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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What the First Day of Kindergarten Music Is REALLY Like

Sure, we can talk about our best-laid plans, our procedures, and our welcome songs, but we all know reality is never quite what we hope it will be on the first day of Kindergarten. There's just no predicting what may happen! Even for me, having taught Kindergarten music every year since I started teaching in 2006, I always walk away from the first lesson feeling like a tornado just came through. For teachers new to Kindergarten music it can be tempting to wonder if you're the only one experiencing this level of chaos! So here's a peek inside what the first lesson with Kindergarten looked like for me this year.

My first lesson with Kindergarten was actually pretty tame compared to some years, but it's still a good dose of reality to remember how tedious it can be in the beginning!

1. Stand in the hallway trying to get everyone's attention at the same time for several minutes so I can make sure they all follow me into the correct room and I don't lose any children. This is hard because I don't know anyone's name so I can't get their attention by calling them.

Quick tip: my favorite trick for this exact moment is one I stole from my daughters' preschool teacher: I call out "milkshake" while wiggling my body, then "popsicle" while I stand straight like a pencil. I go back and forth between milkshake and popsicle until they are all doing it with me.

2. Get the whole line to follow me into the room. Make it into a game where they freeze every now and then, really because there are random kids wandering around the room reaching out for instruments every 3 seconds, whose name I don't know, so I need to go physically stand in front of them to get their attention and get them back in line.

Quick tip: I tell them to copy me and keep it interesting by switching between marching, tip-toeing, hopping, etc with freezing in between to keep their attention. The goal is to give them a chance to look around the room while also getting them to follow directions.

3. Lead the line over to the side wall, introduce myself, then assign each of them a spot to sit on the floor by asking them their names, showing them their spot, and writing it down on my seating chart. This always takes way longer than I think it should and it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out but I need that individual interaction and I need to assign spots as soon as possible.

4. Field requests to play the purple guitar and redirect students who have started a tickling game on one side of the room and another student who is pulling their spot off the floor on the other side. Tell students who ask when lunch is, when it's time to go home, and when we will play instruments: "later".

5. Introduce the name game I planned. Get through 3 students and realize I'm out of time. Tell students they will all get a turn on another game another day. I've got to make sure everyone does something active together before we leave!

6. Have everyone stand on their spots and tell them to dance when the music plays. Play 2 rounds of freeze dance, each round lasting about 10 seconds. Done.

6. Get all the students to stand still and tell them to listen carefully for how to line up. Slowly and clearly show the first row of students where to go. Stop them after they take 2 steps because they are all confused. Have students line up one student at a time while constantly stopping to redirect the rest. Do more milkshakes and popsicles.

7. On the way to PE class, show them the bathroom to use during music.

Quick tip: I always do this at the end of the first class and tell them this is "not for today, but in case there is an emergency sometime on another day". That avoids the immediate need for every student to try going to the bathroom right after I show them.

Does this sound anything like your first day? I have each class for 30 minutes, including the time it takes to get them to (or from) PE class, so it goes by quickly! I always feel like I've failed after the first couple of lessons but then the effort of reinforcing procedures starts to pay off and I start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'd love to hear your craziest first day of Kindergarten stories in the comments, I'm sure we've all got some good ones!

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