Hi there ya’ll! This is Amanda from sunny Florida! There’s a short bio on the first post, but I thought I’d do a brief introduction to get things rolling today. I am a Kindergarten teacher in central Florida as well as a theater and dance instructor at a local community theater for all ages (including adult)! I love my jobs more than I can describe and today I’ll be posting about my very favorite topic: how to make Kindergarten the best year for a child, socially, emotionally, and academically.
We’ve all heard “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” right? It is certainly something to chuckle at, but there’s some truth behind it! Think about all the things a child learns in Kindergarten! If you are not familiar with the expectations of a Kindergartener, I’ll ellaborate:
1. Learn more rules than you’ve ever known existed.
As a five year old, there haven’t been many rules for you yet. You know not to say the “potty words” and that pulling the dog’s tail might get you a spanking (or a nip on the hand by the dog…). But when you enter the classroom full of bright colors and loud children, you are expected to learn: how to sit on the floor properly, how to use the bathroom in the classroom, how to line up, how to get lunch, how to raise your hand, and SO much more.
2. Learn how to make friends and keep them.
Let’s be real, this is still hard for adults. It is human nature to be selfish and it is hard to make compromises sometimes in order to be a friend. Think about how hard this is for someone with only 5 years of life under their belt! A lot of kinders go through the first years of their life with no other children to interact with. Some go through with very little interaction with a friend their own age. It’s kind of difficult to go through the day without either A) crying over something another kid did or said, B) hitting said other kid, or C) giving up on the day, faking an illness, and being sent home after a trip to clinic. Well, kindergarteners haven’t really figured out option C yet, so as a teacher you’ll only have to deal with A or B. Too bad, huh? Option C is SO much easier. 😉
3. Learn how to read.
This is pretty broad, of course. It’s not likely a child will learn how to read everything in Kindergarten, but I put it this way for a reason. At orientation this year, I had a form that asked the parents to write about their child. One question on this form asked them what their goals for their child are for their year in kindergarten. All but one of my parents wrote, “Learn to read.” Thanks for the specifics, people. I’m not a miracle worker! But I am so lucky that this year I have a group of kids who are so eager to learn how to read. They are so excited and take our reading block very seriously. But that’s just part of it. Sure, they want to learn how to read, but there’s the letter naming and sounds to work on first, then there’s phonemic segmentation, print awareness (oh my gosh, which way is left??), and don’t even get me started on sight words!
4. Learn to add and subtract with the numbers you just learned how to write and count with.
Yep. Most kids go to Kindergarten already knowing how to count. I was thinking about a friend the other day who is teaching her toddler how to count objects and how cute he is when he throws his hands in the air and yells, “threeeeeeeee!!!” But several of my students come in not knowing the difference between an A and a 2 when I show it to them on a page. Not only are Kindergarteners learning how to write numbers and count with them, later this year we will tackle addition and subtraction. How many times in Algebra did you say, “Oh! I just add?!” Yes. Your Kindergarten teacher says, “You’re welcome.”
5. Take ALL THE TESTS!
Phew! There are a lot of tests these days! Kindergarteners do not care about tests, especially in the beginning of the year when most of them don’t even know what a test is. They start to care though when they put two and two together (see item number 4 on this list) (addition pun, #sorrynotsorry) and see that these tests are really important that they do well. This is overwhelming, stressful, and can totally ruin a child’s relationship with school forever.
Alright. So now that you see a little slice of Kindergarten, you might be asking, “Holy cow… how do I help these kids?” I’d like to say it’s easy, but it is the hardest thing you might ever do. While you take on these daunting tasks, I have a short list of threeeeeeeee(!) helpful hints:
1. Make sure you repeat yourself every 10 seconds of everyday.
Don’t worry about it taking the kids an hour to do something after you’ve explained it to them, shown it to them, and DONE IT for them. As long as you are ready to say the same thing over and over and over and over and over again, you’re kids will do fine.
2. Make things fun!
We are SO lucky to live in the Pinterest era of teaching. We are less than a month into school and I have gotten almost all of my activities and center ideas from Pinterest. The more fun you make something, the more the kids will enjoy learning. I know a lot of people may disagree with me on this one. I can just hear someone saying, “But life’s not always fun” as I write this. But seriously, folks. They have all those tests and rules to follow all day long. Our job is to create a life-long love for learning. It won’t happen if you don’t make things enjoyable. Fun does not always mean easy. Fun activities are often-times the most challenging for the students and can be the most rewarding when they succeed. And let’s be real here, the happier the kids are, the happier YOU are!
3. Love them.
As simple as it is, showing the kids that you care about them can have the most profound impact. I mentioned earlier that some kids go through the first years of their life with little to no interaction with other children. The same can be said for their interaction with adults. Some kids see their parents for a mere two hours a day after they get dropped off at morning care at 5:30am, go to extended day till 6pm, and go to bed at 8pm after their supper and bath of course. Although their parents love them, some students only see and feel that affection for a couple of hours a day. YOU are the one that is constant. Smile at them, even when you want to scream. Hug them back when they throw their arms around you and never be the one to let go first. You never know how long they need that hug.
BONUS TIP: Coffee.
Kindergarten is a long and strenuous year for us all, but I would not trade it for the world. I cried more times the first week of school than the kids did (seriously). But everything they learn this year sets them up for success (or failure) for the rest of their academic careers. Keeping in mind the simple hints I gave but never forgetting the importance of their progress, you will have a great year in Kindergarten and so will your students.