It’s a new school year and that probably means a brand new group of Kindergarteners and 1st graders. Here are some tips and tricks to help your year start off right!
- Get to know your kids: For the first few weeks, getting to know your kids should take priority over following the curriculum and getting EVERY activity covered.
- Learn names and what makes each kid tick – Learning names and something fun about them shows that you care from the very beginning. Ask questions about what they love and make a point to remember their answers, even if you need to write them down.
- Let them know YOU – share silly stories about your childhood. Talk about your family. Let them in on your world so they can learn to trust you.
2. Establish boundaries: Elementary school brings a boatload of changes for kindergarteners, even at church. In their preschool rooms, there was free play time and toys at the ready. Now, they’re in a circle, possibly with circles of others kids just feet away. This is a BIG change.
- Give cues: This is all new, so be sure to let your kids know what’s coming next. Say, “Now it’s time for large group. We’ll walk to the room and sit together to sing and hear the Bible story” etc.
- Communicate the RULES: Craft some easy to remember rules and stick to them. I’m involved in a local afterschool Bible study and we have 3 simple rules.
1. Respect God – point the sky
2. Respect each other – point side to side to the kids around you
3. Respect the church – point to the ground
It’s easy to redirect behavior when you have a set of guidelines that are easy to remember and repeat.
3. As Scar from Lion King would say, “Be Prepared!”: Read through the Small Group Leader guide at least three times before Sunday and come up with a game plan. K/1st graders are BUSY so you have to be one step ahead. Get to church early and set up your small group area. Check your supplies and put them in order so you have what you need at the ready.
- “Assigned Seats” – Write the kids’ names on cardstock and put them out on the floor in a circle. This helps kids know where to go (and hopefully stay) and helps you learn names. It’s AMAZING how the simple instruction to “sit in a circle” can waste a ton of time.
- TRANSITIONS! –Nothing kills the momentum faster than having to stop and flip through your leader guide to see what’s coming next. Make sure that you know where you’re headed so you can easily move from one thing to the next. And if your group isn’t engaging with activity, move on and try the next one!
- Getting their attention – Instead of raising your voice to talk “over” your kids, lower it or even whisper. Stop and wait until everyone is listening before you speak. Remember this is the “Look at ME” phase, so your kids will have lots to say and will talk over one another. (This is another good time to go back to the rules and say, “Remember, we respect each other. That means we talk one at a time.”)
What are you favorite tips for leading a K/1st grade group at the beginning of the year? We’d love to hear from you.