Activities for the First Day of Kindergarten

Fun and simple ideas for the first day of kindergarten

The first day of school can be stressful - for both teachers and students! Here are my tried and true first day of kindergarten activities to make your day go smoothly!

The first thing I focus on with my kindergarten students is teaching Routines & Procedures! I cannot stress enough how important it is to take the first 2 weeks of school and devote it solely to teaching Routines & Procedures. This will be the foundation of your whole year. Teach your students what is expected of them and how to function in your classroom and you will reap the benefits ALL YEAR LONG!

But, which procedures should you teach first? Have you heard the saying "Maslow before Bloom"? The first day of kindergarten is when you have to make sure you take care of your students' needs and anxieties so that you can eventually start teaching them. In my experience, almost every  student will come in on the first day of kindergarten WORRIED ABOUT THE SAME 3 THINGS! It will save you so much heartache and hassle if you address those 3 issues FIRST! And the BONUS is that you can turn taking care of these NEEDS into engaging activities for the first day of kindergarten that will make your students happy and comfortable in your classroom!

#1 How do I get home?

When their parents walk out the door on that first day, our students immediately begin stressing about the end of the day! How will their parents find them? At what point will they be able to get out of this place? What happens if their parent forgets or gets lost? What about taking the bus - how will they know which bus or daycare van to board? It is super important to ease that anxiety, and if you start your first mini lesson with "Here's what we're going to do at the end of the day to make sure you get home." I GUARANTEE you will have every one of your students listening raptly!

Now, this doesn't mean that you need a big long lesson about ways to get home. I sing a song about the different ways we go home, and use some felt board pieces as I sing. Then we do a simple pictorial graph where each child colors an icon about the way they get home and adds it to the class graph. Later on in the week we'll continue the lesson with an emergent reader and then we'll create our first Class Book! Tip: make sure parents fill out the going home info at your Back To School Night, so if a child is unsure, you can refer to your list! Here's an example of our "How Do We Go Home?" graph - I always have my students color their picture and write their names on the back before adding it to the graph.

At the end of this first mini lesson, you have your first class graph to display, which you can refer to throughout the week - counting how many students walk home versus ride the bus etc. So you're incorporating your first Math Standards at the same time as alleviating their Number 1 Fear! Later on in the week we'll continue the lesson by having each child color their own emergent reader to take home and read, and then we'll create a class book where every child gets their own page!
  Grab all of these activities in my How Do We Get Home? pack!

#2 Where's the bathroom?

The next thing you'll need to teach, because at this point in the morning it's going to be a NECESSITY, is Bathroom Procedures!  At the beginning of the year, kindergarten students have bladders that are about the same size as a Chihuahua's. As the year goes by, you'll be able to train them to "hold it" for longer periods and to almost go "on schedule" but at the beginning of the year, that potty sees a LOT of use! And of course, to 5 year olds, knowing where the bathroom is and preventing embarrassing accidents, is high on their list of anxieties. 

At this point I quickly go over how we ask to go to the bathroom, what terminology we use (because no one wants to hear "I gotta poop!"), where it is and what we do inside the bathroom - and what we don't do! If you have a single classroom bathroom, your procedures will vary from those who have to walk the entire class down the hall to the bathroom.
In my class, we talk about closing the door, wiping, flushing, and hand washing. I actually demonstrate our handwashing because it makes me cringe to see children get a handful of soap and then stick their hands under the tap and rinse it all away before they even had a chance to lather up! I created a Handwashing Procedures Pack which includes pocket chart sequencing pieces, a poster to hang by the sink, a printable b&w reader and a cut and paste sequencing sheet.

 # 3 Am I going to get fed?

After you've taken care of their most pressing biological need, its time to focus on their stomachs! Every child wants to know when they will be fed! It's especially important in Title I schools, where some children may not get regular meals at home, to reassure children that you WILL feed them every day. Once you've covered that basic fact, you'll have to go over Cafeteria Procedures because it's a totally different experience than they're used to from eating at home. 99% of your students  have never held a tray in their lives. Don't let the first time be when it's full of food and a milk carton AND they're attempting to walk AND find their seat in the cafeteria! That's just going to lead to disaster (and extra clean up for your custodians!). I have an EDITABLE Cafeteria Procedures FREEBIE for you too!

I play the Cafeteria Procedures powerpoint on my Smartboard and we discuss each slide. If you don't have a Smartboard, print each slide and show them to your students as you discuss the different points. Also, talk with your cafeteria staff beforehand and get a few trays to practice with. Ask if they'll let you do a "dry run" of the salad bar/cafeteria so your students can see it all beforehand. Ask your Special Ed, Speech and Counseling coworkers who aren't yet pulling their students to come down and help out with the first couple of lunch periods. Game Changer Tip: when your students get their lunch trays, lay their milk down on its side rather than standing it upright! We tried it last year and we had fewer dropped trays without that unwieldy milk carton causing issues!

Once you've gotten through these first 3 activities for the first day of kindergarten, it's probably time to teach your students how to line up and walk in the hallway. Don't forget to grab your FREE Line Up Chants - they make lining up a treat! I put mine on a ring and hang them by the door so we can choose a new one periodically - keeping it novel means that your students are more likely to pay attention!

Using these activities for your first day of kindergarten is sure to make your day go smoothly! And chances are, if you can start your school year with a good first day, the rest of your year will follow suit! Being sensitive to student needs is the best way to build good relationships with your students and create a warm and welcoming classroom community!

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