This will be my fourth year teaching kindergarten. That’s 4 times I am going through the first day of kindergarten routine. I am by no means an expert, but I do have a few tips and tricks to get you through that first day.
1. Have a plan- but know that it might change. It’s great to have a plan for the first day, it’s really a must, but just know that it might go completely sideways on you and you will have to change it up. You don’t always know what students you are getting, what kinds of behaviours to expect and you can’t prepare for every scenario. So plan out your day, write it out, but be flexible enough to change it if you see that things aren’t going as planned. This isn’t a failure- great teachers are flexible and are able to accommodate the needs of their class.
2. Keep it simple. Don’t plan elaborate, time consuming activities. For many of the students, this will be their first time in a classroom and they have no idea what to expect. Go through your daily routines and expectation (know that this will take longer than planned as students get used to where everything is and what they have to do), and keep their day simple. For me that means a simple colouring activity (we usually do a “How I Colored on the First Day of Kindergarten” sheet- you can get a copy of it in my Memory Books or Memory Journals packs), read a book, have simple games and centers set out (play dough, building centers, coloring center- nothing too messy!) You are getting them used to being in a kindergarten class, so it takes a while for them to get used to the routine, be patient with them as they learn what is expected of them.
3. Kids might cry, parents might cry. At my school we do not have a staggered start. We have all students come in the kindergarten yard at the same time on the same day, so there are lots of children coming in at once. We have name tags ready that are colour-coded to the child’s classroom and we stick them on as they come in. Some students walk in with no problem, but others won’t let go of the parent they are with. My best advice is to ask the parent to leave. It’s hard to leave your crying child, but it’s the best way to get students through the gate. They usually calm down within a few minutes and are distracted by the fun day ahead of them. On the other hand, make sure you know who you can call for help if a student is having a really hard time adjusting. My second year, I had two students who would not stop screaming and when I tried to comfort one, he scratched me across the face. That’s when I called for back-up. Know who is available to come help you, so if you start feeling uncomfortable, you know someone can come to assist.
4. Have fun, it will be over soon! The first day of kindergarten can be exhausting for you, and for students. It is a really fun, get-to-know you day but you will be drained by the end of it. Go home, have a good rest and know that day 2 will be easier!
What is your advice for the first day of school? This is be no means a comprehensive list, and I know there are some great ideas out there to help us through that first day!
Start your year off by making memories. I use these books and journals throughout the school year and keep them all together. We send them home on the last day of school so families can look back on all the growth their child made!