Aren’t Kindergarten students just the sweetest? They are so eager to learn, love to share their ideas (mostly about things other than what you’re talking about…), and they jump at the chance to participate. Kindergarten classroom guidance lessons can be so much fun as long as the stage is set for success.
I’ll be the first to admit that my first time in a Kindergarten class did not go as well as I hoped. I had lots of little ones wanting to call out and one even peed in his pants. Seriously. After that experience, I took a hard look at my plan entering Kindergarten classrooms and found a formula that works for me.
5 Tips to Rock Kindergarten Classroom Guidance Lessons
1. Do Your Homework
Before you go into the classroom, spend some time chatting with the teacher to learn about the students. Find out which friends might struggle behaviorally will benefit most from sitting beside you in the circle and which friends will thrive when given a leadership task during the lesson. Ask the teacher if he or she has noticed any high-interest topics among students and tailor your lessons this way. For example, if the students have shown an interest in the local sports team, theme your lesson accordingly for buy in! Whatever you do, don’t go in blind. Learn from my first time mistake 🙂
2. Follow the Teacher’s Lead
If you’re a PBIS school, this will be easy! But if your school isn’t quite there yet, make an effort to learn about the classroom teacher’s behavior management strategies. Learn about the language used in the classroom. Does the teacher say, “Show me your listening ears!” or “Hocus pocus everybody focus!”? Use the same language the teacher uses so that students know exactly what to do. Likewise, find out how the teacher recognizes positive behavior and do the same. Remember, they’re little, and some of them are in school for the first time ever! Keeping the classroom management strategies uniform will help them know what is expected no matter which adult is in the room.
3. Praise Praise Praise Positive Behavior
Kindergarten students LOVE attention, especially positive attention from another adult in the building. Go out of your way and go over the top to recognize positive behavior right away and your other little friends are sure to follow suit. Make sure it’s authentic and specific praise. Notice who is following directions right away and let them know exactly what they’re doing right so that others know what they can do to be on the right track too. Like previously mentioned, find out how the teacher praises or rewards positive behavior and keep it consistent.
4. Keep Activities Short
Children aged 4-5 can spend about 10-15 minutes focused on a single task. I typically begin with a hook activity, transition into a teaching component, and then move on to a practice component, creating 3-4 separate short activities that all involve a clear transition. This allows me to keep Kindergarten classroom guidance lessons to a maximum of 25 minutes.
The kindergarten classroom guidance lessons I use are structured to run for about 20 minutes with some flex time for differentiation. We spend time reading or listening to a pre-recorded dinosaur-themed story, play a related movement-based game, and then reflect on the skill. Purposeful, structured, and quick.
If your school has a set schedule that requires that you spend upwards of 35-45 minutes in Kindergarten for classroom guidance, I urge you to advocate for a change! This is far too long for Kindergarten students to be engaged in one lesson. If you need data to help your cause, ask your Kindergarten teachers with the best classroom management how long they spend on one lesson. I’m betting it’s not 45 minutes 🙂 If this simply isn’t possible, keep your actual lesson to no more than 25 minutes, let them play (use centers, play a group game, or whatever your space allows), and then bring it back in with a mindfulness or calming activity. Which brings me to my last tip…
5. Let Them Move
It’s obvious after 5 minutes in a Kindergarten classroom that sitting and listening for much more than those 5 minutes is not developmentally appropriate for this age group. Plan movement-based activities into your lesson, even if this just means beginning and ending with a stretch, and offering quick structured wiggle breaks throughout. I love to plan movement-based activities that keep students up an moving but also engaged. Just make sure your movement-based activity is structured and has clearly defined rules and goals. It’s classroom guidance, not a circus 🙂
A simple example that I use frequently is a musical chairs structure. This activity can really be turned into any kind of game. Place task cards on chairs to make simple review or question/answer games. I like to make a circle with chairs or spot dots and have students hop around while music plays. When music stops, they sit or stand on their spot (practicing self control!). Call on one student to pull his task card from the chair and answer/review whatever the task may be.
Hula hoops are another great tool for creating movement-based activities. Put a thumbs up or thumbs down in a few hula hoops. Read a behavior scenario or show a picture and let students walk, hop, or skip to the the hula hoop that describes the behavior. Easy peasy movement-based activity that can be transformed for lots of lessons!
I’ve come a long way from that first Kindergarten train wreck, and I chalk it up to lots of planning. So, whether you’re heading into Kindergarten for classroom guidance for the first time or the hundredth time, get your students engaged and on task with familiar behavior expectations and language, specific praise, and short, meaningful, and movement-based activities!
What tips would you add to the list? What’s your go-to Kindergarten classroom management strategy? Let me know in the comments section below!
If you’re looking for quick, ready to implement Kindergarten classroom guidance lessons, check out my dinosaur-themed unit and my gardening-themed unit. Both are always a big hit with the Kindergarten crowd!