Classroom management for kindergarten is kinda my jam…as in – I LOVE IT.
I mean, the phrase “classroom management” doesn't sound too thrilling, and quite honestly, it probably sounds like something you'd want to put at the bottom of a to-do list. By name alone, it would seem to fit nicely alongside “clean your closets,” “do your taxes,” “manage your classroom,”…
Adding the word “kindergarten” to the word “management” could quite possibly sound unattainable to non-kinder teachers…but trust me, it is the #1 reason I am able to love my job. Without good, solid, intentional classroom management for kindergarten – you are going to wind up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Kindergarten Cop.”
5-year-olds will actually THRIVE with good solid management. Without it, THEY will still survive, but YOU, on the other hand…not-so-much. I mean, you will LIVE – but you will not LOVE your job. 🙂 Teaching is hard enough these days, and if the time in your classroom is overly stressful and chaotic – you are not doing your kids OR yourself any service.
BUT NEVER FEAR! I'm going to share five tips with you, so you can MASTER classroom management for kindergarten. If you find yourself needing or wanting a deeper dive into any of these tips – I've included a link to a dedicated blog post for each.
Let's get to it! But…first, a quick thought on why kindergarten classroom management is a bit trickier than in other grades…
The first days of school for any grade are crucial for setting up the expectations for the year ahead. One thing other grades have to their advantage is that kids are coming into a new school year – with some school experience.
In kindergarten, you have a group of 5-year-olds who hopefully have spent time in a pre-k or mothers-day-out, but a surprising amount will be coming straight into your classroom, having no structured daily experience outside of the home. This can be…a bit overwhelming in your first years.
In the summer before my first year of teaching kindergarten, I spent a lot of time thinking through the flow of my classroom and how I wanted it to work. A bit time-consuming and tedious? YEP. But I was so glad I did that, as it gave me a starting point for that first week alone with my kinders.
QUICKLY I learned things I needed to tweak and account for, and if it's your first year, you will realize where you need to pivot FAST. BUT…I promised you that you will find your groove too!
May I suggest reading through all five tips from top to bottom? Then take a deep breath, and go back to #1. If you think you have a good grasp on it – great! If not, click on the link to take you to the blog that will go deeper into the ins and outs and the hows and whys of that particular tip.
I encourage you to do this with each tip – and if you have ANY questions, email me at email@example.com or comment below. I'm more than happy to help you think through things and brainstorm with you! Bookmark this blog so you can go back and deep dive when you need it!
Here are the 5 Tips with links for quick reference:
- Organization & Procedures: Ideas for Classroom Setup
- Setting Up A Kindergarten Classroom: Make It A Game
- Classroom Management for Kindergarten: Relationships RULE
- Fun Incentives: Desk Pets & Blurt Beans & Awesome Balls
- No Matter What: Keep A Sense of Humor
Kindergarten Classroom Management
1. ORGANIZATION & PROCEDURES: Ideas For Classroom Setup
You need to know WHAT your procedures will be and HOW to get organized.
Around the start of October, there is inevitably a moment when I'm at my back table and realize that my room is buzzing. (No – not from the overhead light – that's a given ;))
The buzzing happens when my classful of 5-year-olds are all independently working: some in partner pairs, some in a small group, and some alone. One is returning their book box while another is getting a sharp pencil, and one is replacing an empty tissue box with a new box – WITH NO HELP FROM ME AT ALL.
They all know how the classroom works, and they each know what their responsibilities are. Systems are in place, and if a substitute is needed, I know all will be well.
THIS HALLELUJAH MOMENT is sponsored by kindergarten classroom management SUCCESS!
All of the classrooms I had observed or done my student teaching in had prepared me for the HOW it was supposed to work – but hadn't prepared me for exactly WHAT I needed to make it a reality.
I realized I hadn't taken a class on WHAT to fill my room with FIRST. I had seen and experienced excellent classroom management but hadn't thought to take detailed notes on the “whats” that were in place to help bring it all together.
To learn the top 10 things I think make classroom management SO much easier – read the post below!
2. SETTING UP A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM: Make It A Game
Once you know the procedures you want to teach – make it feel like a game.
Have you heard the expression that teaching kindergarten is like herding kittens? It's true. And keep in mind not all kittens are super happy to be herded.
So – what in the world can you do (as the kitten herder) to keep as much magic as possible on that very first day in kindergarten and beyond? In the blog post that's linked below, I share my best tips that eliminate stress and bring on success – for the kittens, er…kids, parents, and for YOU too.
Why does this matter? Well...I made a fatal flaw in my first year of teaching.
I knew I would have to teach them how our classroom would work, where things were in the school, etc.
