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20 Basics for Any Kindergarten Classroom
Setting up a kindergarten classroom at the beginning of the year can be an exciting, yet overwhelming. Whether you are a student teacher, or this is your last year teaching elementary school, I’m here to share with you things I’ve found helpful over the years.
Beginning of the Year
As a teacher, you probably know the importance of creating a classroom setting to increase academic performance. The best way to prepare for the little kids is to think about familiarize yourself with the kindergarten curriculum, choose engaging early childhood academic activities, integrate some of your favorite things that will make you a happier teacher, and learn as much as you can about kindergarten classroom management.
Creating positive experiences for kindergarten students doesn’t have to be hard – just well thought out. Any K teacher will tell you there is a central goal – for the sake of early child development, keep learning fun in the early years.
The first kindergarten day will be all about learning routines. You will be teaching transitions, social skills, teaching them about the designated areas for carpet time, small groups, independent work, play areas, and building classroom community.
First, and foremost, don’t stress yourself out. I promise even if your classroom isn’t perfect on the first day of school, your young students will still have fun learning.
The beginning of the year, regardless of grade level, is exciting, scary, and overwhelming. If you are a new kindergarten teacher, take a deep breath. Build relationships with the kids, their families, and your coworkers.
The classroom environment is, in my opinion, just as important as the full-day kindergarten curriculum. You will want to create an environment that is warm and welcoming, like home. This is where the students will be spending the majority of the time throughout the day.
As you consider the classroom setting, you will need to think about where your going to store classroom supplies, setting up a classroom library, the layout for student tables, a teacher desk, large group time, and areas for small groups. When you look around the room, imagine a place to display student work, kindergarten “I Can Statement”, and where you can display a collection of family photos. I call this area the “classroom family” spot.
During the first week of school, I send home a parent letter asking parents to send in a family photo. As they come in, the kids get an opportunity to tell the class about their family photo, then we hang it up in a designated area.
Favorite Things for Your Teacher Desk
You may be wondering how a teacher desk is related to the education of young children. But, trust me, easy access to your favorite things will make your days smoother than those who are not organized and prepared. Even if you don’t have a teacher desk, you will want to create an area for the basics.
I recently (2021) polled thousands of teachers inside FB groups, such as Teachers on a Budget, asking what their desk must-haves are.
Here are some of the favorite things to keep in/on your teacher desk:
- Lotion (it can often be the miracle cure for those kids who have excessive mystery “boo-boos”. You know, the 5 and 6-year olds that come to you all day long with “this hurts”.
- Band-aids (I stock up at the Dollar Tree)
- Colorful Flair Pens
- Frixion Erasable Pens
- Blank note cards to send thank you notes
- Desktop calendar
- Clear packing tape
- Change of clothes (throw up happens)
- Lined post-it note pads (These are bigger than the traditional sizes, and are lined, which makes writing those quick last minute notes home a breeze)
- Chocolate or snack stash for the days when you have little time but need a pick-me-up.
- 3 Drawer container: to copy, to file, to pass out
- Stickers, stamps and stamp-pad
- Personal items for back-up (floss, advil, deodorant, hair bands)
- Tape dispenser
- Lesson Plan book
- Sub tub
- Extra name tags
- Umbrella for dismissal
- Flavored Chapstick (You can read my blog post, Using Chapstick for Positive Behavior, to learn more)
The Basics for Academic Performance in a Kindergarten Classroom
To help save you time and money, there is an offer for a Kindergarten Classroom Bundle at the end of this blog post. Enjoy!
Usually held as a large group activity at the start of the day, calendar time gives the kids an understanding of time – reviewing the date, day of the week, month of the year, yesterday/today/tomorrow. Use this time to integrate your daily schedule, as well. When the kids have a clear visual of the daily schedule, they are not surprised at transitional time, which will lead to less disruptions and melt downs.
There are tons of cute calendar displays for you to choose from, or you can create your own. This superhero calendar set was one of my students favorites!
Also during morning meetings, we count the days of school. Celebrating the 100th days of school is a BIG deal in kindergarten, and you have to be ready for it!
After years of using the traditional counting straws to count the days of school, I decided to add a tens-frame chart using small stickers. If found this very helpful for my visual learners. Each tens-frame will have a different set of stickers. If you don’t want to worry about keeping stickers nearby, you can laminate this chart, and mark each day with dry-erase markers.
Get your Counting the Days of School Tens-Frame chart, HERE.
