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3 Easy Classroom Routines for Beginning the Pre-K Year!

The beginning of the school year can be so overwhelming – for both teachers, and students! Creating consistent routines help my students be successful for the entire year ahead of us. As I am entering my 12th year teaching Pre-K, I know how quickly everything comes together, and how it feels like you must do “all the things,” right there and then! Some strategies that I have found to be exceptionally helpful are in establishing routines and expectations to help students feel comfortable and safe in a consistent learning environment.

sET YOUR STUDENTS UP FOR SUCCESS WITH CONSISTENT ROUTINES

Routines and expectations are the crux of my classroom learning environment. When students know what to expect, you help to build their autonomy and support them in exploring their own learning – academically, socially, and emotionally! I have taught in all varieties of preschool classrooms – half day, full day, mixed age groups, Blended classrooms – and these routines have always proven to help set a meaningful routine for my students.

By the third week of school, I start to introduce our Class Jobs. Of course, you can tailor them to fit the needs of your class and what serves your students best. Each year, I probably swap out a 1-3 jobs for something that my students help me to come up with, because I realize that it’s an area that they are interested in helping with and it will be a meaningful position. Some class jobs receive less passion from my students – for example, “chair checker” is hit or mess, sometimes they love this task, other times it falls by the wayside!” – and that’s OK. The idea is to help students understand that as a class, we work together. The teacher is there to help, but everyone in the classroom has a role that they can fill to be a helper.

CLASS JOBS RESOURCE

In our TPT store, we have a FREE class jobs resource with editable student names for you to download and try out in your room. You can either use the student clip art inside this resource, or personalize it by taking photos of your students and attaching their heads to popsicle sticks!

Using pocket charts, you can easily switch out your student’s jobs each week!

CLASSROOM CHOICE BOARD GIVES STUDENTS AUTONOMY

One routine that has been incredibly helpful in all of my years of teaching preschool has been our Choice Board! Each year, I stock up on wooden clothing clips and a tri-fold poster board from the Dollar General to build this visual for my students. Taking out and putting away the Choice Board also eventually becomes a class job, one that my students take great pride in. To set up the Choice Board, I take pictures of each area of play in our classroom. I print them, label them, and laminate them onto color-coded cardstock. Then, I paint the clips and attach them to the cardstock. If a center has no clips, it means it is either closed for the day, or that there are already the maximum amount of students in that area.

Sample of my Choice Board in my classroom

Students can switch clips as they want to throughout play time. If I open a new play area, or if we have just built a new dramatic play area that has all of the student’s interests, I will create a sign up sheet and use my phone as a timer, so that students feel like they have an equal opportunity to play in each area. Providing my students with the opportunity to have agency over their own choices is so important – it builds their reasoning skills, their spatial awareness, helps them to navigate social interactions while also supporting their ability to delay gratification, all while supporting the idea that our class is a learning community and we have to share spaces with one another.

This Choice Board is another way that using consistent routines help to set my students up for success during the school year. When students know how to manage these systems, they can be successful even when there is a substitute in the room! Consistent routines help students feel confident in their decisions, while building them up as members of the classroom.

VISUAL DAILY SCHEDULE HELPS STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THE FLOW OF THE DAY!

Some examples of the topics from our Visual Daily Schedule packet

Another routine that has been incredibly helpful is using a visual daily schedule. For the most part, our day follows a familiar routine – breakfast, clean up, independent reading, morning meeting, read aloud, small groups, play time, etc. But each day, my students go to a different Special (gym, art, music, etc), and every now and then, we have special events pop up, like Picture Day or we go on a walk to our school garden.

Especially in the first few weeks of school, a visual schedule provides comfort to all students, so that they can point at the images and understand where they are in the day and what is coming next. For preschoolers, students who are emerging bilinguals, and students who have all types of disabilities, having a visual schedule helps them to understand the pace of the day, and process their place in it. A full day of preschool is very tiring for 4 and 5 year olds – and also for the teacher! Being able to point to “home” to show them that there is an end to their time in school is a really helpful task in creating a comforting learning environment with boundaries.

I print out the visual cards on cardstock, laminate, and attach a magnet to the back of them. Each day, I place them on our white board so that students can easily see what our day is going to look like. If something different comes up, I make sure to place that visual as part of our schedule, and walk my students through this new experience. We have two different visual daily schedules available in our store – one that has two versions included for primary classrooms, and one that is completely editable. Using this visual schedule allows my student another opportunity to experience consistent routines, where they come to expect this resource to provide them with information about what our day is going to look like.

I feel very passionately about setting up routines and expectations at the beginning of the school year to help my students feel more successful. It can feel hard, and at times repetitive, but I try not to stress out about it. With patience, practice, and persistence, my students will start to see themselves as part of the classroom family, and they will participate in the routines that we have been working on. I always model what these routines and expectations look like, and give them all the space they need to feel successful one step at a time.

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