This week we finished up our first week of school. I am already IN LOVE with my new group of kinders. They are so very sweet and excited to learn. As you know, much of the first week of school is practicing procedures. It is so very important to set your expectations early on and to help your little ones practice, practice, practice the expectations. One of the first procedures and expectations that I teach is how we behave on the carpet. Especially during the first month of school, something that I keep in the forefront of my mind is that research has shown that students can only truly focus for the amount of minutes that they are years old. That means for kindergarten teachers we have at most 5 minutes. In order to combat this, we sing A LOT the first week of school. We sing, we dance, we play Simon Says, we do the hokey pokey, we turn ourselves about, and freeze dance OFTEN.
As most of my teaching is done from the carpet, I want my students to learn and internalize a few things before the first week of school is over:
1. When I am talking, they are listening
2. How to sit
3. How to turn and talk to their friends
4. How to be respectful to their friends and myself
5. I’ll say it again, how to sit 😉
6. Our “attention methods” (the way that I get them to regroup)
On the carpet I teach my students that when they want to say something, they can raise their hand. We also use a quiet rabbit and a bubble in our mouth to help us learn how to sit quietly. This picture shows two of my students raising their quiet rabbits and putting a bubble in their mouth.
Both of these “tricks” help students learn how to raise their hand quietly and how to not shout out.
When teaching students how to sit we play a super fun game called the stand up sit down game. 😉 It always makes me laugh how much students enjoy this simple game. Literally it goes like this. I teach my students how to sit safely. We practice this by me telling students to stand up, then quickly go back to sitting quietly. I get faster and faster and my students think it’s the funniest thing. After the game we regroup and talk about how we sit quietly. I also drew a picture of a child sitting criss cross applesauce and hung it up on my white board. I call him Buddy. Buddy reminds us how we sit quietly. I loved this chart from First Grade Garden and created a very similar one. On my chart, I used the phrases, ” I raise my hand to talk. My eyes are on the speaker. My ears are listening. My mouth is quiet. My body is still.”
When students start to wiggle, I redirect them by either pointing to Buddy and telling them, “Please check your body to make sure you are sitting like Buddy.” Or I say, “Do a body check.” (Which means that they need to make sure they are sitting like an expert kindergartener.)
After five or so minutes of direction or talking, I get us up and we sing, dance, recite a poem, or stretch. All of these things “reset” your kinder’s bodies and allow them to refocus. Plus, they think it’s a ton of fun!
When teaching “turn and talk,” Vickie Plant (Primary Press) shared on her facebook page a great addition to introducing the structure. At a Kagan conference she attended, they suggested using talking balls to help students learn how to take turns when they are talking with each other. I brought in balls for my students to use to practice this method. When we turn and talk to our friends, students sit criss cross and knee to knee. When they have the ball, they are the ones talking, when they do not have the ball, they are looking at their friend and listening. To practice this, my students shared many things to help them get to know one another. Some things we shared were: what games they like to play at home, what they did over the summer, animals that live in the water, things that God made (remember I teach at a Christian school), and ways that they can be good friends.
We practiced looking our friends in the eyes and sharing with proud voices.
To regroup my students I use three methods. The first is when we are on the carpet. If we start to get wiggly or chatty, I put up my quiet rabbit and my students follow suit. It is a silent way for everyone to refocus. The second way is by using the WBT procedure, “class, yes.” With this, when I say “class”, my students STOP, look at me, and say “yes”. However I say “class”, they repeat “yes” using the same inflection and intonation. The last way is to use my chime. I teach my students that as soon as they hear the chime they must FREEZE and look at me. (We play freeze dance to introduce this!) My students learn that they can not move until I say “melt” after they are frozen. This ensures that all eyes are on me and that they are getting all the directions they need. These are easy and effective!
Finally, on the second day of school, we shared how we can stay safe at school and made a promise to each other that we would always be respectful, kind, good listeners, and that we would try our best. During our morning meeting, my students came up and signed their name on our class promise which is now hanging on our door. It reminds us how we are to behave in our classroom each time we talk into the room.
Check back soon to see more from our first week of school! We are off to a GREAT start!!