Starting Out with Kindergarten

Aww, kinder babies. They're so precious, I just wanna squeeze their little cheeks off! They come into school either crying, peeing, or screaming with joy, but we love 'em nonetheless.

This is my first year to actually teach kindergarten. I taught 1st last year, and I've had plenty of experiences with kinder babes, but never really had my own kinder classroom. However, I am FULLY and {un}blissfully aware of how needy and unable-to-do-things-for-themselves they can be. And I don't hate 'em for it, I mean -- THEY'RE FIVE. Sometimes, they're FOUR!

So, how in the ba-jeepers do we get them to do centers if we can't expect them to use the toilet the right way?! They sometimes do not know the alphabet, can't write {anything -- expect for maybe those weird, but hilariously adorable creatures that have circles for bodies and lines for arms and legs, see below}, and they have no clue how to use scissors or glue.
Trial and error, baby. That's how. Seriously! First of all, never, ever, ever, ever, ever start the first day with morning work that requires scissors or glue. That is for real asking for a long and hard day. I might go as far as to say don't even put ANYTHING that has to do with crayons, or pencils, or writing at all. I'm playing it safe and putting mini containers of Play-Doh on each student's spot at their tables. It requires no instructions, no scissors, no glue, no paper! Just have at it, Junior.

My plan of attack is to explicitly explain how to use crayons, glue, scissors, and pencils on the VERY first day. We will talk about how to hold them, where they go {on paper, not on people or desks}, how to put them away, and I will MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. This guy {Mr. Greg from Kindergarten Smorgasboard - he's PRECIOUS and has tons of great ideas!!} is saving my LIFE with this glue sponges. I am making them today. :) That should help with the hell that is glue.  I bring this point up because all of my centers require either scissors, glue, pencils or crayons {most of the time...some are puzzles/games, but more on that later.}

ONWARD ----> to centers! My literacy and math centers will take 5 weeks to introduce and implement. I am being extremely flexible, so if my group of kinders have all been to preschool, it might take 4. If they've never even heard of school, it might take 6-8. I'm good with that. I am fine with it taking the first half of the school year if it means my kids are autonomous with their centers at SOME POINT during the year.

The big lesson that I learned last year is this --- NEVER assume the kids KNOW not to do any of the following things:

• Scream
• Run around the room/not stay at their center station
• Destroy the center materials
• Roll around on the floor
• Jump on bean bags
• Do something other than their center activity
• Fight/not take turns

This covers most of my frustrations last year. TOTALLY my fault and TOTALLY avoidable. I have a HUGE list of procedures to teach the kids and my intention is to teach every last one of them as an explicit mini lesson. I might do more than one a day, but the point is not to overwhelm our buddies. It's to make sure we have a well-oiled, self-sufficient machine.

Do I let the kids loose on the first day and let them go to centers? Well, maybe. It will depend on my class. I have two plans. One for literacy and one for math. My math centers for the first few days will be self-explanatory. They will simply explore the manipulatives. My literacy centers will require whole-group instruction for most of them, except maybe puzzles/games. I will still have to teach them these extremely important procedures, BEFORE letting them go:

• How to read the work board
• How to find your spot and stay there
Voice levels
• How to share and take turns
• How to take care of the materials
• How/when to clean up and meet back at the carpet
{MODEL MODEL MODEL all of these!}

Once these are taught and we have a few select members of the audience role play for us the correct and incorrect ways of doing each of these things and we all "get it"....then and ONLY then can we play with the stuff. So the first day of centers might only last for 5-7 minutes.

Below is an outline of my centers, how I do it, and the centers I plan to teach and use during the first 4-5 weeks of school. When possible, I have provided a link to either give credit for the idea or the link to the product that I am using.

My Work Board
I do NOT have the room for ANOTHER pocket chart. I use about 4 of them for story retelling, simple sentences, math games, and poetry. IJUSTDON'THAVEROOM. Nor do I have the funds to print yet MORE stuff in color. My solution is this big beautiful DIGITAL work board! Made it in good ole' trusty Power Point for easy editing - I just move the centers down at the end of each day. I took Deedee Wills' idea and will be implementing two centers a day for both math and literacy. Blue Centers and Red Centers. Pop the students' photos in the spots, leave 'em there and go. Done and done. I've created just about every single label that I can think of for my centers. I don't know what else I could possibly have...But I'm sure something will pop up. That's why I made an easy peasy template for my station cards.{I have the exact same thing for math on the next slide, just with my math station cards instead.}

My First Week of Math Centers
As mentioned earlier, math will be a little different than literacy. Math has more hands on "stuff" that will require playing with before we can actually do work with them. Below is my outline for the very first {full} week. {I have 3 days the first week that are only 1/2 days, so no time for centers then.} I have included links to the products that I am using. Click the pic to download the clickable PDF. You will noticed that there are 3 "TEACHER-LED"  activities. The first one is a pocket chart activity that we will play together on the 2nd day of school. Then, we will review it again before center time starts. I will also have 3 parent volunteers that will assist with these centers. We will play "BUMP" as a class before centers start. The last one is the sensory bin and I will introduce this center the first week, go over the rules, and then quickly describe the SIMPLE activity before turning them loose. Today's sensory bin activity is just sorting the color cards. I have dyed rice in my sensory bin right now.

My First Week of Literacy Centers
Literacy Centers are a whole different beast. I have tons of them that will need to be explained, previewed and done as a class several times before we can go into true center time with literacy stuff.

My first week, the plan is to introduce each center as a whole group. That way, we can model together the right and wrong ways of "doing" the center.

Monday - Roll & Write activity {just a simple Roll & Write game of tracing the letters a-f} This will give me a chance to model correct dice-throwing techniques......

Tuesday - Pocket Chart - sorting our names by first letter. This will coincide with the poem we are learning this week - from the fabulous Deedee Wills. {I have SO MUCH of her stuff!!! Love it ALL.} This will give me a chance to go over the rules for pocket chart activities.

Wednesday - Play-Doh Letter Mats - each kiddo will have their own container of Play-Doh and their own letter mat and we will do this as a group to learn the right way to play with our Play-Doh center.

Thursday - Letter Recognition Mats - same thing, each kiddo will have one mat and will complete their mat together as a class. These are just little mats that have one big letter at the top of the page, then they have to find it, circle it, cover it with a clear plastic bingo chip, and write it several times.

Friday - Writing Center!! I am in loooove with my writing center stuff. Mrs. Cara Carroll to the rescue!! We will either do a simple "just write" activity or a Look & Label {depending on how the class has been doing with writing and following instructions up to this point} as a class. 

WHEW! I think that covers my plan for the first week. Is this the longest post EVER?!!?!  Sorry I don't have too many pictures to speak of, but once we get rolling, I will post pics! I hope this post helps AT LEAST ONE person!!! {Truth be told, it's really helping ME focus and get organized!!!}

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