January brings the halfway point through the year and, inevitably, the feeling of some pressure. Now that our kindergarteners have had a whole half year of time to grow and get into the swing of things, it’s a great time to find ways to boost your students’ independence and problem solving skills before sending them off to first grade!
Here are some tips and resources for encouraging independence and promoting problem-solving in your classroom!
Why independence in the classroom is important
Teachers have enough to balance every day. After meeting the needs of each student but also instructing, assessing, reteaching, reassessing, and building relationships…there’s barely enough time in the day!
How does that tie into independence? Boosting student independence helps us as teachers because it saves us time. We want our students to be able to do things independently, giving us more autonomy to do what we need to do.
Beyond the benefits to teachers, independence and autonomy are critical life skills. It’s important for kids to develop problem-solving skills, grit, and stamina when working on hard things.
What better place to practice than in your classroom? 🙂
Take time to set and review expectations
In August and September, you spent many days and weeks practicing and modeling classroom expectations and routines. But with breaks, random schedule changes, and so on, even the most well-practiced routines can start looking, well, not so well-practiced!
Be sure to take time to review routines upon return from winter break – morning tubs, centers, lining up, etc. This doesn’t have to be tedious – just fit it into your day as much as possible. For example, take the first morning or two back from break and walk around, giving positive reinforcement and “noticing” good things aloud. My students have always loved when I “forget” things, like, “Hmm, I can’t remember what to do with my morning tub when I’m done. Who can help me remember?”
Use student leadership to boost independence
A sense of leadership can be truly valuable. Allowing students (and encouraging them) to help each other out is a great way to promote problem solving!
There are several ways to encourage students to work together or seek help from one another. Here are just a few examples:
- During small group time, encourage them to reach out to a peer if they don’t know what they need to do next
- Use partner games, such as file folder games or printable literacy games. This encourages social development and gives students a chance to work together!
- First thing in the morning, encourage students to help each other if they’re stuck on a morning tub. (Psst…I have lots more information about promoting independence with morning tubs here!)
Boost independence with review material throughout your school day
By incorporating review material into your school day, you’re giving students a chance to work on something that is familiar, which helps foster independence. You can do this in lots of different ways. From morning work to center time, review activities allow them to build confidence.
One easy teaching resource that includes lots of review opportunities is my January no-prep printables pack. At this point in the year, many of the pages practice skills we’ve already covered. That’s the point! They’re important skills and giving students the chance to practice is always a good idea!
Another great resource is file folder games. I have many literacy and math games, such as the one below. Plus, you can easily turn them into partner activities, giving students a chance to work together.
Just pick a game that aligns with a skill you’ve taught and before you know it, your students will be reviewing the content, problem-solving without you, and interacting appropriately together. Plus, you can use them over and over again.
*Sigh of relief*
When you encourage independence and promote problem solving in your kindergarten classroom, you’ll set your students up for success in first grade and beyond!