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What is the beginning of K like?
Old 05-11-2019, 12:31 PM
 
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Hi! I am so excited to be teaching kindergarten next year in a Catholic school in Columbia, SC. I am coming from a high performing NJ public school district where I’ve taught 1st for a number years (32 in primary all together.)

My concern is that I will be too academic too quickly. I plan on only 5 minutes of instruction at a time, lots of read aloud, exploration of materials at centers, and routines and procedures.

What are some things I need to know about what’s appropriate at the beginning of the year? It’s a full day program, and my partner has been there for 31 years, and she’s wonderful. I am charged with modeling what reading, writing workshop and math look like, and help them build a strong foundation in literacy and number sense. I’m all set for the academics, I just want to make sure I meet them where they are at. For example, when should I start assessing their skills?

Thanks!


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Old 05-11-2019, 02:09 PM
 
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Below I copied/pasted a response I gave about kindergarten to another poster. I added a few things. The teachers on the Kindergarten Board are very helpful and give great advice. They are my go-to group when I have questions.

First, take a deep breath... Keep a sense of humor. Be flexible. Be kind to yourself.

Kindergarten is awesome, but it is very hard work-especially at the beginning of the year. Don't assume anything. You will need to model and practice everything from getting into line, moving around the room...and routines like ordering lunch, using the bathroom...even how to use glue sticks. You will have to help zipper backpacks, tie shoes...and teach them to cover their mouth when coughing, use a tissue, not pick their noses, don't open the bathroom door before they pull up their pants... We've had some whose parents didn't realize that teachers don't wipe bottoms when they come out of the bathroom.

Depending on where you teach, you will have little ones who have never been to preschool to children who have spent three years in preschool. Expect some tears from both children and parents. I find the best thing is to get the parents out of the room as soon as possible. Most children are okay once the parent leaves.

The first weeks you will have some grumpy children as they adjust to having to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. They will be tired in the afternoon. They will also be hungry. In my district we don't have a nap time or a snack time. I warn parents that they may not recognize their sweet child when he/she gets home from school those first weeks. They need some quiet time and a snack. It can take some children until October to fully adjust to the new routine.

For some children, it is the first time they are hearing the word "No." They can't eat or play or take a nap when they want to. Some parents are helicopter parents and have protected their child and never allowed them to experience a negative situation so those children don't come in with developed coping skills. So you might experience a few meltdowns and temper tantrums.

This is a wonderful age. Kindergarten children are so excited about learning. They love their teachers, and, most love coming to school. You will get and give lots of hugs during the year. They will make you "special" pictures and write you "notes."

They are inquisitive. They are talkative. As soon as a thought comes to mind, they need to get it out before they forget because talking is their main form of communication.

Play is very important in kindergarten classrooms. They love exploring, creating, building... They need the opportunity to play and they need the opportunity to choose what they want to do. That being said, many school districts have removed kitchen centers, blocks, puppets...from the K classroom. :-(

They are active. Did I say they are active? I mean they are very active and will need short movement breaks throughout the day. It is very hard to sit still on a chair, but they will try. I use the different brain breaks on the Go Noodle site to help calm, focus or re-energize my students.

Some are uncoordinated. They need time to play outside. Their gross and fine motor skills are developing and need some refinement. Some will have a hard time holding a pencil.

Their visual skills are also developing so it is hard for them to copy from a distance.

They are silly and love goofy songs and poems. Invest in some Dr. Jean, Harry's Kindergarten, Greg and Steve, Heidi Songs CDs... You can find some videos on youtube, too.

They generally want to please you and want to do well. They can't wait to learn to read and write and do math. There will be some that get upset when they make a mistake. You will have to teach them that it is okay to make a mistake. Mistakes are a part of learning and growing.

They love books! Invest in some good picture books with repetitive text that invites them to join in at the beginning of the year like Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? The Pete the Cat books would be on their list of favorite books.

You will need to teach them how to solve problems. You can role play different scenarios and have students suggest different ways to handle. I take pictures of the students solving the problem and post it on a problem solving board. Some of their ideas are: walk away, talk it out, take turns, ignore, do "Rock, Paper, Scissors", tell a friend... We even practice verbiage like "Why don't you go first and then I'll take my turn."