- I did NOT know I would have to teach them how it looks to sit on the carpet with 20+ other friends. How to respectfully control their bodies and not kick neighbors with our limited space.
- I did NOT think through the fact they were all going to shout out at once (some calling me mom out of habit) and immediately have a meltdown if they didn't get a chance to talk.
- I did NOT think about the fact that “lining up” was not something they could automatically do (insert that visual again of herding kittens)
Now and forever more, I teach my kindergarteners 3 things in our very first hour together.
Each of these things is presented as a game – and even as I do my best to describe them, there is no way to truly explain how these VERY SIMPLE things work like magic with 5-year-olds.
Part of the magic is in the presentation. (To learn what the magic 3 things are – read the post!)
3. CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT FOR KINDERGARTEN: Relationships RULE.
Relationships are the glue that will hold your kindergarten classroom management plan together.
The classroom environment encompasses a whole heck of a lot more than just the four walls and all the items inside. Yes, the way you have your classroom set up is important, but in my opinion, when you walk into a good, positive classroom environment – you can feel it.
It's in the way you overhear students talking to one another, the organization that allows almost seamless transitions to flow from one moment to the next, and its participation and eagerness to learn.
It is HARD WORK to set it up – It can take WEEKS to get into the groove.
AND IT IS WORTH IT.
This is one of those “which came first – the chicken or the egg?” In this case – “which comes first – the classroom management or the relationships/environment?”
The answer is…they both are born in the exact same moments, and they can't exist without the other.
OOoooo….that was deeeeep! Very Yoda-like.
To learn more about why successful relationship building is also one of the keys to epic classroom management in kindergarten – read the blog post below!
4. Fun Incentives: Desk Pets & Blurt Beans & Awesome Balls
Desk pets, blurt beans, and awesome balls – OH MY!
Positive reinforcement can not only seal the deal on your classroom management plan, but it can be – FUN. Yep, you heard me right.
In fact – say any of these three phrases to a 5-year-old, and watch the look that comes across their face. They will want to know WHAT they are, HOW they work, and WHEN can they get them?!
There are many fun incentives you can try out, and these are just 3 of my favorites. No matter what you choose – be sure you DO choose something that lights them up. Your kindergarten classroom management plan will sky-rocket into place when they get excited. Trust me!
Click on either post to get the deets!
5. No Matter What: Keep A Sense of Humor
Seriously…you need to be able to laugh at yourself AND along with them. A LOT.
So – what does keeping a sense of humor have to do with classroom management? Well, let's pretend for a moment that tips #1-4 have completely flopped. Let's say:
- Tip #1 – You have assigned numbers to your class list alphabetically and have everything labeled – only to learn that four kids have moved, and you will be getting two new students – TODAY.
- Tip #2 – Your well-thought-out procedure game for lining up didn't work because 6 of your 5-year-olds can't yet identify teen numbers.
- Tip #3 – How can you even start to build relationships when you're cleaning up a bathroom accident and your focus on that situation prompted an outburst from another because they don't have your 100% attention
- Tip #4 – Seriously? Just WHEN do you think there was time for beans, balls, and pets???
THIS IS WHEN TIP #5 COMES IN.
Just laugh. GIVE IN AND LAUGH. Throw your hands up and have a dance party. Open the door and call out “S.O.S”! into the hallway. Put on a video and take a breath and count down the minutes until you get to tell your work bestie the CAH-RAZY you just experienced.
Because my friend, you WILL experience moments like this. It will feel like you are being punked some days! BUT…laughter is the best cure I've found. AND…it will allow you to try again.
For more “fun” to be had in kindergarten – read this post!
YOU GOT THIS!
Classroom management in kindergarten can be challenging – but it is also the very thing that makes learning not only possible – but SO very rewarding. I know when you are starting out, it seems like a LOT to tackle. But it does get easier.
Every year will bring a different obstacle or challenge. You will try something out of desperation, and it will work beautifully – and then it won't work on the next group of kids at all! Well, THEN, what do you do?
Well, you dig deeper into Tips #1-4 and try to fine-tune or pivot or start fresh. And if it still isn't working?
Ummm….Tip #5. Laugh. Shrug your shoulders and know you have a great story to tell at dinner. Tell a teacher pal your dilemma and see if they have a fresh perspective or idea to try out.
If you have any questions or tips to share – please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – or leave a comment! I love getting to connect one-on-one with you!
Pssst! Kindergarten teachers! I'm here to help you say the things to your parents that you WISH they knew! Or maybe you just wanna have a laugh with your k-team – either way…you gotta get my FREE PDF download that dishes the dirt and spills the tea! Behind the kindergarten curtain, if you will 🙂