For years I have enjoyed the books written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, even the volumes that have not been chosen as award winners. His newest picture book, Waiting, is delightful and fun. The waiting theme made me think of the years I was a kindergarten teacher.
Prior to coming to kindergarten, many children experience a strong build-up by family members. Everyone exclaims, “You get to go to kindergarten in the fall. You must be so excited!” The anticipation for a five-year-old must be enormous. More than once, I had a child express concerns after the first few days of kindergarten. “Is this it?” they would say. It always kept me on my toes to make sure that my classroom was an engaging and exciting experience. I knew I had to live up to the big build-up kindergarten had received, because I wanted them to feel, “WOW! This IS it!”
Waiting also made me think about the number of times I have been in classrooms and watched children waiting…Waiting for other children, waiting for the teacher, waiting for their turn, waiting for their snack, etc. We know that when children are not engaged, the chance of them displaying negative behavior goes up dramatically. A smart teacher will be organized enough to minimize any waiting time for their students, especially early childhood age children. Here are a few things that worked in my classroom to help children avoid waiting:
- There was always something to do. Whenever the children were engaged in a project, there were always more activities to do when they finished the planned activity. I often posted picture of each activity on the board so that the children could look up and know what to do next. This way, they never waited for other students to finish.
- There was a procedure for everything. The children knew the procedures for going to the bathroom, getting a drink, getting a sharpened pencil, getting paper, staying put when the teacher was giving directions, etc. I reminded the children often about the procedures and used those reminders as teaching tools.
- “I’m Next” nametags. I created (thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Sharon MacDonald) some nametags that said, “I’m Next.” Whenever taking a turn was the procedure (using the computer, iPad, sand table, play dough table, etc.), I had the child(ren) who would be next wear the necklace. That way they knew they were next and didn’t keep asking me about it. ALSO, the other children in the classroom didn’t waste time waiting, because they knew they were not next.
- A daily visual schedule. I found it important to have a daily schedule posted so the children knew what was coming next. I was always surprised at the number of children who waited for the next activity. I always told the children that we would move to the next scheduled part of the day when we finished the one we were working on. I would give them a signal when we were ready. I do think that this visual reminder gave them a sense of security and a strong feeling that they didn’t need to wait.
There were many other things I did that helped, but these were the main strategies that helped children avoid waiting. I always strived to make my classroom an engaging, joyous environment, where the children were never waiting and the activities met their high expectations for kindergarten.
Possible posting themes:
Reading has been on my mind a lot lately. I was searching through research on how children learn to read and the best methods for teaching reading. We know that the best methods don’t work with every child and that some questionable methods seem to work with some children. I was challenging my reading class to make sure they always use multiple methods to reach children who are struggling with the reading process. One thing research clearly indicates is that it is the attitude of the teacher that is the number one factor in reading success in a classroom.
It is often difficult to help a struggling child keep a positive attitude about reading. For many children it becomes a daunting and impossible task. It is up to the adult working with the child to do everything possible to instill in the child a desire to be successfull and a feeling that she can become a reader. That is a challenge for us all. How do we help the child become excited about something that she feels unsuccessful doing? I think that tracking (grouping children by ability) is one of the mistakes teachers often make. Reading researchers indicate that tracking is one of the worst things that can be done for a child on or below reading level. She has no models for success and she may mentally label herself as “dumb.” Those are hard issues to overcome. Mixed level groups and activities seem to be the most successful for struggling readers. I had a lot of success in my own classroom with mixed groups. It was a beginning step to instilling that desire to read in a child who originally had that excitement when she started school.