Category: Classroom Set Up

Anecdotal Notes

Anecdotal Notes

How to easily record growth and learning in Kindergarten I make a giant grid on google- I usually put an overall expectation at the top (I make one of these sheets for each overall expectation that we are planning on reporting on during the term)…

The Easiest way to be an Organized Kindergarten Teacher

The Easiest way to be an Organized Kindergarten Teacher

Class Lists for Kindergarten You might be surprised that I do not have a super complicated organization system in Kindergarten- but there is a fantastic reason for that.  My students need ALL my time.  There are typically a LOT of them.  Many of them have…

Help! I’m a Kindergarten Teacher!

Help! I’m a Kindergarten Teacher!

Don’t Panic- Here is What You Need to Do First.

Whether you are excited or terrified- it’s going to be okay. Kindergarten is the most amazing place to teach.  I know so many teachers that ended up there accidentally at first, and now they will never leave! I decided to teach Kindergarten when I was eight, and I was right- it is the best. This article will guide you to a great start to the first things you need to do to get yourself ready to teach Kindergarten.

Step 1: Know what you will be teaching.

Find your province, state or country’s Kindergarten Curriculum document.  Most are available to be viewed online, and they make it tricky to get a hard copy mailed to you.  But do it! You should be referring to it all year.  Ours is HUGE- and has some great information, but if you are starting in days- or hours- flip to the expectations part and read through to get the gist of what they want you to report on.  These are the documents that we use right now in Ontario.

The Kindergarten Program Curriculum Document for Ontario, Canada
The Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum Curriculum Document for Ontario, Canada

Step 2: Know what you will really be teaching.

You will be teaching things that most curriculum documents forget that you need to teach.  Our Ontario document actually focuses ¾ of the program on non-academic skills, which are vitally important to the development of the whole child.  But with most curriculums, it is best to just accept that most of your focus at least initially will have very little to do with what we are mandated to teach.  You will be teaching things like a) why we don’t lick our friends b) how to not stab your classmate with a pencil accidentally or on purpose even if he is making an annoying noise, and c) what does a quiet line actually mean.  It’s a lot.  And these things are really important if you want to teach any of the things you read about in your curriculum document! For more on this, read what I teach in Kindergarten the first Day including a free printable teaching checklist for the first day and first week.

Step 3: Make contact with your team.

I am so fortunate that in addition to having the loveliest Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) as my teaching partner in my classroom, I also work with 5 other Kindergarten teachers, and 5 other RECE’s, not to mention fantastic specialist teachers.  Meet yours! Find out what has worked well at the school, areas for improvement and the culture of the Kindergarten department.  Flying solo? Find out who teaches prep with you or the Grade one teacher and see what you can learn from a chat with them.  Our colleagues are one of our very greatest assets.  If you don’t have any colleagues, I’ll be your proxy teaching partner.

I’m so happy that you are getting to be a Kindergarten teacher, too. I hope you love it as much as I do.

DIY Alphabet Garland

DIY Alphabet Garland

How to make an alphabet garland for your classroom I love having my students create most of the decor for my classroom.  However, I don’t love the idea of them walking into a room that looks like it could really use some love.  Now you…

Setting up your Kindergarten Classroom

Setting up your Kindergarten Classroom

I love to work in an organized, calm, and purposeful classroom and those first minutes walking in have sometimes stopped me in my tracks! I share the first 10 things I do in my classroom to take it from summer disaster to ready for September!

How to sanitize loose parts in Kindergarten

How to sanitize loose parts in Kindergarten

How to clean toys, loose parts and manipulatives in Kindergarten

The big trick to keeping things clean is you basically always need to be disinfecting something!  Our basic routine in the morning is to fill the teacher sink that is out of reach of the children with hot water, and add some bleach. We give items with obvious soiling a good scrub with dish soap and water in their own bin. Then the first batch of hard toys gets added in to soak in the bleach water.  They sit until we can pull them out- usually at snack time!  We give them a rinse with clean water, then we lay them on a towel to air dry on the counter-top.  And we refill the sink again… we try to wash three batches of hard manipulatives a day. At night we take home the towel to wash and dry it and bring it back for the morning to start again! This is also a fantastic task for parent volunteers if you have them.  This year I think we will also be using a lot more Lysol wipes on all our high touch surfaces. I’m waiting to hear if we will be allowed to share manipulatives and books this year.

