Being a new kindergarten teacher can be both exciting and overwhelming. Kindergarten is unlike any other grade out there. But don’t stress! With this survival guide, you’ll find essential tips and tricks to help you navigate your first year with confidence.
Kindergarten is Unique
This blog post is for any teacher that is new to teaching kindergarten. If you are new to teaching any grade, I have even more tips for you here in my 10 tips for new teachers!
In kindergarten, unlike any other grade, children are coming to you as completely blank slates. Assume they know nothing and teach everything. And I mean everything. From pushing in a chair to writing their name, you have to teach it. The first 6-8 weeks of school are all about teaching how to use materials, how to follow routines and expectations. You have to go very slow, slower than you would ever imagine for any other grade.
Set Clear Expectations and Routines.
One of the most important things you can do as a new kindergarten teacher is to set clear expectations and establish routines in your classroom. You need to break down every routine and expectation into simple steps. You should model everything and give students chances to practice these routines and expectations. I have a blog post outlining how I teach routines to my students.
Before your students arrive on day 1, you want to have a plan for daily routines so that you can be clear on how to teach them to your students. You will do this bit by bit. Plan out a few routines to teach each day and break them down carefully to students. Choose which routines are the most important to teach first and start with those.
The first routine I teach my students is how to get their attention. I teach two different attention-getters, we practice them, and then I use them a lot the first few days before I teach any more ways to get their attention. The second routine I teach them about is how to clean up tables. Then we practice pushing in chairs and coming to the rug. After that, we do a very simplified morning meeting.
Every single minute of the day is spent teaching them different routines or expectations. When they have an art activity, I teach them how to use a new coloring tool. Then they’ll have to learn what to do with their finished work. Everything gets broken down into simple steps, modeled for the students, and practiced, over and over and over again.
Meet Students Where They Are
The other thing that is unique to kindergarten is the attention span of the students. When you start kindergarten, their stamina and attention span only lasts a few minutes. When you are planning the activities for the first month of school, plan for more activities than you think you will need. I like to have “back-up” activities on hand. Because some groups go through activities so much faster than you could imagine, and it’s much better to have activities ready to go and not need them than scramble to find something to do.
Back to School Kindergarten
Remember that Growth Takes Time
I will be honest. The first two months of kindergarten stink. They are the worst of the whole year. It’s the definition of herding cats. But, you can mitigate this feeling by going very slow, gradual, and purposeful when introducing routines and expectations. It’s hard for even experienced kindergarten teachers to remember that all kindergarteners start out this way, because in the spring, if you’ve gone slowly and set clear expectations, then the kindergarteners are so independent and responsible. The children grow so much during the year, unlike any other grade. It’s incredible to watch.
It’s also important to remember the first month of school, when you want to pull your hair out, it gets better. You need to be patient, consistent, calm, and really meet the children where they are developmentally. Don’t hold them to end-of-the-year kindergarten standards. When they come to you in the fall, they are still preschoolers. But they will get there. Do not worry new kindergarten teacher! It is perfectly normal and will happen every year.
Communicate Effectively with Families
Something else that is unique to kindergarten is the families. When children are in preschool and/or daycare, parents get daily, if not multiple daily, communications and updates. Not every parent for sure, but there are some caregivers that are used to this frequent communication and are expecting it from you. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it. As a new kindergarten teacher, be very clear with families from day 1 about exactly what they can expect from you in terms of communication. I would highly recommend a weekly newsletter or communication update from you. It doesn’t have to have too much information, but many families rely on consistent communication from you. The more communication you have (and again, I am not suggesting daily updates!) the more successful your relationship will be when you have difficult things to discuss.
To learn more about establishing a home-school partnership, check out this blog post!
Find Moments of Kindergarten Magic
One of the best things about teaching kindergarten are these moments of kindergarten magic. When they say silly things and can’t stop laughing. When their eyes get big, and you can see their brain growing after showing them something new about the world. When they grow from someone who can’t read their own name to someone who is reading sentences. Magic. Pure magic.
Enjoy these moments. This is what makes kindergarten special, more than any other grade. Write down their hilarious statements and look back on them from time to time. Spend time playing with them and talking with them. It can be easy to get caught up in the demands of teaching– the lesson plans, data meetings, assessments, report cards, etc. But it’s those moments with the children, really seeing them as the kindergarteners they are, and meeting them where they are developmentally, that you appreciate the kindergarten magic. It’s those moments that keep you loving your job and keep you coming back year after year.
Take Care of Yourself and Prioritize Self-Care
As a new kindergarten teacher, it’s easy to get caught up in the demands of the job and forget to take care of yourself. Kindergarten is probably the most draining grade (K-12), because of how needy the students are compared to older grades. You are constantly hearing your name being called. You are constantly needed and constantly being physically touched. This means that prioritizing self-care and time for peace and quiet is essential for your well-being and ability to effectively teach your students. Make sure to set aside time each day for activities that help you relax and recharge. Additionally, make sure to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking care of yourself is crucial for being the best teacher you can be.
Kindergarten is a magical and special grade and it’s the grade I keep coming back to year after year. It has my heart. But it is not always easy. Meeting students where they are developmentally, going very slow when teaching routines and expectations, finding moments of kindergarten magic, and taking care of yourself are essential survival tips for new kindergarten teachers.
New kindergarten teachers – send me a DM on Instagram or leave a comment below! I can’t wait to connect with you! Let me know what you are excited about for teaching kindergarten and what questions you want more help with!
Get all of my exact lesson plans and activities that I do with my students for the first two weeks of school!