New to Transitional Kindergarten or Kindergarten? Moving down from an upper grade? Or just looking to find tips to ease your way back into a new school year? CKA Board Member and first grade teacher, Deb Meng has you covered. Deb has taught Pre-K, TK and Kindergarten and is here to help!
Imagine teaching TK for the first time when the only grades you have taught are third and fourth grade! I just got off the phone with a friend who is teaching TK for the first time. We talked for an hour about learning/management strategies for her young learners. She has taught older students, third and fourth grade, for 15 years. After talking for an hour, I realized that there are many things that I do in the classroom that are second nature, I don’t even think about them. As I shared some of the ideas, we both quickly realized that some of these strategies were common place for me, but life savers for her. I decided to write some of the suggestions down just in case other teachers might benefit from them. Currently, I am teaching first grade and use all of these strategies with my class. However, I have used all of them when teaching PreK, TK, and Kinder. So, no matter what grade you are teaching, I hope you find something to take away and use tomorrow!
- Assign seating during whole group/circletime; it’s like having a desk at the carpet. The students know where to go and sit each time you call them to the carpet. You can organize your class to avoid some of the management issues that come up and, as a result, save precious class time. It takes a bit of time to train students, but it is well worth the effort. Draw a map of where you want each student to sit on the carpet every time you call them to come and sit down. Hang the map in a place where you and students can refer to it. I put mine on the wall/whiteboard in front of the carpet time area. It is located directly in front of the class so they are reminded of where they sit. (This helps me to keep track too! Also, an academic benefit is the students learn to read their name and the names of their classmates. You will start to see students reminding each other of where they should be sitting.) This works especially well for placement of model students (students you can always rely on to do the right thing) and students who have a difficult time controlling their behavior when in large groups. For example, if you meet in a group on the carpet that sits in rows instead of a circle, put students who have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves, in the front row on one of the corners. No one is in front or on one side. There are less distractions and the student is relatively close to you for reinforcement if needed. Put students who have a very difficult time immediately in front of you or with an Aide to help them stay focused.
The younger the students the less time they will be able to focus, without moving. At the beginning of the year, with preschool or TK, I usually plan on teaching a lesson for no longer than three minutes without some kind of movement. Even if it’s just a fingerplay or something you ask them to do with their hands, movement will refocus them and keep them engaged. As you move up in age, the students are able to just listen for a little longer time, but not much! Remember, a young learners need to move and interact is greater than their ability to sit and just listen! Here are some of my favorite movement/learning activities:
- Simon Says …Simon says put your hands above your head, Simon says put your hands on your knees…
Use academic language by giving specific directions such as: Simon says put your hands under your chin… behind your back… etc.
My hands upon my head I place,
On my shoulders and on my face,
On my knees and at my side,
Then behind me they will hide,
Then I raise them way up high, quickly count 1,2,3
and see how quiet they can be!
- Songs…Any singing will keep them engaged. One technique I have used often is taking a familiar song and using it as an attention getter…One example is the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It”… This song works great at anytime, but change the words to whatever you are focusing on and you will quickly get the children’s attention… “If you’re ready to go outside please clap your hands… If you are ready to go to snack please sit down…”
- Any nursery rhyme… For some reason, in some classrooms, we have stopped singing/reciting poems and rhymes. This should be an important part of any academic program Prek to first grade! Any poem will do… especially ones with hand motions. If the poem doesn’t have hand motions, make them up!!Sing any song with movements using four different tones (normal tone, quiet tone, whisper, no sound) For example sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in a normal tone of voice, then a quiet voice, then a whisper voice, then mouth the words so there is no sound and continue with only the hand motions. After you are done, everyone is quiet and ready to focus. This will work with any song with motions. You may also draw their attention to the fact that when they are just mouthing the words, not saying them out loud, and saying the words in their head, it’s like reading silently. They are able to hear the words in their head, but not out loud.
Deb Meng, First grade teacher, Elk Grove Unified School District