach students how to use a glue bottle on the first day of school, then you can use your newfound technique on the second day of school to glue a small heart onto a Kissing Hand hand-print (using large stamp pads).

This way they aren’t gluing to practice gluing anymore – they are making a product with the skill they learned.

Now, please note that I did opt to teach them how to use a glue bottle on the first day of school and not scissors.

I don’t plan anything with scissors until the third day of school when we learn how to use glue frames (another new gluing skill) and gluing dabs in four corners to put items together.

In that case, we use this lunch expectations craft to practice our new skills. I outline the foods with a marker to make easy cutting lines.

By day three I have a better idea of who to target for individual attention with scissors for behavior reasons and fine motor skills.

When you plan activities that build on the skills you teach, you are quickly helping students learn to be successful.

First day of school lesson plans

Okay, so here are my lesson plans for the first day of school.

Remember, I write this out in note form and jot down what makes sense to me so I’ll be able to recall what I have to do immediately.

Sit in front of cubbies wearing their backpack
Take out lunchboxes (if they have one). Put it in cubbies
Where does our stuff go? Backpacks away in closet on name hooks
Read: classroom bathroom book
Bathroom break
Look at agenda – Line up for gym
Gym 9:00-9:30 [teacher prep]
Sit on the carpet. How we sit
Read: Pete the Cat
How to blow nose and wash hands
Exercise: Numbers jump
Calendar time (whole group – no binders yet) days of the week, trace today’s number, say “Today is…”, put a dot in ten frame
Exercise: Lettercise
Rules (colors, thinks cards)
Read: Lunch procedures book
Snack (practice lunch procedures in cafeteria)
Recess procedures
Extra Recess 10:45-ish *Take a photo of each student individually*
Rules (colors, thinks cards)
Choice/Play time (5 things out: whiteboards, puzzles, people, tools, felt boards) – Turn out lights for 5-minute, 2-minute and 1-minute clean up warning for clean-up song
Review lunch procedures
Lunch/Recess 12:20-1:00 [Teacher task: go put Pete the Cat school tour cards around school, Make list of how everyone gets home]
Read: Pete the Cat Goes to School
School tour (hallway procedures)
Coloring page
Where does the coloring page go? In our cubbies. What else is in your cubbie? A folder!
Read: Folder book and explain where coloring page will go
Going home lines in classroom (walker/rider)
Outside lines [painters tape on ground] (take them outside to see where they wait for pickup)
Rules (quick review! colors, thinks cards)
Get folders into backpacks and put backpacks at their space (on back of chair, under chair or on shelf nearby since we do alternative seating)
Glue (song) and model
Do glue page (leave at their space to dry)
Ready for dismissal 2:55- 3:00 – Line up with backpacks by how they are going home on lines

Let’s wrap it up

There you have it – the planning that helps me keep me on track the first day of school. I hope that these tips and seeing our day written out in bullet-point format is helpful to you.

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

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  1. Tanya,
    I love your idea about using books to introduce your most important procedures. Although I have been combing many pages of your blog about this I’m still not clear on how you put your books together. Could you give me some information about that? I would love to have these ready this year for my kindies! Thanks


    1. Hi Tanya, thanks so much for letting me know that wasn’t easy to find! I’ve got three examples online for you to check out:
      1) Bathroom – https://www.kindergartenworks.com/classroom-management/classroom-procedures-bathroom/
      2) End of the Day – https://www.kindergartenworks.com/classroom-management/classroom-procedures-end-of-the-day/
      3) Pic only / Lunch – https://www.teachjunkie.com/management/back-to-school-lunch-procedures/
      As I mainly used these multi-step processes to teach with a book. I took photos of the steps (usually starring me!) and then added words on each page using Microsoft Word or powerpoint/Google Slides. I highly recommend them for teaching multi-step things at the beginning.
      Does that help?
      – Leslie

  2. I have to tell you, I used your bracelet idea this year. I had at least 3 teachers say, “what is on your wrist?” And, when they looked at it, they were shocked at the simple brilliance of it! LOL Teachers are funny, and easily impressed. Thank you for the great idea. BTW, I teach first grade, but my new firsties come from half day kindergarten, so my first days are also like herding cats! LOL

    Tanya ☺
    First Grade is Fantabulous!

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