Here are the official details from Public Health:

  • Remove toys from the play area after use and place them in a collection box for cleaning and disinfection
  • Clean and disinfect the collection box at the same time that toys are being cleaned and disinfected
  • Clean toys in hot soapy water prior to using a disinfectant
  • Use a brush to clean crevices or hard to reach areas
  • Rinse toys well under running water as soap may neutralize the disinfectant
  • Soak toys in an appropriate disinfectant for required amount of time (contact time)
  • Use a solution of 10 ml (2 tsp) sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) per 1 liter (4 cups) of water as a disinfectant. This solution requires a contact time of 2 minutes. Only mix bleach with water and never with other disinfectants or cleaners
  • In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be reasonable to instead use a mixture of 20 mL of bleach with 1 litre of water (or 4 tsp of bleach with 4 cups of water) to disinfect hard surfaces with 1 minute of contact time. It is important to remember to make a fresh bleach solution each time you disinfect, or at least everyday. *Note: The contact time, also known as the wet time, is the time that the disinfectant needs to stay wet on a surface to make sure it can kill all the germs. It is the length of time you leave the solution on the surface before wiping it down.
  • Rinse toys with clean water to remove any disinfectant solution, if indicated on the label; bleach does not require rinsing
  • Clean and disinfect dishwasher-safe, hard plastic toys in a commercial dishwasher with a sanitizer or a hot rinse cycle
  • Completely air dry toys before they are returned to use
  • Keep a record of when toys were cleaned and disinfected

Cleaning and disinfecting soft, porous toys or dress up clothes

  • Launder fabrics or plush toys in a washing machine with hot water, and dry in a clothes dryer on a hot cycle
  • Avoid using disinfectant products on porous surfaces

Cleaning other items

  • Clean and disinfect other items (e.g., scissors, puzzles, storage bins, etc.) when they are visibly dirty
  • Items such as books and some craft equipment may be difficult to clean, so consider discarding them once they are soiled
  • Avoid sensory play during an outbreak, such as activities using play dough, sand or water
  • Clean and disinfect computer keyboards, mice and other electronics between uses

Follow instructions

It might be tempting to mix cleaning products to make sure your facility is germ-free — but don’t. Mixing some cleaners and disinfectants (like chlorine bleach and ammonia) can be harmful, even deadly. Others can irritate your eyes, nose, or throat and cause breathing problems.

There you have it! I hope this helps.  Please check with your Public Health Office for updated information as our knowledge about avoiding Covid-19 (and colds and the flu) are being constantly updated.  Stay safe, teacher hive!

Getting Ready to set up your Kindergarten Classroom

Getting Ready to set up your Kindergarten Classroom

Setting up your classroom environment is one the most important ways to ensure an amazing year in Kindergarten. There is a reason that your classroom is known as the third teacher. Your classroom set up can either help you all year or make the whole year a struggle. I don’t want you to have to struggle your way through, when I already figured out the hard way what NOT to do- and what really works. Here are the first things you can do to get ready to set up your classroom

My top 10 sources for  natural classroom loose parts on a budget

My top 10 sources for natural classroom loose parts on a budget

Many people who come into my classroom are pretty impressed with the wide array of natural materials that my students have to work with in their centres. It was not always that way. My classroom was filled with bright, shiny, plastic, manufactured manipulatives, loose parts…

What I Teach the First Day of Kindergarten

What I Teach the First Day of Kindergarten

On the very first day when they don’t know what to do…

The first day of kindergarten is so exciting and often exhausting! Before I go into my first day, I make a list of the skills I want to teach during the day.  At our school, the teachers wear lanyards with our school ID on them.  I make a card out of a piece of cardstock or cue card, and list the skills I want my students to be taught the first day and attach it to my lanyard with a marker.  Later in the year I can carry around my phone and clipboard for documenting student learning, checklists, etc, but those first few days I need my hands free!  Skills are really best taught right before they are needed, so I don’t always know what order they will be taught, but as I teach them, I strike them off my list.

