The most intimidating group for most teachers at the beginning of the school year is Kindergarten. Though many Kindergarten students have had some school experience through a Pre-K program, some have not. At my school, some children are experiencing being away from mom all day long for the first time! That leads to...
Goal #1: Create a warm and welcoming environment. If at all possible, visit with your Kinder friends BEFORE THEY COME TO MUSIC! I like to try to meet as many Kinder students and parents as possible during our Lemonade Social the week before school begins. Get them excited! Tell them how happy you are that they get to come to your class and give them some things to look forward to. Have your schedule ready and look up the day and time the student will come to Music. "Oh, you're in Mrs. Kinderteacher's class? You're so lucky! You get to come to see me on the very first day of school! We are going to sing, play some games, use beanbags and read a book together. All of your new friends will be here with you, too!". If your school doesn't have a "Meet the Teacher" type of event before school starts, try to make the rounds in the morning before you get started teaching. Help the parents and students find their classrooms and confirm a time that will be convenient for the homeroom teachers to step in and just quickly say "Hi" and tell them how happy you are that they will come to your class.
Goal #2: Procedure, Procedure, PROCEDURE. And did I mention "procedure"? Lol! Your Kindergarten students don't have any experience in how your music room works. They don't really know how SCHOOL works yet! Greet them at the door, modeling good line behavior. Be positive and professional with their teacher even if he or she brings them barreling loudly down the hall and exclaims, "GOOD LUCK. They have a LOT to learn about behavior!" (Well, of course they do...that's what we're here for!). Be the one to open your own classroom door. I cannot stress this enough! You are the one who welcomes the students into your classroom. They should be welcomed in with DIRECTIONS and only when they are behaving in a way that is appropriate. "What a wonderful line! I can see that you are ready to learn. We are going to walk in a line following the leader and then we will find a place to sit on the white circle. Let's see who can do the best job!". If you do not tell the students exactly how to enter the room, they WILL walk in and go "WOWWWWW!" and start heading for whatever looks the most interesting.
Goal #3: Keep them busy with meaningful activities. The first day of music in Kindergarten should be pretty packed. The busier the students are, the less time they have to miss Mommy. Resist the temptation to give a lecture about the rules. Many people are in a rut with this. First day of music: rules must be covered. Blah, blah, blah. The rules can be covered as you go. Especially in Kindergarten, you will not (unless you are crazy) be doing things like playing Orff instruments, getting out a ton of manipulatives, etc. during the first few weeks of school. Reinforce sitting correctly when needed. Model what do do with hands and feet. When you ask the children a question, say, "I am going to choose someone who raises their hand quietly to answer this question...(ask question) Oh, thank you Billy Bob for raising your hand and waiting to be called on." Give instruction about how to move from your seating arrangement to the line when it is time to line up, etc. If you unload rules on them all at once, they will forget anyway! Sing and play. SING AND PLAY! Did I say that loud enough? ;)
Goal #4: End on a calm note. I always time my first Kinder lesson so that I have exactly enough time to read Everyone Asked About You by Theodore Faro Gross. It is a very sweet story about a girl named Nora Blue who stayed home from school. Her friend stops by and tells her, "Nora, Nora, open the door! Open the door Nora Blue. I came to say that at school today, everyone asked about you." It has a WONDERFUL song that goes along with it that can be downloaded on iTunes. You can listen to it HERE. Every time I end class with this book and song, the students are mesmerized. I close the book slowly and tell them in a calm voice that class is already over but I will see them again next week. I ask them to stay in their seats while I open the door and at this point, their teacher is usually there with a WOW look on their face because they are silent! I stand at the door and ask the line leader to please walk and come stand in front of me. Then, I start calling by clothing, reminding them to WALK. Calling them by clothing goes well because one of the songs we always sing the first week is "What are You Wearing" by Hap Palmer. (If you do not have Hap Palmer's Learning Basic Skills, GET IT. It will make your first week awesome. It is all about listening and following directions. Three songs that I do the first week are "Colors," "What are You Wearing" and "Put Your Hands Up in the Air.")
What are some of YOUR favorite tips for the first week of Kindergarten? Share in the comments!
Have a great last few days of July! EEK!