Of course every Kindergarten teacher knows there really is no such thing as a typical day. There is always something – a lost tooth, a sick dog, a visiting Grandma, throw up on the bus … the number one requirement for a kindergarten teacher is flexibility! But we also know that children learn best when they feel safe and secure and many children need a basic routine they can count on every day at school. Even when you develop a basic schedule it often varies because of special classes, parent volunteers, holidays, field trips, and so many other reasons.
The routine in my classroom was different at the beginning of the year than later when the children were used to the full school day, and ready to work more independently. I am just going to give a basic plan for how the day went – and I welcome anyone to add their daily schedule in the comments! I know lots of teachers are challenged to help the day go more smoothly – depending on the kids in your class each year.
Circle time – attendance, lunch count, Special Helper (child of the day) activity, alphabet activity with a puppet (at the beginning of the year), thematic study, I gave directions and modeled daily projects
Small group work – completed a page in a book, craft activity almost always associated with writing (dictation early in year), math activity, cooking once a week, literature response activity, etc.
Free choice play – Dramatic play center, Math Center, Science Center, Sandbox, Playdough, Housekeeping, Games, Blocks, Reading games, Library (reading center), Listening Center, read the room, write the room
Clean up, Calendar activities
Whole group again – singing, read aloud, Everyday Math activity
Writer’s workshop – at the beginning of the year I loved using the book Talking, Drawing, Writing. We really focused on oral language and storytelling. I modeled lots of oral stories and each child told stories. The children really developed a sense of story. At the same time we practiced step by step drawing using simple geometric shapes to make recognizable pictures. I found that when we were doing this storytelling and drawing practice during the same time we were learning letters, sounds and phonetic spelling, it all came together to give children a lot of confidence about writing their own small moment stories a little later.
Special classes – art, music, physical education, library (not always in the afternoon but I liked it much better when they were!)
Reader’s Workshop – At the beginning of the year I loosely used Elizabeth Sulzby’s Kindergarten Literature Program. I read and reread a set of about 15 books 5-6 times each. Then I put multiple copies of those books out for the children to “read.” I was also doing mini-lessons about how to take care of books, how to get books out and put them away, how to read by yourself, how to read with a partner, how to be a listener, how to take turns talking, where to read, etc. Later we moved into more conventional Reader’s Workshop.
Depending on whether we had an afternoon special, we sometimes had outdoor recess, sometimes the children all used the math center manipulatives, often reinforcing Everyday Math activity, sometimes just free choice math games.
I just wanted to talk a little about thematic activities. For some reason in the last few years many principals and school districts have been discouraging or even forbidding “themes.” I really think it is all in your definition. I covered most of our science and social studies curriculum through themes. Many language arts skills can be incorporated into almost any subject or theme. Math skills are easily reinforced through games that fit in with most themes. It is easy to differentiate our instruction as well as activities for a variety of readiness levels when using themes. We know that children learn best when they are making connections between new information and previous learning – and we know that they are more engaged when they are actively participating and having fun. A theme ties together and gives meaning to what the children are learning. I know that some districts are mandating a large block of Language Arts time, or workshop time. I value and respect Reader’s and Writer’s workshop – but I think it is very important that kindergarten looks different than first grade.
During most of my themes we created books and read and reread sentence strips about our study. We were learning concepts about print, sight words, 1:1 correspondence when reading, reinforcing letters and sounds, learning new vocabulary, developing comprehension, I could go on and on. Then at the end of the unit we had a product – a book we had made that each child could read – usually from memory but gradually relying on letters and words – that they took home and proudly read and reread. The first day of school the children decorated a book box to be kept at home and used as storage for all the books we would be making in class. They each had a library of books they were confident reading – and they all felt successful!
One of the biggest challenges of full day kindergarten is how tired the children are in the afternoon. Of course this is the biggest problem at the beginning of the year, but I rarely did anything I needed to use for assessment in the afternoon throughout the year. Our district tried to schedule special classes in the afternoon – leaving the room seemed to give them a little boost and energy. I also chose to do Reader’s and Writer’s workshop in the afternoon. I had a several reasons for that – I often had parent helpers in the morning and needed to use them for other activities, in the afternoon I was alone with my students. When I had parents in the room I was able to listen to each child read, pull a child for individual assessment, participate in their play, scaffold their understanding, reinforce learning for children who were struggling, make personal contact with individual children. I could do this because the children were active and engaged in projects and focused on their work. In the afternoon when the children were tired it was difficult to do more than one thing at a time.
At the beginning of the year I loved having the children at whole group time in the afternoon; reading books, singing and dancing, telling and listening to stories and practicing drawing as well as completing activities from the Everyday Math program. They definitely were not just sitting – in order to keep them engaged they moved around a lot while we did these things. There were challenges doing Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop when I was alone with my students, but it seemed to work best this way for me. Later in the year I sometimes changed Writer’s Workshop to morning when the children were doing more actual writing, and I wanted them to be less tired.
We had a block of free choice time in the morning – in the afternoon we went outside, or had free choice of only MATH materials, and a little later in the year we sometimes had free choice of any READING/WRITING materials. Math and language materials were offered as a choice in the morning but many children never used them then.
Other teachers in my building had the children bring in towels to lie on and had a half hour of actual rest time every day. They sometimes played music or showed a video during this time which was right after lunch. I tried this several times and it just didn’t work well for me. I did not want to spend my time teaching the children to lie quietly – or turn into the rest time police! Depending on the group of children I sometimes did quieter activities like read alouds while I allowed children to sit or lie down if they chose. Other years I found that the children returned from lunch and recess already a little energized from that break – and they were ready to do something with me. If a child fell asleep I always let them sleep, but it didn’t happen very often.
SO …. how about your day? Please feel free to share what works best for you!