Teachers, prepare! As the summer starts to wind to a close, back to school season is upon us. It’s time to get those classrooms ready with fresh school supplies, fun decorations, and inspirational back to school quotes. While all teachers are gearing up to welcome in their newest crop of students, kindergarten teachers have the roughest time of the first days of school. When kids go back to school, many kindergarten students may have never set foot in a classroom before, and the structure and pacing of a typical school day will take a lot of adjusting for those bright-eyed energetic 5-year-olds. Getting the year off on the right foot is important for making sure you can stay on track, and part of that is introducing fun, simple routines into your student’s day that will make your job much easier.

1. Classroom Cleanup

A day’s worth of learning can make quite a mess! 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. 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.

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 a recess dismissal or before lunch. 

There’s nothing young kids love more than having a special job to complete, so try assigning specific job tasks to children, whether that be a permanent position they hold or a title that gets rotated to new helpers daily or weekly. 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 for 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. Arrival

The time during which children are filtering into the classroom can be pretty chaotic for a teacher. Parents may be coming in who want 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. Creating a reliable routine is going to be key to controlling the chaos and saving your schedule!

Firstly, have a designated place where kids can place their belongings, whether that be a lunch basket, backpack cubbies, paper trays, or coat hooks. Give each child their own designated space where their belongings can live, and set up expectations from the beginning as to how to keep them tidy. Give kids a specific order in which they can get settled for the day so that nothing gets forgotten. For the first few weeks of school, posting this order with visual illustrations of a back to school checklist on the whiteboard or projector can be a great aid to make sure they can complete this morning routine without needing teacher guidance.

Establishing this routine isn’t just for the kids, either! 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 are trying to start a conversation each morning as you’re trying to get to work, set up boundaries as to when and where those conversations can take place. If parents try to get into a detailed conversation with you while 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. 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, whether that be starting with students who have been particularly well behaved, calling table groups one after another, or picking students based on the color shirt they wore to school that day.

Next, set up expectations for how to walk through the hallways. Kindergarten students are likely to easily forget about these instructions, so 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. Early finishing

Whenever you assign students work to complete independently, there is going to be some differences in how long it will take your class to finish their work. When some students have already completed their assignments and others haven’t, your early finishers can get bored and rowdy quickly, causing the class to get off track and distracting 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 at the pass, 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 one 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! graph

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