One of the biggest mistakes kindergarten teachers can make at the beginning of the year is to not choose the right kind of activities for their incoming kindergarteners. After all, we want to keep students occupied and engaged, while also getting them used to the expectations and procedures at school. So what can we realistically plan on the first day of school that we can accomplish? Between the unplanned naps, potty accidents, and unexpected tears… Here are the simple plans and activities that I prepare for the first week of kindergarten.
Beginning of the Day
You might be looking for a way to make drop off easier in the kindergarten classroom. Each day when school starts, I find the best way to begin is with a coloring sheet. Most students have a great time coloring so getting to start with something they enjoy makes drop-off a little easier. It also gives me some time to usher in other students, help them hang backpacks, and do other tasks like taking attendance. Your morning routine should get easier as the first couple of weeks go by.
Then, I begin introducing students to our classroom routine by going to the carpet for circle time for our morning meeting. I tell students my name, a little about me, and then let them introduce themselves. You might even be prepared with a fun name tag the first time you meet them to make things easier on you! My goal is to keep this morning meeting very simple and go right into a read aloud next. My favorite book to read on the first day is The Kissing Hand, so we can talk about our “first day feelings” later in the week. Hopefully at this point, the young children are starting to warm-up to school and feeling more comfortable.
Lunchtime and Procedures
After we finish our read aloud, I start focusing heavily on procedures and new rules. As we prepare for the first week of kindergarten, we need to remember our students may have never been in a formal classroom. We then talk about how to use the restroom in our classroom, how to get our tray in the cafeteria, and how to play safely on the playground. Then, we practice each of those things! During the first couple of weeks of school, we also do plenty of GoNoodles and some extra recesses to help break up the day. This gives their brains a much-needed break!
At this point in the day, students usually need a nap. Unfortunately in most kindergarten classrooms, nap time is no longer part of the schedule. So instead, we have a calming read aloud like No, David! and talk about our classroom expectations.
After that, we move on to introducing different parts of the classroom. Students have probably already noticed the different “play” areas in the room, and can’t wait to get into them! I point out the expectations in the library, blocks, legos, etc, and then give students some free play time in one of those areas. This is a great way for them to learn to share, get along in a small group, and allow for me to walk around and give extra instructions for those who need “personalized instructions.” I try to include this free play time every single day during the first week, and then transition to fine motor centers during the second week. Soon, students will be ready to work on academic centers after learning all of the center rules and procedures!
End of the Day
We wrap up the day by reading Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes. We then practice using playdough as a learning tool. Students can build their names, work on fine motor skills by building shapes, or just have some free play time.
If you have other pockets of extra time throughout the day or first week, you might also want to do some “All About Me” activities. These activities help you get to know your students, and you can find ideas for those here.
Of course, you also have to go through the process of packing up at the end of the day with students and getting them to the right form of transportation home. If you help pack up early, you will be more likely to have a more smooth transition come time to go home. Then, you can finally breathe, knowing you made it through the first day!
Although these first week of kindergarten lesson plans are very simple, you still may not get through all of the activities. That is OKAY! After all, these kindergarten students are only 5 years old, and quite frankly, those first few days of a new school year can feel like herding cats. Just have fun with them and make it through the day! As you prepare for the first week of kindergarten, remember that you may be their first teacher in their educational career. You are setting the tone for their love for learning!
It takes time for young kids, getting into new routines, but little learners are resilient. Not only are they getting used to a new environment, they are making new friends and expanding their social skills. They are also learning so many other important skills and learning to make good choices too. Also, spending a full day away from their loved ones and around so many new people can also be new to them. The important thing is to remain patient, do your best, and have fun with your new students too!
What are some ways you find make the first day or week of school easier for you? I'd love to hear your great ideas in the comments below!