Classroom Time Saving Tips for Kindergarten! Is this you? You work on your lesson plans… and they look BEAUTIFUL! Everything is perfect. Then your day begins and you run out of time… over and over. Finally, in November you are getting to that Johnny Appleseed activity! GAH! It can make you crazy! First, let me say… I am raising my hand because this used to happen to me all. the. time. But over the years, I adopted a few habits and tricks that have really helped me find instructional minutes in my day.
Have routines that start your day
Has this happened to you? You are getting ready to start a small group and you call your students over to your table. 4 out of your 5 students are there, but one little friend is digging in his backpack because he left his book bag in there? Minutes lost: 3 minutes.
I establish classroom routines really early on in the year. I have anchor charts to reinforce these routines. For example, this chart is how we get ready for the day. This helps with early morning break-dance competitions as my students enter the room, but it also sets us up for the day. You can read more about these behavior charts by clicking HERE.
Early Finisher Routines
Has this happened to you? You are working with a student and you hear a rodeo going on nearby. You look up to see student A and student B have finished their work. Now they are holding an impromptu party. You have to stop what you are doing, address the issue, then start back with the student you were working with. Minutes lost: 3+ minutes.
I have early finisher tubs. These are tubs with fun activities that students can use to overlearn kindergarten skills. Simple!
Also, I delegate rotating this tubs to one student. This is usually the student that can run my classroom in the event I am absent. Do you have a student in mind? Good! Give this task to them. You just saved yourself another minute!
You can read more about these tubs and get the free tub labels by clicking HERE.
Oh. my. mercy! Calendar time used to take me 20 minutes. And quite frankly, we were a bit bored with it by November. I switched to a spiral review calendar time a few years ago. It moves quickly and EVERY student participated (no beauty shop carpet distractions). You can watch a video of this in action by clicking HERE. The video is less than 5 minutes long. There is about a minute or two cut off the video as the students are assembling on the carpet with the packet. Minutes Saved: 13 minutes
This is the biggie! Let’s assume that I have 10 different times I transition a day. Think about student exploration times, center times (gosh, I have 4 with just the center times)… As you look through your day, you KNOW you have a ton of times students transition. ALSO, you know that many of classroom behavior issues pop up during these transition times.
Here is what I used to do, “Boys and girls… please clean up your math activity and come back to the carpet.” Then I would repeat it 27 times until they all got where they were suppose to be. Meanwhile, my blood pressure is through the ROOF! I end up sounding like a lunatic!
Here is what I did to add minutes to my day. I calming click on a song (I had them all loaded to my computer). The students had to be cleaned up neatly and completely and in their assigned spot by the time the song ended. If they ALL got there in time, we added a piece to Mr. Potato Head. If they did not get there in time… Sad City. Once Mr. Potato Head was complete, we earned a reward! Simple!
Trick: Pick a song that is zippy and SHORT. If your clean up song is 5 minutes long, they will start to clean up around minute 4.5. I liked to use the songs from our poetry units (extra practice), traditional calendar songs that were quick, and Jack Hartman’s Rhyming to the Beat).
Sidenote: Do you see the “We Can…” above. This was a form of a non-verbal redirection activity. Basically, this means, “We can let Mrs. Wills teach.” If we were on the carpet and someone was stopping me from teaching, I would remove a pumpkin. I did not say anything, but I just removed it and kept on teaching. Students were given a goal to not lose all of the pumpkins by the end of each day. Minutes saved: 15 minutes (this is a conservative number… probably more like a million). You can find these two sanity savers in Kim Adsit’s unit by clicking HERE.
There have been days in my teaching past where my class played “Where’s Waldo” with my teaching materials. Minutes lost… who knows… a ton? But worse than that… behaviors pop up the MOMENT there is a break in student engagement. So having my binders with the teaching resources right in them helped me a BUNCH! Minutes saved: 3 minutes per day perhaps more
You can read more about these binders by clicking HERE.
Math Tool Kits
Regardless of the math program you use, you have materials to hand out and collect each day. So to save time and sanity, I created Math Tool Kits. I can hand out ALL of our math manipulatives and work mats in less than a minute. AND I don’t have behavior issues because… they just don’t have time to get bored and start monkey business. You can read more about Math Tool Kits by clicking HERE. Minutes saved: 4 minutes
Color Code their Journals
Duct tape! Whoo Hoo! This allows the students to find the correct journal quickly.
Use a timer for EVERYTHING for one week. If your lesson plan says math is 20 minutes long, set the timer for 20 minutes. Continue to do this each day. Figure out where your time is getting sucked away. What I found out was… I like to talk… A LOT. So my mini-lessons were not so mini! Hello, Deedee? They are 5! A mini-lesson should not be 15 minutes long. If you went over your “scheduled time” write it down. At the end of the day, figure out where you went wrong and make adjustments. Here is what I found when I did it. When I got to the end of my day, we had completed everything I had planned (including a crazy craft) and I still have 15 minutes left before they were ready to go to the bus. Minutes saved: 15 minutes You can read about how I do math journals in just a few minutes each day, by clicking HERE.
Keep your stations predictable
Each week we add new centers right? So the older version of Deedee Wills would spend 15 minutes each Monday explaining the activity. Then having to re-explain them as the week continues because students would forget. Adding up to about 25 minutes + of lost instructional time. By keeping the centers predictable you can cut that down by half. Once they know how to play Roll, Say, Keep (ABC version), you can easily swap the sight word version when they are ready. Minutes Saved: 6+ minutes per day
You can view a few other blog posts that feature simple centers that will last you all year:
- INDEPENDENT STUDENT CENTERS MADE SIMPLE! (FREE FILE)
- 10 SIMPLE LITERACY STATIONS THAT WILL LAST YOU ALL YEAR!
Assessing without stopping instruction!
This one is HUGE. I used ESGI and a variety of other activities to do this. You can read more about how I do assessments by clicking HERE.
Let’s say you implement half of these suggestions… How much time do you think you would save? It is REALLY hard to change our habits as teachers, but I want to challenge you to try. Let me know how it goes!
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