So you there you were, enjoying Summer break when you got that dreaded email.  Subject line: Grade Change.  Take a deep breath and don’t worry about it because you will rock this.

Below I will share my list of “Need To Know Now” ideas as you get ready the school year as a new pre-k or kindergarten teacher.  And I promise, I’ll help you get through the first month tear-free.

In pre-k and kindergarten, we like to think of the environment as another teacher so set up is going to be a major project in the first few days.  Making the classroom childproof and accessible will make your life so much easier.  A little bit more work up front will help you keep the classroom organized all year.

  • Place quiet centers in a cluster and loud centers in a cluster in opposite sides of the room.
  • Don’t have the ‘bowling alley’ aisle in the middle of the room so that students don’t run.
  • Place the blocks and kitchen centers in areas that allows for ‘flow’. Meaning- place these centers in areas where it will be ok if they spill out of their designated space.

A clean and accessible classroom helps students become more independent which in turn helps the interruptions stop.

If you need some inspiration you can take a video tour of my classroom here or read all about it here.  I will be having a new set up and tour ready for you in September.


Labels will make your entire life so much easier because they help students find items without your help, they make clean up time a breeze, and they make your room super organized.

  • Everything needs to be labeled, everything.
  • Label taking pictures like me.  I love taking the pictures and using cute fonts.  But this is very time consuming.  Here is some information of how I use labels in the classroom.
  • Or you use our amazing new labels.  These labels are so cute and they have a cohesive theme so it will streamline your classroom.

Knowing the curriculum will be your saving grace, and though you might not have had all summer to prepare, there is a lot you can do in the next few weeks to know it back and front for the rest of the year.

For starters, if you teach kindergarten visit the CCSS website, here you will find all of the standards for each grade level.  If you teach pre-k (and use the Creative Curriculum) visit their objectives page.  These pages will be your best friends for the next year.  The quicker you get to know the objectives and standards for your grade the quicker you’ll be at planning age appropriate, fun lessons.

  • Lessons and activities for both grades should be hands-on.
  • Pre-k students should not be working on worksheets.
  • Kindergarten students should have daily routines so that they get used to working on the same objectives with fluency.
    • We have the most amazing daily LA, Math, and morning work packets for kindergarten.  They target so many math and language arts activities.  Your language arts and math blocks are planned for the rest of the year!  Get the language arts daily work packet here and the math daily work packet here, and daily morning work here.

With so many worksheets and forms that we need to keep available prepping them takes such a long time.  When I first started teaching it took me years to have all of the forms I would need.  Every time I needed something I forgot what I saved it as.  It was a mess.

Between planning forms, parent letters, volunteer forms, and data sheets (among so many others) I spent so much time writing and rewriting.  Thankfully, now I have all the forms I need.  This summer we created a bundle of over 30 forms, for every situation, that you will need in a year.  Having all these forms together in one place has saved me over time and I think they’ll be helpful for you.  Just print and go!

The early grades need a lot of data to inform instruction.  In pre-k, we use some qualitative data (observations) and quantitative data (assessments).

The data collection can become very overwhelming but don’t worry.  It is easy to collect data because students are always giving you examples of what they know.  They’ll count for you, ask you great, deep thinking questions, they will connect something from a book to real life.  They are little walking, talking data givers.  Take note by:

  • Using the Teaching Strategies app- take a picture and upload the observation.
  • Use post-it. Before the app I used to have post it piles around the room.  If I observed something I would jot it down and upload all observations at the end of the day.

Data collection is more straight forward in kindergarten as you are really only collect quantitative data.  Using your curriculum and the CCSS you’ll assess students after each unit.  Take these results and use them to inform your large and small group planning.

As an aside, teachers should always be taking qualitative data about our students because it helps focus a clearer picture of student needs.


People think that just because these are the “easy grades” (please use air quotes when you read those words) … teachers don’t assess.  As a matter of fact, some believe that these grades are just play until you “get to real school”.  Well, let’s nip that in the bud because not only are pre-k and kindergarten important grades, they are also the hook for educational careers.

If we don’t get these students to love school, to trust teachers, and become part of a healthy learning environment in ECE, guess what?  It will be harder for students to be all those things in their educational careers.

As ECE educators we have to make sure that we are constantly assessing our students’ growth.  In pre-k our curriculum has a continuum so we’re able to move our students along at their own pace.  In kindergarten the inclusion of the CCSS has made the stakes higher.  The objectives students need to master by the end of kindergarten now are what I did in first grade 20 years ago.  How crazy?

It took me seven years to really hone in on my assessment skills and I created a really well rounded assessment that can help a teacher better plan for small group instruction and students’ individual needs.  This assessment will help you individualize instruction and spiral up or down for students in pre-k and kindergarten.  Get your assessment here.

What’s best?  ¡Lo tenemos en Español!

Take a deep breath, It’s gonna be ok.  Promise!  Pre-k and kindergarten are the best grades to teach.

The students are so adorable, silly, and I laugh every single day.  More importantly, these students soak everything up.  If you care about them, teach them in interesting ways, and make an effort to get to know them they will learn.  It’s been proven to me every year!

Plus, we at The Elementary Helper are here for you.  To help you through the bad days, to lend a hand with products that will make your life easier, and to help celebrate your achievements.

Now go out into the world and conquer pre-k or kindergarten.  You got this!


What are your ideas to make the first few weeks go smoothly?  Any words of encouragement for our new ECE colleagues?  Let us know below.

Cinthya Quintana
Cinthya Quintana

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