Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaching Kindergarten

Recently, a friend of mine got a new position:  kindergarten teacher.  She asked me for some advice.  Here's what I said:


Oh, no...I mean...LOL! Okay, here is the advice:

Classroom Management

Use "Give me FIVE!" as your attention tool NOT yelling. Don't yell or rant. Use few words. Speak slowly and with total command.

Don't treat them like babies but rather as very capable people. Urge independence and group helpfulness.  Think how this year is a process and appreciate the slow progress.

Transitions are key. Have rituals for getting from one place to another. I like line songs. These can be as simple as "Down by the Station," or "Wheels on the Bus". Currently, our line song is one which teaches the 7 continents and the 4 oceans. This is HARD but it's somthing to work up to. I've also done the Spiderman theme song which is beyond difficult but because the children love it so, they learn it.


Have a time out of one minute only. Don't talk to the child before they've sat for LITERALLY one minute. Show no emotion while telling them "One minute" while showing them one finger (not that finger---the index finger). They sit. You remain congniscent of them in the chair. If they are extremely aggitated, you remain next to them. If they try to leave the chair, you sit down in the chair and put them on your lap.  In the beginning, you might have to stand there and count to 60 very deliberately. When you reach the minute:

1. Name the problem in a firm but not angry way "You were throwing sand".

2. Name the rule, “There’s no throwing sand at school.”

3. Say, “You need to say “Sorry.”

4. They say “Sorry.”

5. You change your total demeanor and say, “Give me a hug!” You do NOT say one more negative. That is turned off as the child’s day is re-started.

6. If their action affected another child, you escort them over to apologize to him or her.

7. With an extremely hard child, you might have to give several time outs to think over the course of the first days. This is a testing time and to be expected. Keep on top of the behavior you are helping to curb. Only chose one hard behavior to focus on.

Try to catch the child doing well rather than try to catch them being naughty.

Monitor yourself to make sure you are not constantly calling his or her name.  It's annoying rather than helpful.  Think if you would want someone to do that to you.

Have natural consequences rule rather than prizes which get awarded. I hate reward systems. I love natural consequences. Only those following the rules get to have jobs. Only those sitting nicely in their chair get their math workbook. Only those lined up are going outside. 

Occassionally (not even once a week), I pull out stickers to reinforce immediate tangible reward.  For those stickers, I try my best to make sure everyone is on task and able to get one.  Seriously, though, I might make it seem like not everyone is going to get one.  I might give one table the stickers and then watch for the behavior to improve, see that it has and award it to everyone after that. 

Effective Communication

Give more non-verbal commands than verbal. Be very precise with your hand commands. Use the same ones again and again. Don’t alter. Yes, you might sound robotic at time but there is comfort and safety from sameness at this age.

Get a cavalcade of finger plays, songs, and rhymes ready to pull out of your hat whenever you need.

Keep teaching time to 15 minutes or less. Get them up on their feet doing something in between activities.

Find special moments to love up the kids. Tie shoes, zip zippers, wash hands and give the extra love in small amounts that are real connections. Don’t fake it. Kids know.

Write notes to parents in a book which goes back and forth from school to home. Balance both good and bad; social and academic. Date everything. Check it daily though you don’t have to write in it daily.

Structure in the Day

As children arrive, teach them with every interaction.  Don't think that the teaching is only once the bell rings.

While taking attendance, use the time to really connect and to mold each child's behavior and response.  Talk to kids about sitting up straight, smiling, speaking loudly enough, attendance if they have missed the day before, appearance if they are needing help with that.  Make loving and helpful statements as you call names.

Have a morning meeting and a closing meeting to frame the day.  The morning meeting helps children adjust to coming back into the world of learning you're creating together.  The closing meeting helps reinforce concepts and ideas right before you send them away.

Keep a schedule posted on your board with graphics for what will be happening in your day. Keep referring to it.

Refer to the clock and talk about time as if you are keeping aware of it--which you are!

Do a 5-minute rest time each day after a story. They don’t have to sleep. They just have to be quiet with heads down. Those who can’t be quiet will be the last to pick what to play at center time.


Have simple rules which you refer to---actually stop and refer to the rules posted. Here are mine:

1. Eyes on the teacher

2. Ears listening to the teacher

3. Sit nicely in your chair

4. Raise your hand to talk

5. Speak in English

There are other rules like "Only one person at the bathroom at one time.  That person comes back and another can go." A rule like this must be followed---however exceptions can take place out of compassion.
Try to treat them as you would like to be treated--yep, The Golden Rule.

If children aren't following rules very well.  Take a moment and correct it right away.  Use, "Give me five!" to get their attention before re-directing their behavior.


Take lots of photos throughout the year.  Start with photos on the first day of school.  This helps to break the ice.  One of the best presents you can give parents is a photo of their child at school.

Look into creating a classroom website which can extend the affect you have on the child all the way to their home computer.
Use youtube videos which give them an educational experience.  I spend hours each week grabbing the best videos I can find and saving them by theme on my computer.  The children have their favorites.  I show videos throughout our day.  The video length is very short---usually under three minutes.  I do not agree with showing movies or TV shows---not even half an hour.  Children get enough screen time. 

I show a special cartoon on the last day of the week (Thursday).  That is the only day I would show something longer.  I think it's around 15-20 minutes total to show around two or three cartoons.


Make the choice to really be the person which changes the life of child each and every day.  Remember the FISH!  Philosophy.  You will absolutely make a huge difference.  Work to the best of your abilities because this is a huge responsibility which Allah will ask you about on The Day of Judgement.  Inshahallah, you will have earned hasanette.

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