Our students started their Gradual Entry for Kindergarten this week, with smaller groups attending for a shorter time so that all of us, teachers and students, have an opportunity to get to know each other in a calm, gentle and relaxed environment. We’re fortunate to have this time to be with our students, so they can socialise and play with their new classmates and we can introduce and settle them into our classroom routines.
When we are establishing routines in our classrooms, we begin the first day of Gradual Entry with our small groups. We believe that routines, in conjunction with setting up a self-regulated classroom, can underlie the children’s self-regulation: when they know what’s expected of themselves and others, and have a sense of predictability about their day, they feel safe and secure in knowing what’s going to happen next. The children feel calm so they can focus on the teacher’s instructions and participate fully in class. We want to reduce uncertainty and anxiety as much as possible so our little learners are able to do the job they come to school for: to learn. As we said many times before, when our children are relaxed, focused, calm and happy, they are ready and in their optimal state for learning (the green zone).
We have two different groups of children (morning and afternoon) so it’s very important we’ve taught the routines and stated the expectations in the same way (hopefully exactly) for consistency for when the entire class is together (which for us is tomorrow). We still carry around our dayplan during these first few important days so we do not forget anything.
We met our new students on the playground and led them to our respective classrooms to hang up their school bags in the cloakroom. It is here, at the classroom door, that we teach the first routine for children to wait with their parents or caregivers for the teacher to open the door in the mornings. We remind the children there is no knocking or banging on the door; rather, they are to wait quietly with their adults, no running or loud voices.
We have books waiting on the alphabet squares of the carpet in the Meeting Area. As we welcome the children into the classroom and direct them to the carpet they may look at a book for a few minutes if we are helping a reluctant child at the front door; yet we’re still able to see the class. We eventually modify this routine after a couple of weeks and ask the children to select their own book from the book rack.
We introduce three big sets of classroom routines, rules and expectations for getting along together on the first day, and review the use of the washrooms and lining up. At first this might seem like a lot but we find the children always rise to the challenge, as they have already done this week.
Typically, whenever we enter our classroom, including the start of the day, returning from recess, Library or PE, our routine is always to walk and sit down in the Meeting Area. The Meeting Area is an important area in the classroom: we use it for curriculum instruction, Storytime, Sharing and whenever we have something very important to say to our class, such as introducing rules and expectations; therefore, we must be able to cooperate well as a group.
- Getting Along Together at the Meeting Area
- Sit cross cross on your alphabet square in your personal space bubble
- Raise your hand if you wish to speak
- Only one person can speak at a time
- Hands and feet to self
- Listen for the teacher’s bell – what does listening to the teacher look like? Turn your body to face the teacher, ears are listening to the teacher, eyes are looking at the teacher, hands are still. We call this “listening with my whole body”
- Sometimes we (the teacher) will use the word “stop” or “freeze”
We have a brief chat about “stop” and “freeze” and what that means and looks like before we move to discussing Centres Time expectations.
- Getting Along Together during Centre Time
- Four children to a Centre at a time
- Centres are “open” or “closed” (we teach them what that looks like for different Centres eg., no paper on the easel means painting is closed for today)
- Inside voices are quiet voices
- Walking feet
- Gently and quietly select toys and materials from their baskets
- We treat our Centre activities and each other with kindness and respect, share and take turns
- When the clean-up music comes on, then we must stop what we’re doing and begin to tidy. We also give a 2-5 minute warning before the clean-up song and show it on the Time Timer
We give a tour of the classroom, which includes a visit to the washrooms, and practise walking to the different Centres and review what is “open” or closed” for today. During the children’s playtime, we circulate around the classroom, practise the routine of listening for the teacher’s bell and what “listening with my whole body,” “stop” and “freeze” look like and sound like. We also try to enforce the clean-up routine as we know this routine must be firmly in place in order to make Centre Time successful for everyone. We praise the children for following our commands and gently assist those who need more support.
Before we head to Snack Time, we gather at the Meeting Area to introduce the Snack Time rules and review the expected behaviour when using the washrooms.
- Getting Along Together during Snack Time
- Bring snack bags into the classroom and place them on the designated tables for eating
- Wash and dry hands at the sink area
- Stay seated to eat; there is no walking and eating at the same time
- Eat quietly with small bites and mouths are closed when chewing; swallow our food before the next bite or taking a drink
- Quiet conversation only with our tablemates
- Use your spoon or fork correctly
- When your snack is finished, pack out your garbage and wait to be called to line-up for outside recess
It might be mind-boggling to see all of these classroom routines, rules and expectations in print and wonder, how can our Kindergarten children remember and do all of this?
Well, we’re here to tell you that the children can and will meet our expectations if we have made our expectations clear and explicit, provided multiple opportunities for them to practise, and positively reinforced and praised the desired behaviours we hope to elicit from them. For the past three days during Week One of Gradual Entry, we have tried to consistently use the same language and routines so the children can internalise their new learning to become part of their natural behaviour.
Our classrooms are ready, we’ve set up a learning environment that supports self-regulation and we’ve introduced our classroom routines, rules and expectations. Our whole class arrives tomorrow and we are waiting with anticipation…..