Here are the skills I teach the first day.  Your skills might be different, and so might your routines, but sometimes it helps to see what other people are doing and why.

My quiet signal

I teach just ONE quiet signal that is quick, efficient, and leads to a quiet classroom so I can speak.  My personal favourite is I say “Waterfall” and the class responds by saying “shhhhhhh” while twinkling their hands down like falling water.  A they do the “shhhhh” I expect them to stop everything that they are doing and find me with their eyes. We practice this over and over the first day with me moving all over the classroom. Picking a quick and calming signal is important at the beginning of the year. My students catch on to this so quickly- I love that I do not need to raise my voice or ring a bell or sing a song every time I need their attention.  It keeps our day flowing calmly.

How we wash our hands

I’m expecting to get new guidelines on this, but previously we taught these steps to washing your hands…

  1. Turn on the water and get your hands wet
  2. Add one pump of soap.
  3. Lather all over including the backs of your hands, palms, fingernails, thumbs and wrists while quietly singing the ABC song.
  4. Scrub the soap off under the running water.
  5. Dry with a paper towel.
  6. Use the paper towel to turn off the tap.
  7. Put the paper towel into our composter.

It’s a lot of steps! We have a poster with all the steps.  I am assuming that new ones might arrive from Public Health and we will follow whatever the newest guidelines are.

How To Sit At the Carpet

At the beginning of the year I show my students just 1 way to sit at the carpet: Criss Cross Applesauce as we call it!  The thing is it is a difficult position for low muscle tone children to maintain. When I see children starting to flop over or sit like a W, I know it is time for me to get the whole class out of our ready listening position into a new one.  It’s an excellent way to monitor when my lessons, stories or sharing time are going too long. I try to make it seamless by simply pausing what I am doing and saying, everyone stand up and stretch! Reach for the ceiling, now fold over, and come down to your knees. I show them how to do a child’s pose and we rest there as we breathe slowly as I count to 5, 10 or even 20. Then I say, OK, back to criss cross applesauce and go on as if nothing has happened.  At the beginning of the year many can only sit for 2-3 minutes, but by the end most can attend to a great 25-30 minute lesson without special body breaks.  

How to put up our hand to get a turn to speak

Our classroom rule is that one hand goes up and the other goes to your lip- which may need to be modified this year as we dont want their hands in their faces! You then must wait without waving it about to be called on to speak.  I also teach exceptions- if they put up just one pointer finger I know they need to use the bathroom and they just need to see a nod from me or my teaching partner and away they can go.  Also- people who feel ill can give me an emergency wave!

What the bell means when it rings

We have an indoor bell that signals times like school beginning, lunch, etc. We also have an outdoor bell that we ring when it is time to line up after outdoor play, and there is the fire alarm bell. If you can- see if you can get a recording on your phone of the different bell sounds at your school so you can play them for your class at a reduced volume to introduce the different sounds and what they mean.  

What does a line look and sound like

I find the safest way for us to travel is in a line instead of a wild gaggle of goslings. In our class we talk about how a line is people all facing in the same direction, one behind the other like a train. It is very quiet so the whole line knows where the director wants the train to go. We do not want any cars to derail! I am not a huge fan of having to sing a song or chant a poem every time we need to go somewhere. It can be done, and often is, but I like to make my transitions efficient so I can maximize our playing and learning time!

Where we line up outside and inside the classroom

Outside we line up against a wall, or on a painted line or against a physical barrier.  We sometimes have 6 K classes that use our Kindergarten yard, and each class has its own unique place to line up. This helps when various classes are sharing the yard.

Indoor, I spaced out decals on the floor in an alternating pattern to help me separate friends who do not travel well together.  This past year I had oak leaves and maple leaves.  For example, I could dismiss students from the carpet by saying, if your shoes are black, blue, or green, go stand on a maple leaf! If your shoes are any other colour, find an oak leaf!