3. Songs and Movement
Whenever you have an opportunity to teach using music and movement, do it! There wasn’t a single day that went by that we didn’t sing a song or incorporate movement into our learning. According to the article, The Benefits of Studying with Music, “Studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on a human’s body and brain. Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.”
4. Counting Jar
To get started, place a small collection of objects in a clear container. Throughout the week, each student will visit the counting jar. They will count how many are in the jar, then record their answer.
I laminated name cards for each student (they are post-it-notes), and put a velcro dot on the back of each card. The name cards are where the kids write a number, or draw dots, to represent how many they counted. The same set of objects would remain in the jar throughout the week. On Friday, we open the jar together, count them, and compare the numbers that were recorded.
Items to Put in the Counting Jar:
5. Nursery Rhymes for Kids
Nursery Rhymes for kids lay the foundation to early language and reading skills. In the book, Reading Magic, the brilliant Australian author, Mem Fox, states “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”
Check out these Popular Nursery Rhymes for Kids.
6. 100’s Chart
Everyday, you will be counting aloud with the kiddos. Rote counting is an important kindergarten math standard, and can be easily implemented in your daily routine.
Along with recording their rote counting skills, I did daily activities using the 100’s pocket chart. I definitely recommend the pocket chart version. This way, the kids can manipulate the numbers, play number games, find number patterns, etc. In my kindergarten classroom, I had 2 100’s pocket charts. One was kept on my front math wall, and the other was used for the counting jar activity.
I created the printable 100’s charts and rote counting assessment below to help build number sense and record the students growth throughout the year.
Get your printable 100’s charts here.
The question of the day activity builds expressive and receptive language skills, serves as kindergarten journal writing prompts, and can be easily integrated into a math lesson.
Every morning, the kids would come into the classroom, hang up their coats and bookbags, then stop at the Question of the Day area. My classroom helper (usually the kiddo who completed morning work in .2 seconds and constantly disrupted others) was kept busy standing at the chart, reading the question to each student. The kiddos then put their name card in the spot to answer the yes and no questions for kindergarten.
Get the digital and printable Question of the Day, here.
8. I Can Statements (Kindergarten Standards)
Typically, elementary school administrators will expect teachers to post the kindergarten standards in a way that little kids can understand. In other words, you will rewrite, and post, the common core academic standards of your lesson plans in an “I can” format. For example, on a colorful sentence strip, you will write “I can say the letter sounds.”
District officials will appreciate your effort to relay the expectations of the kids’ academic performance.
9. Alphabet Posters
When setting up a kindergarten classroom, you will want both alphabet and number posters. I like to change my theme year to year, but these Superhero alphabet posters are always a hit! If printed in full size, each letter poster is 8.5 x 11″. However, I also like to print them 2 to a page to cut the sizing down in half.
Get your Superhero Alphabet and Number Posters, HERE.
10. Number Posters
You will want to display number cards to 20, as well as a 100’s pocket chart or number line. I have created math bulletin board number cards that display the numeral, number word, and a tens-frame to represent the set of objects.
These Superhero Number Posters are a class favorite! I love them because I can hang the full 8.5×11 posters all across the top of my white board, or I can print them half size to put on a smaller math bulletin board.
These Superhero Number posters are included in the Kindergarten Bundle, HERE.
11. Sensory Bins
When setting up your kindergarten classroom, be sure to designate an area for sensory bins!
My friend, Amanda, from Sparkling in Primary, has created the Ultimate Sensory Box to save you time and money! The Ultimate Sensory Box is the complete sensory bin toolkit that helps preschool, kindergarten teachers teach state standards while remaining developmentally appropriate and adding more opportunities to learn through play. Check out these Sensory subscription boxes, HERE.
12. Sight Words and CVC Word Family Resources
Depending on your curriculum, sight words can be taught as early as the first quarter in kindergarten. You’ll want several sets of Sight Words cards to keep throughout your room. Check to see if you are using Dolch Sight Words or Fry Sight Words.
As a kindergarten teacher, I focused heavily on cvc words, phoneme segmentation, and word families during second half of the school year. I created CVC word family printable resources, and CVC word games, as a supplemental to our weekly word family instruction and assessments. Get FREE CVC worksheets and activities, HERE.
13. Writing Center
Teaching kindergarten students how to write isn’t always as easy as you’d think. The best advice I can give is to make “writing” fun by creating a writing center that inspires them to write and/or draw from day one!
This area is a great way to encourage positive experiences with writing – not for correcting their mistakes.
