Kindergarten can be a lot of fun, but it’s easy to lose control. The 4 C’s below are the concepts that help me keep my cool while corralling Kindergarten.
1. Containment through circle games and controlled space
It’s all about containment. Unruly students are like a virus that spreads. That sounds a little harsh, but I’ve seen lessons implode because teachers didn’t have control over classroom space, or boundaries were broken by one and then copycats joined in. It only takes a second for the lesson to side-track, so it’s best to be prepared. On the first day of kindergarten, I meet the class outside my door. The classroom teacher helps me to get the whole class holding hands. They follow me in as I sing a greeting song, usually “Hello There,” and the teacher helps me get them in a circle, still holding hands. Then he/she introduces me, assures the class they’ll be back, and closes the door and leaves. Yes, I’ve talked to them about this in advance to make it a smooth transition. Making lots of eye contact, I give the briefest of directions and begin singing “Ring Around the Rosie” and moving in a circle. At least a few students usually know it and sing along. By starting with something familiar and in a circle, you’ll be able to get everyone involved while keeping them together.
2. Complementary Activities and Musical Transitions
Use a puppet for a game and use it to lead to another game or story. Next I tell a story about a parrot echoing me and invite the students to echo me like little parrots, but only when the parrot puppet is flying next to me! The echoing leads to “Teddy Bear.” There are tons of ways to teach it, but I ask the students to sing “Teddy bear, teddy bear” each time, and the parrot flies next to me as a cue. It’s a great way to teach new songs, because students know exactly when to sing.
3. Carpet to delineate a new space
Naturally, I pull out a teddy bear during the song. Teddy loves to hear children singing his song! Sometimes I use the bear to initiate a name game, but I always use him for story time. (Teddy would like to hear his favorite story. Let’s read it together…) Before class, I place carpets in the area I’d like them to sit for story time. This is the first time we’re breaking from the circle, so it’s important to be clear about your expectations, travel paths, amount of time to get there, and where they should sit.
4. Comfortable activities and familiar songs
One of the trickiest things about starting the year with Kindergarten is their lack of experience. They’re like a clean slate! They don’t know what is right or wrong about your room unless you show them. Your classroom may be their first musical experience. They may have never tried singing children’s songs, playing instruments, or moving to music. What a wonderful opportunity, and a huge responsibility for us. I’ve had success starting with “Ring Around the Rosie.” Some students are also familiar with “Shake My Sillies Out” and “Yankee Doodle.” Personally, I use an instrumental version of “Yankee Doodle” as a listening and beat exploration activity near the end of class.
Remember that Kindergarten attention spans are short. I try to alternate standing, sitting, listening, moving, singing, and speaking. My first lesson of the year has nine different activities, and that doesn’t include lining up and leaving. There’s so much to say and do with Kindergarten. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it gets you thinking about your own successful lessons!
Which songs and games do you use at the beginning of the year?