What’s Working in TK: Month One
School is officially in session!
Here in Southern California, we are approaching the one month mark in school. Meanwhile up in Washington state, my sister’s family, along with Miss Heidi and crew are still in their very first week back for the new school year. Wherever you are in your back to school journey, here is what has been working for me so far in month one in TK!
For those that don’t know, TK is short for “Transitional Kindergarten”. The state of California began implementing this program to address a relatively late kindergarten birthday deadline (December 2) more than ten years ago. It was created to be a bridge between preschool and kindergarten. Over the last year, more changes to the TK program have been put into place, including “Universal TK” which will give every child who is eligible for kindergarten a spot in TK at a public school the year prior. In my school district, we are in the very beginning stages of this gradual change. It is a very exciting time to be a TK teacher and I am excited about how the program will grow and improve to serve more children.
One of my favorite things about teaching is how each year is so different depending on the crop of kids who walk through those doors. For better or worse, right? Each year I find it an exciting challenge to change and adjust my own routines and habits to best meet their needs. Here are a few things that are working well for my class this year.
Calm Down Corner
This is my first year implementing a calming area in my classroom. I have an incredibly small space to work with and it took some experimenting and major shifts to make this fit, but it has been really valuable for my students who need some extra space and support in their emotional regulation. If I see a student who is having trouble following expectations in a whole group setting, I invite them to go take a break.
“Bobby, when we sit on the rug everyone has a calm body and a quiet voice. I can see that is hard for you right now. You can go take a break in the calm down corner, or you can sit ___ or ____. When you are feeling ready to sit with us the right way, you can join us on the carpet again but when we sit here together we have a calm body and quiet voice.”
This gives the student an opportunity to adjust if they can, or take a break and return when they are ready. I have found that giving at least three choices every time takes the pressure off and helps them make a decision without feeling forced into it. Our classroom is so small I am not worried about them missing instruction, because they can see me from wherever they sit and take a break. Most of the time, I see them peeking their head around the corner to watch and observe all the fun things we are doing once their body is regulated and before long they join back in.
Good Morning Song
In the mornings I like to start with the calm and easy morning songs. My favorites are “Good Morning” by Miss Molly and “Start the Day with a Smile” by Miss Jenny. If my kids come in bouncing off the walls, we start with “Get Ready” by Shari Sloane. After a few minutes of instruction, we make a big circle around the rug and do some more fun songs like The Hokey Pokey or other classic action songs to get our wiggles out.
Brain breaks are nothing new in my classroom, but this year they are extra special with DannyGo and Koo Koo Kanga Roo! What a great combination. My students love the Monkey Dance and the Dinosaur Dance by Danny Go, and of course you can never go wrong with Hot Sauce and Cat Party by Koo Koo Kanga Roo.
Now, here is probably the most controversial thing I have done so far that is WORKING! Ready for it? I do not have a seating chart this year. *GASP* I know… there’s a first time for everything, right? Let me explain…
Honestly, it started because I had a pretty overwhelming first week or so with some major behavioral fires to put out, and I just didn’t get around to it! But then I started to realize, I was having fewer issues with chit chatting and playing or being silly because students were taking ownership over this decision. So much of the day is dictated for them, this is a small area of freedom they have to be in control of. That said, we have an agreement. Students know my expectation is that they will make a choice to be in a spot where they can maintain control of their body and mouth or I will make the choice for them. And you know what? They totally do. I have seen an incredible amount of responsibility displayed with my students that I have never encountered before in this situation. I don’t know if it will stay this way all year long but for now.. it is working!
What about you? Have you tried any of these? What changes would you make? I want to hear what is working for you this year!
– Miss Kim 🙂
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