Teachers, prepare! As the summer starts to wind to a close, back to school season is upon us. Obviously, it’s time to get those classrooms ready with fresh school supplies, fun decorations, and inspirational back to school quotes. While teachers are gearing up to welcome in their newest crop of students, kindergarten teachers have the roughest time on the first day. Many kindergarten students may have never set foot in a classroom before. Additionally, the structure and pacing of a typical school day will take a lot of adjusting for those bright-eyed, energetic 5-year-olds. However, getting the year off on the right foot is important to make sure you can stay on track! Part of that is introducing fun, simple routines into your student’s day that will make your job much easier.
1. Back to School Routines: Classroom Cleanup
A day’s worth of learning can make quite a mess! All in all, kindergarten classrooms see plenty of activity during the day with centers, toys, and crafts leaving behind traces of kids playing. Not to mention the trail of dirt kids track in as they go in and out for recess time throughout the day. Therefore, make your job much easier by creating a classroom routine of working together to clean up each day so you’re not staying after hours getting things tidied.
Designated Times To Clean
Firstly, start by having a designated time of day in which kids get things cleaned up. Most teachers opt for this to happen at the end of the day just before dismissal. But, it might be helpful to add a second cleanup time during the middle of the day, such as before lunch or a recess dismissal.
Give Students Special Jobs
There’s nothing young kids love more than having a special job to complete! In order to make your life easier, try assigning specific job tasks to children. It could be a permanent position or a title that gets rotated to daily or weekly. For example, tidying toys and picking up trash are going to be the biggest jobs. But don’t underestimate the abilities of your students! Sweeping, wiping surfaces, and organizing papers are also great jobs to assign. While it might take some time and patience for students to understand how to use a dustpan or a filing cabinet when they are first back to school, within a few weeks they’ll have the hang of it and you’ll save yourself so much time over the course of your school year!
As with most routines, consistency is going to be key to making this routine work. Making expectations clear from the get-go and finding fun ways to motivate your students will help cement cleanup time as a productive and efficient time for your students.
2. Back to School Routines: Arrival
The time during which children are filtering into the classroom can be pretty chaotic for a teacher. Parents may be coming in to talk with you about their child, backpacks and lunchboxes are flying in every direction, and you’re eager to get started with the work for the day so you don’t fall behind schedule. Overall, creating a reliable routine is going to be key to controlling the chaos and saving your schedule!
Set Back to School Routines for Students
Firstly, have a designated place where kids can place their belongings. For example, this could be a lunch basket, backpack cubbies, paper trays, or coat hooks. Next, give each child their own designated space where their belongings can live. Also, set up expectations from the beginning as to how to keep them tidy. Finally, give kids a specific order to get settled for the day so that nothing gets forgotten. For the first few weeks of school, post this order with visual illustrations of a back to school checklist on the whiteboard or projector. This can be a great aid to make sure they can complete this morning routine without needing teacher guidance.
Set Back to School Routines for Parents, Too!
Establishing this routine isn’t just for the kids! They aren’t the only ones returning back to school. Parents need to know what to expect at school drop off, too. If you are getting overwhelmed with parents who try to start conversations during drop-off, set up boundaries as to when and where those conversations can take place. For example, if you’re getting your class settled for the morning, offer to set up a time for a phone call or a meeting to go over their concerns. Setting firm boundaries from the start of the school year will help parents understand the protocol and keep you on the right track each day. Make a “Frequently Asked Questions” list for back to school concerns so that a lot of those questions and conversations can be avoided entirely.
3. Back to School Routines: Leaving the Classroom
Lining up to leave the room can be the most chaotic part of a kindergarten day. Kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement to go to P.E., recess, or art class, and they just can’t seem to keep still. Back to school is an exciting time, and they want to show it! Not only can this kind of chaos be difficult to manage, but it can also present safety concerns. If kids aren’t following the instructions as they walk through the hallways or outside the school, it can be all too easy to lose track of one of your students or for someone to get hurt as they run and jump along.
The first thing to manage is to set up expectations for getting into line. When all 30 students in the class rush to line up at once, collisions and confusion can happen before you even make it out the door. Dismiss a few students at a time to line up. For example, you could start with students who were well-behaved, call table groups one after another, or pick students based on their shirt color.
Next, set up expectations for how to walk through the hallways. Kindergarten students are likely to easily forget about these instructions. Setting up a fun way to keep them engaged throughout your entire walk can help them stay focused on the task at hand. You can invite them to pretend to be silent, sneaky ninjas as they tiptoe through the halls, or you can have each of them “catch a bubble” in their mouth to prevent them from talking. Having a physical reminder of their expectation will increase the likelihood that they will follow you tenfold!
4. Back to School Routines: Early Finishing
Whenever you assign students any work to complete independently, the time it takes each student will vary. When some students have already completed their assignments and others haven’t, your early finishers can get bored and rowdy quickly. This can cause the class to get off track and distract your students who are still working. Back to school activities can get kids super excited, and once they’re done they need an outlet for that energy!
To head this problem off before it begins, have a routine established for early finishing. Make sure that you introduce it as soon as you are back to school, so kids get used to it right away! This routine might be different for every classroom – you may want to prepare some “extra” activities, like coloring pages or worksheets, for students to work on once they’re done with their main assignment. You may also want to offer some open centers for kids to play in or have them get out a book and read for a little while. Offering something fun as an early finisher activity doesn’t just prevent distraction, it also offers motivation for kids to get through their work quickly!
Back to school time can be stressful, for both kids and teachers. Establishing fun, consistent routines for your classroom can help make returning back to school fun, simple, and exciting for the entire classroom!
What do your classroom routines look like? Let us know in the comments below!