Kindergarteners have to be the squirreliest little bunch there ever was. But did you know, there are some simple strategies that can minimize the frustrations of these students and their Kindergarten teacher?
Kinder teacher…are these 10 OT-minded tips already built into your classroom? If not, let’s see where we can make some changes.
Every Kindergartener should…
1. Have their feet flat on the floor
Children’s desks/tables and chairs should be sized to fit their individual bodies. This is true at every age, but critical for Kindergarteners who’ve maybe never been expected to sit for more than 5 minutes. Having their feet flat on the floor gives them increased body awareness (where they are in space) and proprioceptive feedback throughout the day. This should be taken care of on the first day of school and monitored at the end of each trimester (since 5 and 6 years old tend to do a lot of growing!!).
*If tables can’t be adjusted to fit everyone’s needs–try providing a foot stool or different chair for the students that need it.
2. Complete cutting tasks on cardstock
Most 5 years olds aren’t proficient cutters, so when they are expected to cut small objects from large floppy copier paper, they aren’t likely to find a lot of success. It is best to print cutting tasks on stiff cardstock and even cut those sheets down to half or a quarter of the size so their little hands have more control when rotating the paper.
3. Use broken crayons and golf pencils
Kindergarten is a time where a child’s grasp pattern really stabilizes. Making broken crayons and golf pencils the only drawing and writing tools available will minimize the need to verbally correct grasps throughout the day. I know this can be a DIFFICULT concept for Kindergarten teachers because they live for new, bright, and pointy crayons 😉
4. Sit no longer than 15 minutes
Be mindful of the duration of your learning blocks. It is researched that children can attend 2-5 minutes times their age so that ranges from 10-25 minutes for a 5-year-old. Since there are 30+ in class, it can be expected that there are some on the lower end and some on the higher. Find a happy medium. And be flexible with those who want to stand while working or come up to the desk frequently to show you their work. This is their self-regulation strategy and an attempt to sustain engagement as long as the others.
5. Engage in structured movement breaks
Of course, children go out to recess, but we all know there are kids who spend 20 minutes sitting in the sandbox, others who
undesirably wildly chase a friend, and even those who spend the whole time eating their snack. Upon returning from recess or to break up an extended learning block, engage students in purposeful movement such as stretching their neck, 10 jumping jacks or imitating a fine motor sequence. This way you can be confident that all children received equal opportunities to integrate their sensory input. For those students you know require a little more, let them repeat the exercises or give them an extra task such as chair push-ups to complete when they return to their seats.
6. Master pre-writing strokes before letter instruction
Kindergarten is foundational to future academic success. Therefore, explicit instruction in letter formation is required, but should not be introduced until that foundation is set. Use the first 2-3 weeks to make sure the developmental sequence of pre-writing shapes is mastered. This will make executing letter and number formation less stressful for everyone.
7. Teach using a multi-sensory approach
The translation of Kindergarten literally means “children’s garden.” This symbolizes getting their hands messy in order to grow something beautiful. There is much research to conclude that when different portions of the brain communicate about the same topic in different ways it strengthens the connection. When teaching letter formation, give children the opportunity to roll it out of Playdoh, draw it in shaving cream, write it in chalk outside, etc. and not be bound by the rigors of pencil to paper tasks.
8. Correct proper formation consistently
Set the expectation from the beginning. Once a letter is introduced and practiced, correct children who continue to form it inefficiently. It’s best to engrain good habits that support legibility, speed, and proficiency than going through the frustration of having to unlearn poor writing habits that can cause pain, fatigue, frustration, and illegibility.
9. Provide appropriate visual boundaries
Honestly, this one should be HIGHER on the list! Kindergarten is the first time that children are introduced to letter formation; hopefully through a district-monitored currciculum. In order to improve their focus and minimize their efforts, make it clear where you want them to write their words. Also, letting them know how big you want them to write is extremely helpful! Especially when it comes to their name 🙂 Why are proper visuals (top-line, dashed midline, and baseline) not provided every time a child is expected to write their name?! Try placing a piece of WooTape in the top corner of every worksheet before running it through the copier. Problem solved!
10. Engage in play the majority of the day
Over the years, Kindergarten has been jam-packed with curriculum. So much so, that children are now robbed of their foundational platform for learning…PLAY! Five-year-olds were not meant to sit for extended periods of time.
As a Kindergarten teacher, be creative in the positions children can work in–standing while writing on a wall, laying on their tummy in a small group, paper taped to the bottom of the table with them lie on their backs, etc. The opportunity to work in a variety of positions will pique the child’s interest more while also doing TONS of underlying skills such as core strengthening and shoulder stability.
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