The first day of kindergarten can be a traumatic experience – especially for parents! While children often approach the day with a mixture of fear and excitement, parents see the day as a significant turning point and are often emotional. This mix of emotions puts kindergarten teachers in a peculiar situation. While they must prepare for the anxiety of their new students, they must also be able to address parental concerns and worries with finesse and reassurance. The ideas below will help ease first day jitters and start the school year off on the right track.
Welcome to Kindergarten!
Meet and Greet
It is almost unheard of for there not to be a Meet the Teacher night for kindergarten before the start of the school year. In fact, many schools also have kindergarten orientation that parents are required to attend. If your school does not have such a night, you may want to consider inviting parents and new students to come check out your classroom before the beginning of the year anyway. The simple act of seeing where they will be during school hours will ease parental and student anxieties.
Create a class blog to post pictures of the classroom, explain beginning of the year procedures and daily expectations, and introduce yourself to your new students and their families. A class supply list, recommended reading list and other pertinent information can help ease anxiety. When you send out the welcome letter to new students during the summer, include the URL of the class blog and invite them to check it out. You can also include your school email address and invite them to email you with questions or concerns.
A recommended reading list for new kindergarten students and their parents will go a long way in preparing them for the first day of school. Books like the Miss Bindergarten series, as well as, the lovable Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Parks will make young children laugh and help them relate to the experiences of the characters. Books have a way of turning anxiety into anticipation and making the unfamiliar familiar.
Other books that can be included on the list are:
- The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
- Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis
- Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell
- Curious George’s First Day of School by H.A. Rey
- Off to Kindergarten by Tony Johnston
- On My Very First Day of School I Met… by Norman Stiles
Include the list on your class blog, or if you are in a low income school, send the list out with a welcome packet.
Keep in mind that not all students come from the same type of home life, and parental involvement and expectations will differ from household to household. A Welcome Packet can be sent to all households though, in an effort to bridge that gap and help all of your kindergarteners start out on the right foot. To create a Welcome Packet, use a colorful pocket folder and place activities, class expectations and papers that must be returned on the first day of school. Information about the reading list and class blog can also be included, if desired. While coloring pictures may not be the most academic activity, for some students that is all they can accomplish successfully at the start of kindergarten. Include those types of pages in the Welcome Packet and encourage them to bring them back for recognition. By praising what they can do at the beginning of the year, you build their trust, as well as, their parents’ trust of you.
What do you do to help put students and parents at ease when starting kindergarten?
Do you have a special night to welcome them back or a special packet that gets sent out during the summer?
Leave a comment and let us know or comment on the Really Good Teachers Forums!