The first day of Kindergarten is like NO other! It is so exciting, exhausting, and emotional all at the same time. It is one of my favorite days of the entire year. I am still nervous every year, and I just can’t wait to see the sweet faces I get to spend the next 180 days with.
There is so much wrapped up into the first day of school in kindergarten. A kindergarten first day is important to teachers, students, and parents! Here are some ideas of what I think about before that first day. These help me stay on track the first days of school since we have no routine established, plus we have a lot of kindergarten procedures to learn and students have a VERY short attention span. Someone told me that the goals of a full day of Kindergarten are simple: feed them and get them home.
What To Plan for BEFORE the first day
Over the years, I have come up with some important things that I always like to include on my first day of kindergarten:
My goal is to make students feel welcome, learn how to use things in the classroom appropriately, and begin to learn “how to do school in this classroom.“ You are going to need to take the time to use visuals and teach each and every classroom routine and expectation.
Here are some of the routines I create a plan before students arrive:
- Entering the classroom
- Where to put backpack./ lunchbox
- How students unpack- voice level
- What do they do after they unpack
- What to do with take-home folder or notes
- Morning work
- Where do they put their work
- Hand Signals
- How do students clean up
- What to do if there are fast finishers
- What classroom should look like after transitions
- What classroom should look like at the end of the day
- How do students pack up
- What needs to go in their backpack
- What happens after they pack up
- How they line up
- How do you dismiss students
- Different dismissal areas
- What if students need help at dismissal
- Dismissal rules
I know it’s A LOT but we are at school to learn and so every choice we make needs to work towards that. You don't have to cover everything on the first day, spreading them out works too. I will spend most of the first week of school modeling EVERYTHING! If you take the time to teach them now, you can just use visual cues later.
What my First Day looks like
I like to keep it very simple the first day and in fact the entire first week. I do have all my plans typed out with what I want to get through on that first day but I remember that I need to be very flexible with it!
Parents will most likely walk their students in and want to hang around for a bit so I like to have something simple out on the tables for kids to play with. Playdough is my favorite! The kids are so excited and it just lets them play and get to know the other students.
Before the parents leave make sure you know how EACH student will be going home that day and if it might change during the week. Once it's time to say goodbye to the parents, that is when we start learning ALL about the expectations of our classroom. I always start off our carpet time with a read-aloud. You can read about some of my favorites on my Back To School book post.
Kindergarten students have a SHORT attention span. Do your best and aim to get them moving every 10-15 minutes! Basically, you want to
The entire day. Are you tired yet from thinking about all of that?
Making Good Choices
Our first activity is all about the choices we make. To introduce behavior expectations, the book, No David! Is a great place to get started. Each student gets a card and we talk about what is going on and then sort them on the pocket chart. I like to leave that up for the first week as reminders for the students.
We Are A Family
When we work on our classroom rules I have always let my students be a part of the process. It makes them feel special and I feel like they take pride in what they do. Using these posters I have students create the wording and I write down their responses on chart paper. When we are finished each student adds their name to it and we display it all year long.
In our school, we use the CHAMPS Behavior system. You can read all about it here.
Since this is something we use ALL year we get started with it that first morning. This helps lets students know exactly how they should be working for that activity. We talk about transitions and what that looks like. The first day would not be complete without a crown! So our first table activity is coloring and cutting out these crowns. You can grab a copy of the FREEBIE over in my resource library.
Since the classroom is new to my students, I like to introduce each area of the classroom and explain when we will be in each spot. This is another good time to practice those transitions. Depending on the timing and how the day is going we also take a tour of our school visiting all the important places. Some years this happens on the second day. Remember when I said to be flexible? There will most likely be interruptions throughout the day so whatever we don’t get done that first day can easily be moved to another one.
Playtime is necessary for the students on that first day, it’s a must-have for me too! It buys me some time to get a few things done – I need to make sure I know what each kid’s after-school plan is. I also need to get things ready to send home.
I just set up some open-ended tubs where students are able to explore the manipulatives they’ll be using in kindergarten. Technically, it’s still playing, but you can justify it since they’re using learning materials!
When it’s time to go home, I explain to the whole class that some students are riding the bus home and some are getting picked up/walking and some might be going to after-school activities. I remind them that I’ve talked to all of their parents about it so they don’t have to worry about what they’re supposed to do. We model how to pack up the classroom and how we line up. My last goal of the day is to make sure EACH student goes to where they need to be. That is my marker for a successful first day.
After that, I need a nap and some pizza. I need to rest up because they will be back the next day!
What do I do the rest of the week? I practice routines and procedures OVER and OVER and OVER again. You have to be very consistent in what you do and how you do it. They’re watching you. Every little single thing that you do, they see it. This is why creating routines and practicing procedures in kindergarten is so important during the first few weeks of school.
There you have it, my day in a nutshell. No formal lessons and no big projects or activities. I just want everyone to feel welcome, have fun and make it back home safely!
Best of luck with your first day!
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