Nothing prepares you for the challenge of the first weeks of kindergarten. You are juggling all things, making sure everyone is happy, makes it to the bathroom on time, and, most important, finds the correct bus or way to get home at the end of the day. And at some point in the middle of there, you need to teach all the routines and expectations and how to use the abundance of tools and materials that you will have them using for the rest of the year. Here’s a little tip, you can do all that and more by focusing on name writing activities.
Building Routines With Name Practice
During the first two weeks, we focus on names . . reinforcing letters in their name for those that didn’t know and letter formation for those that do know their name and can write it. The sad part is that even for those students who are very much ready for kindergarten, many struggle with writing their names because they have such weak fine motor. We work on that right away.
We also work on mastering the use of various tools and materials that students will be using all year long. The first week I usually introduce these tools by providing students with an open-ended activity, but when we start writing our name with these tools, we are really mastering the routines and expectations before those tools get added to our literacy and math centers.
This Week’s Activities
Take a look at how I used student names to give students more practice using these tools and mastering routines and expectations before setting them loose to use them independently.
Bingo Dotter Names
This is a super simple prep name activity. Just write your students’ names on a large piece of paper and students use daubers to outline the letters in their name. Students will practice twisting and opening the tops (Yes, this is a struggle for some of them!) and clean up. This little bit of front-loading will save me from having to redirect and reteach students when they use these bingo daubers throughout the rest of the year while at the same time building name recognition.
We learned about pokey pins last week so transiting to pokey pins for name practice this week was a breeze. Students poke the letters in their name and then remove the top sheet. Once that top sheet is removed, they can see holes that make the letters in their name when they hold it up to the light. With this extra name practice activity, they showed me that they knew how to remove the push pins from the eraser and return them to the eraser when they weren’t using them. They practice safe ‘poking’ and materials handling.
Having these play-doh nameplates makes it so much easier for students to use playdoh to make their names. They are editable and that makes it super easy to create new ones as new students are added to my class.
Because I introduced using Play-Doh last week with my Play-doh Certified Lesson, students were really able to master this routine and material handling today when they practiced their names. (If you’d like to grab a free copy of my Play-Doh lesson mats, just click the picture below or HERE.
Everyone LOVES stickers. This activity is super for fine motor and engaging because . . . STICKERS. It’s easy, because this is another editable activity that can be easily printed off and you can just add small stickers. Easy Peasy.
I use a font very as close to Handwriting Without Tears as you can get. It indicates to my students where to start their letters with a dot and because its an outline of the letters, it is easier for them to follow the space that makes their letters. Plus, using a dry eraser marker on laminate requires less strength so students feel more successful in tracing their names in these first days when we use this.
I laminate these cards so they can use them over and over and over again.
Did I mention that these practice mats are FREE for you when you sign up below?
Q-Tips!!!! YES!!!! My kinders love anything with paint and this one is an easy one. Print the name templates and add paint and Q-tips. Plus this is more practice with a tool that we will use all year long. They really do master getting the paint, using the Q-tips and cleaning up after themselves during these first two weeks.
More Name Writing Activities
One week is not NEARLY enough for practicing names, of course. It’s something that we will work on for several weeks and even months for some kiddos. Because of that, it’s important to find activities that will sustain and engage. For those kiddos that really need those letters reinforced, we go over the letter names (and usually put the letters to a little song like for the name McCoy -my middle son-I would put the song to the tune of BINGO and sing M-C-C-O-Y) every single day, pointing as the letters as we go along.
I keep several copies of these around. It’s not a one-and-done type of activity, and I also send a couple of copies home for students if they need practice.
The Handwriting Without Tears-like font is my favorite for teaching proper letter formation and is so much easier for little ones.
And here it is . . . their absolute favorite activity! Watercolor paints are a HUGE engagement tool for kindergarteners. They love watercolors and being able to work on their names while painting.
The set comes with 4 different options so again –not a one-and-done activity. Using a paintbrush, like using a dry-erase marker requires students to use less pressure to produce a letter. That makes it so students feel very successful, and it’s probably why they love them so much. You can check out these watercolor name pages here.
Going Slow To Go Fast
It may seem like you are going at a snail’s pace during those first weeks of school in terms of curriculum, but just remember, you have to go slow . . . master expectations . . . solidify routines . . . build confidence so that later, handling materials and tools and transitioning and all the things are second nature and your students feel successful. It will be worth it in the end.
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