Getting Better at Teaching Kindergarteners (And a Kindergarten Story)

It’s been a pretty crazy few weeks recently. Grades are due for report card time (we are on a trimester system) and I got a new side job as a Social Media Manager for an Elementary Spanish Curriculum Development company (to the readers who follow me on twitter: if you were recently followed by an Elementary Spanish Curriculum Development company, that was me! 🙂 ). I’ve been learning the ropes, entering grades, teaching the students, planning a 4 year old’s birthday celebration, and not much else lately.

Kindergarten Family Unit

For the last 3 weeks in Kindergarten, we have been focusing on family members in Kindergarten. I used to teach this with lots of lists and pictures with Spanish words and pictures of the family members. I used to have a looooot of coloring family members. It worked well and the kids liked it, but it wasn’t the most comprehensible instruction. I could teach about the family and not use any Spanish except for the family member words.

Kindergarten is one of the age levels that I have found most challenging; I have had trouble figuring out what is appropriate for the age. I love the kids to death, they are so fun and so awesome, but they can be really hard to teach. I regret to say that in the past I have resorted to a lot of coloring and/or word tracing sheets. I’m not proud of that, knowing what I do about how kids acquire language, but it got them working and was age-appropriate.

Luckily, I was assigned dismissal duty in the Kindergarten pick-up line after school—I oversee the safety patrols who walk the kindergarteners to their cars. I am able to get to know them better during this time. Before I was assigned this duty, I only saw them once a week for 30 minutes. Their classrooms are in another building, so I don’t really get a chance to see them outside of class, which can make it challenging to build a relationship and rapport with them.

This year, with my transition into TPRS and CI methods, I tried a different way. I introduced the vocabulary using silly pictures of my own family. The kids really love to see this-pictures of my parents, my wife and kids, and me doing various silly things.

After this, I started our story. I include as many kids as I can and I participate myself for comedic effect. It couldn’t be more simple:

The Story

Yo no soy Señor Fernandez (insert your name here). Yo soy Señor Bebé. (then I act like a baby until the kids realize what it means). Mi familia es grande. Tengo una mamá, tengo un papá, tengo un hermano, tengo una hermana, y tengo un perro. Mi mamá se llama 1 (choose a girl in the class and pretend she is your mother). Mi papá se llama 2 (choose a boy). Mi hermano se llama 3 (choose a boy). Mi hermana se llama 4 (choose a girl). Mi perro se llama Burrito. (I don’t choose a student because the problem in the story is that the dog is lost).

“Burrito ¿dónde estás?”

Clase, hay un problema ¡Burrito está period! Mi familia busca Burrito (Put hand above your eyes like you’re looking for something and make sure that the Students in the story do the same, then we all look in different places around the room. As you look around the room, subtly let a student know that he/she is Burrito and have him/her move into another part of the room). Clase, ¡aquí está Burrito! ¡No está perdido! (Then, I list the family members again, just like I did before). Amo a mi familia.

Translation:

I am not Mr. Fernandez. I’m Mr. Baby. My family is big. I have a mom, I have a dad, I have a sister, I have a brother, and I have a dog. My mom is named ___. My dad is named ___. My brother is named ___. My sister is named ___. My dog is named Burrito.

“Burrito, where are you?”
Class, there is a problem. Burrito is lost! My family looks for Burrito. Class, Here is Burrito! He isn’t lost! Then, list all the family members again by name, as in the beginning of the story. I love my family.

Reflections

The kids really responded to seeing pictures of my family and me. They asked all kinds of questions about all my family members and about me when I was young.

They also really responded well to me acting like a baby and saying that kinds in the class were my kids. They thought that was the funniest thing in the world.

A little bit of role reversal can add a lot of variety and fun into the classroom. I am curious to see if this type of role reversal will work with older kids.

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3 thoughts on “Getting Better at Teaching Kindergarteners (And a Kindergarten Story)

  1. i too find this age level very challenging!! Thank you for sharing this. Here in Australia, we are only in our 7th week of the school year and this age group has been the most challenging for me with my very recent adoption of CI methodology. Would love to read more about other lessons you have done and in particular, the very first lessons. How do you keep meaning comprehensible right at the start?

    Like

    • Well…the short answer is that I used a lot of English and when things break down, I still do. Things that I have found that work include the standards, like using songs and reading kids’ books to the kids. I also get a lot of mileage out of asking students what color something is and then ‘getting it wrong.’ I wrote a post about this a few months ago. It is fun because I get to exaggerate everything and practice question forms and question words.

      My biggest tip for kindergarten is to simplify simplify simplify. They have trouble following. I had a lot of success with very structured and very formulaic stories, like the story about the family members. I only circled 1 phrase for that story, which was the key to success in that story. In the past, I had been giving the kids too much information in the TL. They just weren’t ready for 2-3 new terms/phrases in one class story. This is where they are different from the other grades. Even first grade can handle 2-3 phrases, but in my experience here, the Kindergartners just can’t handle that much.
      My advice is to simplify your story as much as you can, then look at it and cut even more out of it. (This is also important for me because I only have 1/2 hour a week with this grade level and keeping so many things in their heads for the other 187.5 hours of the week is very very difficult).

      I hope that this helps. Pretty much everything that I have posted here about kindergarten is the stuff that has gone well. All the other CI that have done with the kids has either been too hard or too complicated or just hasn’t worked.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Expanding Personalization in the Classroom | senorfernie

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