Our hands are for helping not for hurting

Some years, I find that my student’s behaviour is more Toddler-like than usual.  Those years we repeat this phrase a lot- enough that when hands are used inappropriately, that the reporting sounds like, “Ms. Bee! He used his hands for hurting and not for helping me on the slide today! And I told him that he has to wait his turn!” Instead of having to have a lot of rules like no hitting, no pushing, no pinching, no snatching… A lot is covered by the rule of using our hands for kindness only. 

How to use and dispose of a tissue

This is a big one, especially during Covid and our upcoming cold and flu season.  In a perfect world, sick students would be home, but in reality, I see a lot of mucus, pretty much daily from the first day of school to the last day.  And a lot of them have never independently wiped their noses.  One of the most important things we do as Kindergarten Teachers is give our students the independence to become successful little humans. So on the first day, I do a demonstration of how I blow my own nose. I am a bit dramatic, so they quite enjoy it. Then I show them the 5 places in our classroom where we have tissues ready to access.  I also show them how to dispose of the tissue. Last year they were allowed in our city compost box, this year we have been asked to put them into a garbage can. Later I also teach what to do if you take the last tissue – but not on the first day.  Then after we use a tissue we get to wash our hands again.

How and when to use hand sanitizer

We teach one squirt and rub rub rub until your hands are dry! We also show them all the locations where they can access sanitizer.

How we sit in a chair

Our classroom has perfectly sized little bright blue plastic chairs that will live on forever, dashing my hopes of beautiful neutral coloured chairs, however, so many friends do not seem to know how to sit on a chair, or at a table.  So we practice! At the carpet I bring out a chair and I show them how I sit with my back to the back, and my bottom on the seat, and my feet are flat on the floor. My hands are not on the chair but in my lap.  I show them a few times, and I have a few students model the behaviour as well. Then I let them go to the chairs at the table and show me. We practice sitting and then standing up and pushing in our chairs, too.  As the year progresses I may offer more flexible seating as needed, or foot bands or even rocking chairs.  But first, we all try the standard chairs.

Our class celebration cheer

I teach just one cheer the first day.  This year I think we will go with a firework cheer.  We put our palms together and squiggle them up into the air then at the top we clap once and split our hands apart in an arc overhead and say OOOHHH AHHHHHH! I like to add a few new ones as we establish other routines and then by the end of the year I can ask them, “How do you want to show our pizza volunteer appreciation today?” And they can pick from a bunch of cheers.

Teacher names

This is important! They need to know what to call you. You do not want to be called “Teacher! Teacher!” all year. If I am teaching just my homeroom I have them call me by my full last name, Mrs. Buchanan. But if I am teaching multiple classes, like the year I taught almost the whole school gym, drama, art, music… Ms. Bee was fine with me. Make it comfortable for you and them! One of my dearest colleagues let her Kindergarten students call her Linda because that worked best for her. Some schools will have policies in place as well. At one private school we had to address all staff members as Mr. and Mrs. even in the staff room without students around! So check with your admin before deciding to use your camp name, Rainbow Skittles.

And depending on what rules are in place I may be adding…

How we wear our masks.

How, when and where we put our masks when we take them off.

How to stay apart but be together.

All of these will depend on our local health rules.  I am all about staying healthy. My kids and students need me!

Skills I teach the first week as I can get to them…

Listening and responding to your name

How to hang up your backpack

How to put your communication folder in the basket

Fire Drill skills

How to open snack containers and lunch bags

Where to put your belongings

How to ask someone to join in play

How we walk in the hallway

How we use crayons

How we play with various materials and tidy up

A Freebie for you!

If these First day and First Week skills have been helpful to you, click on the below my image for a Free Downloadable printable lanyard checklist for your first day and week!  For best results print on cardstock and punch the hole at the bottom so it will be right side up to you when hanging off your lanyard!

First day of Kindergarten List. What to teach checklist.