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Tips for a First Year Kindergarten Teacher

Instructor: Sharon Linde
You're about to begin your first year as a Kindergarten teacher, and man, do you have a lot to think about! Staring at an empty classroom can be intimidating, but don't fret just yet - as seasoned teachers will tell you, it's all about the planning.

Planning 101

You spent a lot of time in your methods of teaching classes on lesson planning and for good reason. Having a solid plan is essential. Teaching isn't something you can, or should, go into without a good amount of forethought. Figuring out exactly what to plan, however, can be a challenge. Perhaps the most important thing you'll learn about teaching is how to set and achieve goals - for your students and yourself as a professional. Feel excited? Nervous? Anxious? No worries. Let's start with the basics: classroom, curriculum and communication.

Setting the Stage

One of the most anticipated events for 1st-year teachers is being able to set up their own classroom. While you want the environment to be somewhat reflective of you and your personal style, the real choices must center around the children and their needs. Kindergarten students are beginning a whole new experience in a 'classroom.' Think about who they are, what they'll need to do throughout the day and how you can arrange your classroom to achieve these requirements. To start, use these guiding questions:

  • How can I arrange the desks so students will be able to work in groups as well as focus independently?
  • Where can I store supplies, including students' personal items, so all children have easy access and are able to retrieve and return easily?
  • Do I want to/have the ability to create specific areas for reading, writing, science and math? *How can I arrange the book shelves/tables/desks to allow for easy flow throughout the room?

Arranging your classroom may take a few tries. Walk around the room, sit in desks and view it as a 5-year old would. Use post-it notes (to represent furniture) and a large piece of paper to rearrange your layout without any heavy lifting. Also, make sure there aren't any blind spots. When you're in the guided reading area, will you be able to see the children in the science center? Finally, elicit the help of a friend or the teacher next door. An extra pair of eyes will help you see your room from a different point of view.

kindergarten

Know What You'll Teach

Perhaps the biggest source of anxiety new teachers experience is related to curriculum. Kindergarten students learn many necessary skills, so don't underestimate the importance of being fluent in the standards your school uses. If you haven't been introduced to and trained on curriculum, seek out your mentor teacher or principal to seek guidance.

Your next step is to prepare a year-long outline, or scope-and-sequence. Use a calendar to determine what will be taught and when. A co-teacher or the resource section of your teacher manual may be able to help you with this.

In order to track instruction for all students, create a checklist of skills or standards. Make a column for each student, and use the list to keep track of the dates skills are mastered. Remember to leave room for comments and notes.

Get Parents on Your Team

For any teacher, a good relationship with parents is essential. Parents of young children especially like frequent and specific communication about their child. With this in mind, plan your communication style prior to the year beginning. You have several options - newsletters (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly), a website or personal notes home.

  • Newsletters - No matter how often you send them, newsletters are a great means of filling parents in on what's going on during their child's day. Use the newsletter to communicate important dates, teaching concepts, exciting classroom news and any other item that may come up.
  • Website - Creating and maintaining a website gets parents information quickly and easily. You'll spend less time and resources making copies and be able to showcase your classroom with text, pictures and video.
  • Personal Notes - Many kindergarten teachers opt to send personal achievement notes home with students on a daily basis. These notes are often uniform in format and have easy to report checklists. To promote autonomy, plan to have students participate in writing these notes.

Don't forget the importance of phone calls and face-to-face contact. Speak to parents at pick up time and share a short part of the child's day. Make positive phone calls. Keep track of all communication on a Parent Communication Log. That way, you'll have an easy reference to look back on if necessary.

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