As any elementary librarian knows, kindergarten teachers deserve a special place in heaven. Out of all the grades that I teach, nothing makes me as nervous as the kindergarten classes, especially in September. Forty-five minutes with tiny humans wandering around aimlessly like a herd of baby kittens is a nightmare. I have found myself saying things like, “Sweetie, please don’t lick the books.” (I told this to one of my parent volunteers and she made me a t-shirt with that quote.) Teaching kindergarten is the longest 45 minutes of my day.
I have spent a lot of time trying to find the best approach to spending time with kindergarten without losing my mind. The solution is variety and movement. These little guys need to move. They cannot sit for longer than ten minutes at a time. So I have divided my lessons into small sections that revolve around my theme for the class.
Collaborate with K Teachers
I like to find out what theme the K teachers are working on each week. Then I match my story and lessons to that theme. My K teachers are always excited when their students return to class with an activity or craft that they have done that supports the instruction that they’ve been doing in the classroom.
THE ANATOMY OF A THEMATIC K LESSON
I divide my 45-minute block into the following sections: introduction to theme, story, music, story, checking out books, craft/art activity.
Introduction: The Magic Book
I introduce my theme using a great idea I got from Andrea Velle, librarian at Crestwood ES in Chesterfield County. She introduces her lesson with the Magic Book. (Andrea got this idea from a VAASL conference session a few years ago.) She has a box that looks like a book where she places something related to the class theme in the box. She chooses two students to pick a crown to wear and a magic wand to wave. While they wave their magic wands over the book, the class chants, “Book, book, take us away. Where, oh where, will you take us today?”
The students open the box and take out items that are related to that day’s theme. For example, in October, my theme was spiders. The students found 2 spider books, and a sample of the spider craft we would be making. I also filled the Magic Book with enough plastic spider rings to give to every child. My K students love the Magic Book.
Storytime: Make It Funny
After students discover what the Magic Book has in store for them, we read a story that is part of the theme. Stories that work best are short, humorous, and filled with rhyme. Last month, during my Scholastic book fair, my K kiddos had finished shopping. I had 7 minutes left in class and my kindergarten students were getting restless, rolling around the carpet, and getting ready to do their scary baby zombie schtick. In desperation, I grabbed I Am a Tiger by Karl Newson from the book fair and read it to them. They were attentive and now they were rolling around because they couldn’t stop laughing.
Movement and Music
After one story, the kids are tired of sitting so I get them up and moving to a song. I do not have much of a singing voice, but the wonderful thing about 5-year-olds is that they don’t care. They love to sing and they sing with wild abandon. They don’t care about being pitch perfect and neither should you. I am sure my assistant puts in earplugs when she knows I’m going to sing to my kindergarten students, but it is worth it. But if singing stresses you out, you can find many easy songs on YouTube. Their favorites are always “Pete the Cat.” One of my favorites is “The Gingerbread Man” song by Andrew Queen and the Campfire Crew.
Second Story/Book Care Lessons
After they have gotten their wiggles out we read another story. I always take a moment to review how to handle a book at this time. During my first year as a librarian, I did not know that 5-year-olds needed to be taught how to take care of a book.
Now, every September, I model how to handle a book. I use a discarded book and show them how easily pages tear when you turn them from the bottom. I teach them that they should gently hold the top corner of the page when turning it. Then I pass out paperbacks to all of the students and we practice how to hold the book and turn the pages carefully.
Introduce the Craft/Activity
After the second story, I show the students what activity they will be doing at the tables. If it is a craft, I show them step by step how to do it so when they get to the tables, they can start working right away.
For kindergarten, I keep check-out very simple. I have various crates filled with non-fiction books and organized by topic. For example, I have an Ocean Animals crate, Pets crate, Wild Animals crate, and Reptiles/Amphibians crate. I also have two display shelves where I place books related to our theme and other picture books. The rule is that they can check out books that are in the crates or from the display shelves. I know that some librarians teach their K students how to use shelf markers and get books from the shelves, but I have not been brave enough to try it yet. After they check out, they go to their table to work on their art activity.
I find a simple craft or coloring page for them to do. Simple is best. It is always a good idea to put out only the art supplies that are needed for the activity. For example, when we did our bat theme, I had bats already cut out of black construction paper. Every student had one bat, one white crayon, one glue stick, and a copy of a bat song placed in front of them. They used the white crayon to decorate the bat and then glued the song to the back of the bat. I went around with tape and affixed popsicle sticks to the bottom of their bats so they could make them fly while we sang their song.
Keep Them Busy
I find that the more things I have planned for my kindergarten class, the better the class is. We move quickly from one activity to the next. I start my lesson in one area of the library then move to another area for the second story. After check-out, the kids are moving to the tables. The change of scenery and transitions also take up more time.
If you have any K tips that work for you, please comment below, I would love to hear them.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. She is frantically working on the first draft of a YA Fantasy during NaNoWriMo this month. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.