Starting a morning routine in kindergarten is a little more challenging than in other grades, but once it has been established, life is wonderful. The first days of school are all about learning what to do when you walk into school and establishing relationships with the teachers and peers. Thus, the first two weeks of school I have free choice activities for the children at different tables and on the floor. They have the choice to play with puzzles, blocks, Playdough, puppets, read books color/draw, etc. While they are working, I am assessing fine motor skills, speech/articulation, behaviors and if it is an unique group, I may begin collecting data.
After about two weeks, the children are held accountable to complete their tasks by a given start time. Their job is to turn in their home folder, hang up their backpack, exchange books, sign in and get started on their morning work.
Routine & Examples
Consistency is critical when working with children at-risk. I try to maintain a consistent routine each morning so that the children are confident and focused each day. The children retrieve their journal each morning and complete word work and write about whatever is in their schema. Toward the end of the year, I have the children read passages and answer comprehension questions (they continue to write journal entries). Below are examples of how the children's work evolves.
Journal entry in September
Jakob's beginning writing is classic. He knows some of the letters in his name and is already using letters to represent words. His drawing might be considered a bit advanced for beginning kindergarten.
Journal entry in May
Jakob's end of the year writing demonstrates that he is able to stay on topic, express his thoughts in a way that makes sense and use some conventions. He has one sentence about the color of his bike that doesn't make sense, but overall this is a wonderful entry. In the bottom left corner you can see that he drew PIE to inform the reader of the author's purpose.
Children use the picture and configuration boxes to determine the word of the day.
They sound out the word and give it their best try. They also practice six sight words.
After completing the word of the day, they write a journal entry.
Ringing the Chime
When it is time to begin class, I ring the chime and the children put their pencils/crayons down (well, most of the time). We go over the word of the day by segmenting sounds, looking for chunks in the word, etc. Volunteers come up and write the letters to make the word. Children at their seats check their word and fix any mistakes. After, I collect a few journals to share at morning meeting. This is where the good stuff happens!!! The child reads his/her journal entry, then his/her peers give appreciations or suggestions using Mr. COPS' rules. They do amazingly well at critiquing and supporting each other.
Kindergartners are phenomenal. They can certainly learn test taking skills. While many teachers don't like standardized tests, it is a part of school.....so prepare them!!! What is great about little learners is that they don't know the difference, make it fun and they will do it! Here is one of the activities I give for morning work toward the end of the year. It may not look fun to you, but a wacky teacher can make the most tedious worksheet the greatest thing ever! (We read and review this on the document camera)