Don't ever assume that they know what to do/how to do it. You will need to model and teach them what you want them to do so they can do it themselves or you will hear your name fifty thousand times a day. Invest the time now in modeling and practicing to build stamina and independence. It pays off later on.

Many times their version of someone being mean to them is really that the other child won't do what the first child wants. We talk about the difference and when they should tell a grownup (ie when someone is being hurt.)

I do informal assessments when they are playing during the first week. I observe their interactions with peers. Engage them in conversations. Have them share about themselves. You will pick up on students with immature speech, articulation errors or language delays. I have them draw a picture of themselves and ask them to write their names underneath their drawings. I walk around to observe how they hold the pencil/crayon and note things like whether they have an established hand dominance, can they write their first name... If they are able to write their first name, I will ask them to tell me the name of the letters in their name. When they are playing with blocks, I might have them count them or tell me the colors.

We use ESGI for a lot of assessments. It is done one-to-one. I will check students on reciting the alphabet, identifying letters/sounds, oral counting to see how high they can count, recognizing numbers, counting sets. I do these initial assessments to determine where students are. Most of our students have never been to preschool and might be able to recite the alphabet, but have no idea what a letter or number are. We get a few students who went to preschool and come in with some skills so we can have a wide range in our classrooms. Getting this baseline will help you decide on the pacing and starting point for your students.


You will be exhausted at the beginning of school. Sometimes you will wonder what you got yourself into. By the end of the year you will have forgotten how hard the beginning of the year was. You will remember the terrific feeling you got when that struggling student finally got it. You will look back at where they started the year and be truly amazed by how much they grew in just one year. There is nothing like kindergarten!
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Old 05-11-2019, 02:33 PM
 
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I echo every single thing iteachk said. They come in feral and you have to domesticate them before you can get into academics. I spend the first 6 weeks building our community, fostering relationships, teaching expectations and routines. We take a boatload of field trips to help accomplish all this.

If you skimp on this, you will pay the price all year long. Classroom management is important at all grade levels, but it is THE most crucial part of ECE.
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Old 05-11-2019, 05:38 PM
 
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I echo what has been said! Take it slow, have fun, and get lots of sleep.


I always equate it to childbirth. They are so awesome at the end, and show so much amazing growth, that you forget how horrible the beginning is. But it's all worth it!


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They come in feral and you have to domesticate them before you can get into academics.
Oh Zia - you sum it up perfectly!!
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Old 05-11-2019, 05:48 PM
 
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Oh Zia - you sum it up perfectly!!
Right? I mean...when I look back to August and compare it to May...dear Lord! I would even go so far as to say K is the year kids make the most growth. I know, the first year of life is the most physical growth, but K is...it's just something special to get to be a part of this extraordinary year. I'm getting kind of emotional thinking about it. I truly, deeply believe I have the best job in the world.


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Old 05-11-2019, 08:49 PM
 
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Zia, I second that. It is the best job in the world!
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:44 AM
 
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Thanks! That’s what my new partner keeps repeating, “It’s the best job in the world!”

I can’t wait to be a kindergarten teacher and spend my days seeing the world through the eyes of 5 year olds!

My school does home visits for K, so I’ll get to meet them before school starts. I’ve never done that, but what a great concept for the little ones!

Thanks so much for all the valuable insights, tips, information! I will be turning to the experts (that’s you!) all throughout this wonderful journey! Thanks for being there for me/with me! What an amazing last leg of my teaching career!
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Old 05-12-2019, 03:43 PM
 
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My school does home visits for K, so Iíll get to meet them before school starts. Iíve never done that, but what a great concept for the little ones!
We do home visits as well - not many schools do! I always dread it a bit as it means summer is coming to an end and I'm not much of a people person (well, I love little people, but parents...). But it is so eye opening to visit them in their home and environment, and it gives me a much better understanding into their behavior and home lives. Enjoy!
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:05 AM
 
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Fantastic advice/remarks by everyone! In addition to what has been said I would recommend reading "The First Six Weeks of School" from The Responsive Classroom. It really spells it out! Best of luck. I taught K for almost 40 years. There is nothing else like it!
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/18...api_taft_p1_i0
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