Supplies for a Fun Writing Center:
- Seasonal Illustrated Vocabulary Words
- Colored Paper
- Lined Paper for Kindergarten Writing
- Smelly Markers
- Glue Sticks
- Child appropriate magazines
- Blank notebooks
- Colored Pencils
14. Classroom Library
Classroom libraries can be extensive, or kept simple. There were several years, I had a ton of themed books separated into book bins for the kids. I even labeled and put color coded stickers on the books and bins to assure the books went back where they should. For some classes, this worked. For others, it became a tattle fest when kids weren’t putting the books back where they should. So I simplified it.
My simplified classroom library entailed a front-facing bookshelf with approximately 15-30 books related to the theme we were currently learning about. That’s it. A couple bean bag chairs, a small carpet, throw pillows, and stuffed animals made it a cozy place for them to want to hang out and read books.
15. Anchor Charts
As much as you would love to think the kids will have their eyes on you while teaching…they won’t. They are 5-year olds and six-year olds, and their little minds and eyes wonder all over the place.
As they drift off, it’s important to have visuals around the room to help them connect the learning. This is why I love having anchor charts, of all sizes, hung around the room.
I created these story element posters as a visual support for early reading skills.
The posters include problem and solution, author and illustrator, characters and setting, and fiction and non-fiction.
Get your kindergarten classroom anchor charts, HERE
There are endless opportunities to use alphabet cards in a kindergarten classroom.
- letter identification
- letter and sound assessments
- writing centers
- building sight words
- making words
- name building activities
- matching lowercase to uppercase
- filling in a 100’s chart
- sequential order
- missing number
- beginning sounds activities
Number flashcards are great for number identification, number assessments, counting sets and matching numbers, ordering or sequencing numbers, missing number games on a pocket chart, a number line, 100’s chart, in a math center, or to put on a small binder ring and keep on the board for parent volunteers to review with the kids.
17. Dramatic Play
I can’t stress this enough! Play is a natural part of childhood development. Kids learn through play, and we, as kindergarten teachers, can’t take that away from them. Set up a dramatic play area that promotes imagination and social skills.
Depending on the size of your classroom, you can set up a dramatic play area with a kitchen set, seasonal market stand, shopping area, etc. However, if you have a smaller room, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a dramatic play area. Simply fill a large tote with themed items and a few character vests, and they will have a blast.
A great way to get started at the beginning of the year is to put out a dress-up box.
Favorite Dress-Up Sets for Kindergarten:
18. Family Photo Display
At the start of the year, I send home a parent letter requesting a family photo. Photos trickle in over the following week, and I quickly have an adorable family photo display for the classroom.
The kids love talking about their family, and explaining who everyone is in the photo. In the years past, I’ve also sent home a letter requesting a FRAMED family photo. I would then display the collection of framed photos on top of a bookshelf.
Get your parent letter requesting a family photo, HERE.
19. Poem of the Day
Poems for kids lay the foundation to early language and reading skills. Children who are frequently read and sang to early on, are much more likely to develop strong reading skills. Poems, and Build a Poems for small groups, are some of my absolute favorite resources, along with Math Talks for Kindergarten.
Poems for kids help with:
- memory skills
- cognitive development
- increase vocabulary
- capacity to engage socially
- rhyming skills
- receptive and expressive language skills
As technology began to be a prominent component of the kids’ lifestyles, I started noticing the kids have less of an interest in learning to read. They simply wanted to watch videos on tablets, and have everything read to them.
To solve this problem, I began using using nursery rhymes and poetry to get kids excited to read! It was like magic! My excitement and passion for poetry clearly effected the kids’ perspective on reading. Watch below as the girls demonstrate how to use poetry to build reading skills!
Get a FREE Guide to using poetry in the classroom, HERE.
20. Kindergarten Math Talks
This is it, friends…this is one of my favorite Kindergarten must-haves!
Daily number talks will build mental math, computation, and student discourse. With these Daily Math Talk Cards, you will present open-ended questions, tasks, problems, and questions that the kids will LOVE!
Kindergarten Classroom Bundle
From alphabet posters and student bins, to daily math talks and Build-a-Poems, there are many important factors to consider when setting up your kindergarten classroom.
If you are interested in getting all of the printable resources listed above (plus additional printables, such as classroom labels, birthday tags, and table numbers) at a discounted rate, then you can check out my Basics of a Kindergarten Classroom Bundle, HERE.
Before you go, here are a few blog posts you may enjoy: