They say that teaching kindergarten is a lot like herding cats. It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. Getting behavioral control of a class is the first step to a successful year.
Who doesn’t love a new beginning. One of the best things about teaching is the clean slate every fall. Sharpened pencils, and crayons that have never been used. Caps on EVERY glue stick. It’s also a time to look at what has worked and what hasn’t.
The first few weeks are when you need to spend that extra time establishing routines. The routines that will make your life and the kids’ learning so much easier. I honestly think the most important part of a good behavior management plan is creating relationships. If I had to list the top 3 most important features of a strong behavior strategy it would be #1 relationships, #2 relationships, and #3 relationships. You can not underestimate the power of relationships. After that It has everything to do with a predictable structure and routine with clear expectations.
Start the first day of school
The best teachers create a class that runs like a well oiled machine. It all starts on the first day. Lots of people will tell you don’t even think about reading groups or even smiling until after Halloween. I have to disagree. I believe a successful kindergarten starts on day one. Here’s the secret….. it has nothing to do with the curriculum.
My first tip.
Have a Lucky Duck. Yes, a Lucky Duck! Every day I choose one student to be a Lucky Duck. They get to wear a tag telling the world they are the Lucky Duck
The secret is a Lucky Duck Tag
What’s so special about being the Lucky Duck you ask? Anything you want. In my class, the Lucky Duck is always the line leader. The Lucky Duck always gets to choose centers first. The Lucky Duck gets to open the gate to the playground. The Lucky Duck passes out glue sticks. Whatever is valued in your class – let the Lucky Duck have it. It doesn’t take long (usually a day or 2) for every student in my class to want to be the Lucky Duck.
By the first parent open house, every parent knows about the Lucky Duck tag. Their children may not tell them much about the daily events at school, but you can bet they will tell their parents when they are the Lucky Duck. In fact, I let my parents know as well. I send a small note home letting parents know if their child was the Lucky Duck. Your parents may not see every note you send home, but you can bet they will see the note telling them about the Lucky Duck. Do you know what this gives you? A bargaining chip! Control! Power!
Imagine all your students following directions - the first time!
You’ll never once have to raise your voice again. Do you want to be the Lucky Duck? Then sit quietly, stand in line, and keep your hands to yourself. In my class, the coveted Lucky Duck tag goes to a student who is trying very hard, who turns it around, who is kind, and who follows directions the first time.
Your kindergarten students need to understand what your expectations are. You need to be explicit. Using this strategy helps clarify what you want your kindergarten students to do in clear terms. I can’t tell you how many times I say something like ” Billy is sitting criss-cross applesauce – he must want to be the Lucky Duck”, “Emily is working quietly she must want to be the Lucky Duck”, “Jayden just shared his toy with Joel he must want to be the Lucky Duck” Try it, you will seriously be amazed. It’s a great opportunity for your students to recognize what you value in your class. And them reward them for it.
You must find a reason to let even the most challenging kids earn the right to wear the Lucky Duck tag.
Make that tag worth gold and the kids will literally jump through hoops to get it. It’s one of my strongest behavior management tricks. Very quickly the best behaved will show themselves, and just as quickly maybe quicker, those who struggle with behavior will become obvious. The Lucky Duck tag is meant to be shared. Everyone gets a turn. You must find a reason to let even the most challenging kids earn the right to wear the Lucky Duck tag. I believe strongly in kids who “turn it around” We all make mistakes. Make sure everyone has a turn.
Giving the tag to the child who struggles will show the dept of community you have built. If you have done a good job building up the community in your class you will see the class cheer for the child who struggles, but who earned the tag because they turned it around. One year I had a particularly difficult class – don’t we all have a year like that at some point? So when my most challenging student had his turn with the Lucky Duck tag we called his mom as a class. I put all the kids on speaker and they cheered for the child and let his mom know how excited they were for him. For a mom who constantly hears the negative this was a gift to her as well.