There’s a lot of pros and cons for student teaching in kindergarten. On the one hand, you have the cutest kids who say the darndest things. On the other hand, it’s a lot of work to keep 20-plus 5-year-old kids in line every day and make sure that they’re all where they should be academically. Before taking on this challenge, here are 10 tips for your consideration.
Research the School
It’s important to learn as much as you can about the school at which you’ll be teaching. Most schools have a website. Check it out online and read the handbook, school rules, disciplinary codes, and more.
Study the Curriculum
If you can get your hands on the curriculum before you start student teaching, take some time to familiarize yourself with it. Your teacher probably has a textbook that he or she uses. Ask if you can borrow it, even if it’s just for a night or 2 after you start student teaching. Get acquainted with the materials and know the books and other materials that will be used.
At the beginning of the year, most kindergarten teachers spend the majority of time focusing on developing procedures. The kindies need to learn what to do when they arrive, how to line up for recess, how to act at circle time, what to do during transitions, and on and on. Determine what procedures you’ll use and which ones your cooperating teacher already uses.
It’s also helpful to explain the reason behind the procedures. Tell the students why they should do something in a particular way.
Create a Behavior Management System
Your cooperating teacher probably has some sort of behavior management system in place. If not, you should consider coming up with some way to promote positive behaviors and address any negative behaviors.
Learn your students’ names as quickly as possible. Use nametags on the first day to help you. As you get to know your students, it’s helpful to take notes about the things that they say to you, so you can remember things about them and ask about them later.
Connect with Parents
You might only be there for a few weeks, but it’s important to connect with your students’ parents. Talk to your cooperating teacher about sending home a letter to the parents. Introduce yourself and tell parents about the curriculum that you’ll be covering.
Feel free to call parents to tell them about their student’s progress, and attend parent visits whenever possible, too.
Plan Developmentally-Appropriate Lessons
As you start planning lessons, remember that kindies have a short attention span. Activities should only last about 15-20 minutes at the most.
Also, look for ways to get everyone to participate. For example, give the students 2 answers and have them hold up 1 or 2 fingers to see what they think. Then, you can quickly assess which students understood the material.
Carry a Clipboard
You don’t have to carry the clipboard around all day, but you should keep one near you throughout the day. Use it to jot down notes about the students or conduct informal assessments of the material.
Teach Beyond the Curriculum
Remember that your kindies don’t just need to learn the curriculum. They also need to learn social cues, fine motor skills, and more. You need to help your students learn how to treat their peers and others with respect. Look for teachable moments throughout the day to help students develop the skills and traits needed to succeed throughout school and life.
Focus on Safety
With everything else that you have to focus on throughout the day, it’s easy to forget about safety. However, safety is key. Watch out for improper use of scissors and other supplies, and remind students not to run in the classroom.
Prevention is the best way to handle safety concerns. Learn to anticipate possible issues, and find ways to fix them before they become an issue.
Student teaching in kindergarten can be a rewarding experience. I spent several years working with kindergartners, and I have so many fond memories of those students. It also poses lots of challenges, but using these tips and working with your cooperating teacher will help you overcome these and have a successful experience as a student teacher.