After years of talking with colleagues, there are some universal truths I’ve discovered as a school librarian. One of them relates to kindergarten students: too many librarians loathe teaching their youngest patrons. I’ve heard it all: K’s are too squirrely, their attention span is too short, they don’t know “the rules”, they require constant redirection, they’re exhausting, they’re just too little…
It always boggles my mind, because I think teaching the K’s is a true joy. Their openness, their willingness to try something new, their imagination and their fearlessness make teaching them an exciting adventure.
And while my K’s are just as wiggly as yours, here are some tools and tricks I use when teaching my youngest patrons. Note: my K lessons last 40 minutes, including check-out.
Goal: To introduce the K’s to the library space.
TIP: Play I-Spy.
K’s love games. What better game to play on the first day of library than I-Spy? As soon as we walk in, I stop the line and ask students to point to their eyes when they spy what I see: books, tables, chairs, computers, a mural, large tigers (they decorate our library), stairs. I always include something they CANNOT see – something that can only be seen when they sit down for the story. Our story stairs are hidden behind a wall, which makes for a great ending to the game.
Goal: Keep students from blurting out.
TIP: Have a plan!
Keeping a class full of K’s from talking at the same time is a lesson in patience. The Squishy Ball (above, purple), is my lifesaver. Only the student holding the ball may speak. Since I’m still learning names, we use it during Week 1 for introductions (so everyone can catch it), and students learn that keeping eye contact determines who gets the ball (which keeps more eyes on me!). I phase out use of the Squishy Ball by the end of 1st grade, but many 4th and 5th graders fondly remember it and ask if they can have one/make one.
Goal: To avoid a chorus of “I know that book!”
TIP: Establish a secret signal.
Frustrating to no end: hearing “I KNOW THAT BOOK!”, “I have that book at home!”, “I already read that book!”, and the like. I nip this in the bud Week 1, explaining that I’m going to read them a story some of them already know (The Napping House), and if they do to show me they know it with the Secret Signal – tapping a finger to their head. This means “I know it!”. And if students already know the story, that’s great! They just can’t spoil the surprise for others by telling what it’s about…because no one likes a story ruined. 🙂
Goal: To get the K’s to follow in a line.
TIP: Use pointers.
Picking up students from recess/lunch? Walking inside the library from the hall? Use those pointers from Scholastic Book Fairs! Bring a set with you and have students copy your pointer movements with their hands. Little eyes stay frontwards, bodies keep moving, and the whole group makes it inside. Pointers are also great for gentle high-fives!
Goal: To build listening stamina.
TIP: Read short, interactive books.
There’s a reason I always start the year with K’s with an Audrey Wood author study. Her stories are classics, and the illustrations offer opportunities for predicting and inferencing – two key literacy skills. When we read Piggies, students move their hands along with the characters’ actions. During The Deep Blue Sea, we make “waves” with our hands and arms (and bodies!). King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, Silly Sally, and The Napping House offer opportunities for choral reading. With all the learning we’re doing, I’m happy to read 1 – maybe 2 – short books during the first few weeks.
Goal: To keep students engaged for the entire lesson.
TIP: Activate the imagination.
It may be a puppet, it may be a stuffed animal, it may be something else…but K’s love when you PLAY PRETEND. I have a large stuffed tiger that I keep near the story stairs. Among other things, Tiger “reads” books, holds our materials, plays games with toys, dresses up in odd hats, and keeps our Squishy Ball safe. Periodically during the lesson, I may turn and interact with Tiger. Modeling kind words, I’ll ask politely if I may borrow the ball or if he would like a page turned in his story. Bonus: students learn to sit down quickly and look to see how Tiger is different from week to week!
Goal: To reenergize an energy-deprived group during the lesson.
TIP: Get them moving!
From doing the Wave to making it Snow or Rain inside to playing Simon Says, we do it all. It depends on the class and the time of day, but I will not hesitate to cut into my teaching time at the end of a story to have a quick movement activity for a minute. It’s also great to retrain eyes on you when transitioning from one area to another.
Goal: To teach proper care of materials.
TIP: Share old, damaged books.
What better way to reinforce caring for book than by showing students books that haven’t been cared for properly? I call mine the Unkind Package, as students are to be kind to one another, adults, and books in the library AND at home. Scaring students about opening a book is not the goal – accidents do happen, and that is okay. But teaching them how to put books in a safe place, turn pages peacefully, and keep books away from pets is an important lesson.