Setting up your classroom is such an exciting time! You are probably so excited to decorate bulletin boards, pick out a color scheme, and put cute labels on everything. However, it is so important to first think about your classroom routines and procedures BEFORE you do all the decorating and moving around furniture. Today, I am going to talk all about Classroom Routines and Procedures for Kindergarten classrooms!
Create a consistent schedule
Kindergarteners NEED structure and a consistent schedule. I don't know how many times something threw off our day- an assembly, fire drill, class party, etc. If you don't have a consistent schedule, ALL your days will feel hectic. Your first step is to create a daily schedule and STICK to it. Having classroom routines and procedures in elementary can be a lifesaver. Things come up, and it will all be okay. Your students will come to expect that schedule and will know if it's different or off. Some schools make your whole schedule for you, while other schools may give you the times for lunch, recess, and specials, but the rest is up to you. Once you have your schedule, you can create routines and procedures for your day.
Once you get your keys to the classroom for the year, you instantly start thinking of how you are going to decorate your class and where all your Target dollar spot finds will go. But first, PLAN! My first year teaching, I arranged all my tables and classroom furniture without thinking of routines and procedures. I ended up having to move all my furniture multiple times because it didn't work. There wasn't enough room for my students to unpack in the morning, my center materials were in a not-so-easy place for students to access them, and my center stations were not spread out enough. Here's how I decide how to set up my classroom each year: Grab a pad of paper and pencil and let's go!
First, start at the classroom door- think of how your students will enter the classroom. Ask yourself questions like- Where do their backpacks go? Walk through your classroom like you are a student and figure out your morning routine. Then, WRITE IT DOWN! That way on the first day, you won't be showing your students the morning routine and forget what comes next. Do the same for centers, lining up, dismissal time, etc.
I created a simple printable that will help you plan out routines and procedures in your classroom. Find it at my TPT store here!
Once you create your routines, you can move your classroom furniture to fit your classroom needs. Planning ahead will make you feel prepared for the first day and help your classroom be set up in the most beneficial way possible.
Start on Day 1
Start teaching your routines and procedures on the first day of school. Yes, I know you probably want to do all that cutesy stuff, like coloring and taking pictures with homemade signs, but you NEED to leave time for teaching procedures. Your students will come in and have no clue what to do. You have to literally walk through EVERY LITTLE STEP THEY TAKE for the entire day. Now, it is impossible to do this first thing on the first day of school. Put the backpacks down, don't touch the supplies, have them sit at their desk or table and play with Play-Doh. This will occupy them until it's time to teach them all the routines and procedures.
Once you officially start your day, teach the routines and procedures as they come up. They have to clean up their Play-Doh, so show them how to clean it up, close the lid, and where to put it. Teach them how to stand up and push their chair in. Show them how to sit on the carpet with you. Practice it twice, then move on to the next task.
Tip: Teach them all about the bathroom procedures FIRST! No one wants an accident 15 minutes after the first day of school has started!
If you print out my free checklist, put it on a clipboard and cross off each item as you go. You probably won't get through all of them the first day, so spread them out over the first week.
Now that you've taught your students all the procedures, you still need to review them often. Each day for the first TWO or so weeks of school, pick a few procedures and review them daily, even if they are already able to do it independently. I pick one or two students to act out the classroom procedures and routines for the rest of my class, and we discuss whether or not they did it correctly. Then, we practice as a class. It takes maybe 5 minutes a day, but it is so worth it!
Throughout the year, you should keep reviewing the procedures, just not every day. Once I noticed my students starting to forget the correct procedure, I make sure to review it right then and there, or the next day, if there's no time. For example, when my students were unpacking one day, I realized that many of them were forgetting to take out their take-home folder for me to check. I stopped what we were doing and made them go back through the whole morning routine to do it the right way. The next day, we reviewed our morning routine before we even entered our classroom, and I told them I was going to look for superstar unpackers to get a skittle. My whole class ended up doing a great job, so everyone got a skittle.
Don't wait until its too late to review a procedure! After breaks like Christmas Break and Spring Break, take some time the first morning back to review procedures too. It may seem like this is getting repetitive, but your classroom will run smoothly throughout the year!
Ideas for procedures:
Turning in work/unfinished work
We use these bins for their finished and unfinished work. Once a student finishes their work, they turn it into the finished work bin. If a student does not finish their work in the time given, they put it in the “Unfinished Work” bin. I check these bins by Thursday, to make sure unfinished work doesn't end up in the “Finished Work” bin. On Fridays, I pass out any unfinished work to the students, and they have additional time to work on it. Any students who finish all their work, get to choose a free play center, we call this “Fun Friday”. My students work VERY hard to finish all their work by Friday. If students still do not finish their work, I send it home with them to complete it over the weekend.
Using the Bathroom
If you have a bathroom in your classroom, it makes things a lot easier for you and your students. However, there's always an incident where one student walks in on another. We use this sign to let others know if there is someone in the bathroom or not. The clothespin is on GO when the bathroom is unoccupied. When a student needs to use the bathroom, they clip the clothespin to the STOP side, go in and do their business. Once they are done, they clip it back to the GO side.
Lining up and walking in the halls
Lining students up on the first day of school is always what I imagine herding kittens to be like. Most of them have never gotten into a line before, so this classroom procedure and routine takes some time and a lot of patience.
First, I teach them how to properly stand in line. I use this saying with my students- “Bubbles and duck tails”. They put a “bubble” in their mouth. I remind them to breathe through their nose with the bubble because there are always a few who think this means “hold their breath”. The “ducktail” is their hands clasped behind their back. “Bubbles and duck tails” ensures that the students aren't talking to one another and they aren't touching each other or the wall as they walk.
Next, I show them how to quietly walk and get in line. If you want them to have a specific line order, this is when you teach them. Most years my class is fine without a specific order, but sometimes it helps cut back on arguing about the line order. We practice walking through the hallways quietly, and I show them all the different parts of our school.
Asking for permission
Kindergarten students do not understand how to ask for permission, especially if this is their first time in school. So, if you do not want unwanted blurting during your story time, when a student has to use the bathroom, teach them these hand signals. There are many different variations, but this is how I use it in my class. If a student needs to go to the bathroom, they raise one finger up QUIETLY. Once I see them, I make eye contact and nod at them. They get up and go to the bathroom. No interrupting! I don't have to stop and tell them they can go, I can easily nod while I am reading a book, solving a math problem, etc. The other numbers go like this-
5- Question (because that's just raising your hand)
Find hand signals here!
I don't know about you, but hearing the pencil sharpener going in the middle of a lesson is my BIGGEST (teaching related) pet peeve. Some teachers don't mind, but I think this totally distracts my students and me too! The pencil sharpener is not allowed to be used by anyone other than the Pencil Sharpener Helper, and ONLY at the end of the day. This is one of my most important classroom routines and procedures for elementary, especially kindergarten.
We have two pencil cups, one with freshly sharpened pencils and the other where the broken, unsharpened pencils go. When a student breaks their pencil, or it gets too dull to write properly, they can switch their pencil out.
Community supplies are a lifesaver in my classroom. It is so much easier to combine all the supplies, then to worry about whose crayons are whose or if a student doesn't bring any supplies. Each desk group has a supply caddy, which can be found at Target, Lakeshore, Michael's, etc.
In the caddy, I put pencils, dry erase markers, scissors, glue sticks and individual crayon boxes. I bought a class set of scissors so that they are all the same. I can't stand when my students argue over something silly like scissors. If they are all the same, there is no arguing!
For the crayon boxes, I find that the cardboard boxes rip and tear EASILY. So, I have Dollar Store Tupperware containers for each student to put their crayons in. I just take a whole box of crayons, dump, then close the lid. Each container has a student's name on it. You could also just have a basket of crayons. I like my students to have a little responsibility when it comes to their supplies.
There is also a caddy at each center and at my teacher table. Students don't have to carry supplies with them anywhere which cuts back on “lost” supplies.