Classroom management tips for kindergarten and first grade and really for any elementary grade. The number one tip I can give you is teach your procedures as if they're content. The top two procedures, for me, that made the biggest difference when I taught elementary school was teaching the kids how to line up at the door and teaching them how to transition from table groups to carpet and back again. This can be done just like we're teaching content. For example, with teaching kids how to line up at the door, break the kids into five groups, number each group, one, two, three, four, five. Have the fives stand in an example of a perfect line, how you always hope to see them when they line up at the door. Let the ones lay about on the floor and then everything in between. And then debrief. Kids, why is this line a five? Why is this line a one? What's the difference here between a five line and four line? Now, you have a common language and now when you need them to line up at the door you say, "All right students. Come over here and line up at the door. I need to see a five before I'm going to let you go out to recess."
Now, they're going to do all the work and it's going to be all non-verbal for you. The kids come, they line up at the door, and you just hold up fingers to represent what number their line looks like. From the rubric on lining up that you just taught them. What happens with little kids is, you hold up a three and some kid in the line will go, "Come on guys! We look like a three!" And they'll start to self-correct which is great, right? You could help them out non-verbally. You get a five, you point, they go. They do all the work and you get to relax in sight of having a perfect line every time they line up. With transitions from table groups to carpet the number one way I liked to do that was to use a song. So, I'd choose a short song or a piece of a song, just the end of a particular song. And I would teach it to the students. "Students, this is going to be our transition song." I'd play it for them because you can't assume they've heard it before, even if you're choosing something little kids would have heard, like a Disney movie song.
And I say, "From now on, this is going to be our transition song. You're going to have the length of this song to move from your table groups to your carpet spots. I want you sitting criss-cross applesauce on that carpet by the time that song ends." And then practice with them. "So, now kids, I'm going to put this song on. Let's see if we can do it." They come to the carpet, they sit down. You debrief. "That was pretty good. There was a lot of pushing and shoving though. That's never necessary. And this would better I think as a silent activity so we're going to try it again. I'm going to put the song on again. I want you to go from the carpet back to your table groups in silence without touching anybody else in the room. Let's see if we can get there by the end of the song, sitting please, in polite position when we get to the table groups." And you try it again. And you do it a couple more times, debriefing each time until you have a smooth transition that takes 30 or 40 seconds. The kids know exactly what the expectation is and we've made it a little bit fun for them by using a song which is more entertaining than just getting up and silently moving to the carpet or silently moving back to their table groups.
So, get those kids lining up and get those transitions smooth. Teach the procedure. Practice the procedure, debrief the procedure. Make it what you want it to be. It will change the way your classroom runs.