4 tips to actually having reading groups the first week of kindergarten

 There will be those who tell you don’t have reading groups before Halloween unless you have an assistant, 4 parent volunteers, and a death wish. Not true. There will be those who tell you, you won’t smile until Christmas. Not true. I honestly believe the longer you put off starting groups the harder it will be. So rollup your sleeves and let’s figure this out.  

 So last week we talked about my biggest secret to successful reading groups in kindergarten if you missed it, check it out here. The kids are at fun centers; blocks, water table, dramatic play. You’ve  just called 4  kids to the table for our very first “reading group”. But as soon as the 4 little sweeties sit down. There is a problem at the water table. Billy stole Emily’s teapot. Jason knocked down Sarah’s castle. Caitlyn needs to go to the bathroom. Yikes, you can’t even begin with the 4 in front of you because the class is falling apart. You abandon the group and just try to “police” the larger group.  You go home and say to your family I’ll never be able to teach them to read, because I have no time to actually teach them to read. 

Don’t give up. Not all of us are lucky enough to have an assistant or 4 parent volunteers. You’re just going to have to figure out how to give your attention to the 4 in front of you while the 18 others are working quietly and independently. Cue eye roll.  I know what your thinking,  “working quietly and independently???  Have you ever even been into a kindergarten class the first week of school? Not only will they run amok they will actually run!!! Your perfectly planned reading group is a disaster because you can’t be at it. 

Something has to change. It all goes back to that little secret from last week structure and routine. Trust me those two little beauties will be your best friends.  I have found a couple easy strategies that actually work. But it takes proper planning you know the saying “proper planning prevent piss poor performance”. It’s true. You need to get out in front of your little darlings.  

These are my tricks. 

#1 The problem solver. The problem solver is a lifesaver. Check out my post about the problem solver here and click here  to get a free download of the cards. What’s a problem solver? Glad you asked, it’s a student that solves all those pesky problems. Billy knocked down Sarah’s building go talk to the problem solver; Jason broke Amy’s crayon talk to the problem solver. Honestly there are a 100 little dramas that happen before lunch and if you don’t delegate you’ll never have peace. Give the kids the tools they need to solve their problems then let them do it!

#2 Go on Vacation.  No I don’t mean leave all those little darlings. You just came back from 2 months off. I mean tell the kids when your on vacation they can’t bother you. Then give them a way to know you are off limits. I wear a lei, or I put a pair of sunglasses on my head, my neighbor wears Mickey Mouse ears. You could even open a beach umbrella. Just let them know with a visual cue that you are off limits. They must go see the problem solver to fix any issues. Start slow go on Vacation for 3 minutes. Praise them big time for not interrupting. Then increase the time, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes. You get the picture. Be firm – no one I mean no one approaches you while you’re on vacation. 

Side note…..Once the principal came in to ask me something and one child yelled out “You can’t talk to her know she’s on vacation.” That required a slight explanation. This vacation time is when you can have small groups without interruption. 

#3 Don’t have groups during active center time if you are the only adult in the room. Seriously read that again. Don’t! Don’t open the block area, water table, and easel when your trying to have groups. That’s just crazy.  Have the kids at their tables writing, coloring, reading, listening to books on tape, choose any activity that can be done quietly. I mean it, read that again!!! I love to use this time for interactive notebooks. All that coloring, cutting, folding oh my. Check here to read my  post about why I love interactive notebooks.  

#4 The Special Crayons.  I have 5 tables in my class, and I have 5 containers of Special Crayons. They are only special because I call them special, and I put them in a cute container with a colorful trophy on it. Sometimes they are twisty crayons sometimes they are skinny crayons, sometimes, they are not crayons at all but colored pencils. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the kids know they are special and will do anything to get them.  If a table is quiet they earn the Special Crayons. I don’t say a word. I go to the Special Crayon shelf pick up a container and slowly walk to the table that is working hard and quietly. You’ll be amazed at the lull that comes over the room as the anticipation grows. Which table has earned the honor? I ceremoniously put the crayons down in the middle and say “Great job working quietly you have earned the Special Crayons.” It works; the other tables will be dying to get something special they will quiet down immediately. The most wonderful thing about the Special Crayons is the kids earn it as a group. So they encourage each other to be quiet. You can access my special crayons herehere     

Bonus: All those other great ideas. My school uses a universal behavior system with colors and clothespins. We also use class Dojo it works great. Make your class filled with “Bucket Fillers”. There are literally 100s of behavior management ideas out there. You should use any and all. 

I hope your biggest take away is this, you can have successful reading groups the first weeks of kindergarten but spend less time on the actual lesson the (reading part) and more time on the being in a group part. I often just sit with the kids and chat during the first week. The reading groups the first week is really setting the routines, explaining the expectations, spending time in a group. Without that, the reading part wont be easy and you just might not smile until Christmas. 

Oh, one last thought, make sure you take the Mickey Mouse ears off before you go to the teachers room or you’ll look a little loopy.

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