Thursday, June 28, 2012

Half-day Kindergarten

This post is for my friends that are teaching half-day kindergarten...and it seems like there aren't too many of us anymore! This year I will be moving back to teaching half-day kindergarten, so I thought I would share some of my tips for keeping organized.

In my school district, we offer both full-day and half-day kindergarten classes, but parents have to pay tuition if they want their child to be in a full-day classroom. The half-day kindergarten teacher in each school teaches two half-day classes, an A.M. class and a P.M. class. That means I'm gearing up for potentially 40-50 students here, estimating that their will be 20-25 in my morning class and 20-25 kids in my afternoon class. So, organization is a MUST!

My biggest half-day tip is color coding everything. I assign each class a color- this year my A.M. class will be red and my P.M. class will be yellow. That way, you know at a glance just by looking at the color, whether something belongs to the A.M. or the P.M. class.

Here is a picture of the cubbies in my classroom. The bottom part of each cubby where backpacks and coats go will be shared by an A.M. kid and P.M. kid, but the top has a small space for each kid to put their personal supplies (red owl tags for A.M. and yellow owl tags for P.M.).

I also put 2 nametags at each table seat. The regular-sized nametags you can buy at teacher stores are too big to fit 2 at each table seat, so I cut up sentence strips I got at Dollar Tree. I know some half-day teachers just skip table nametags altogether, but I always have tons of kids that start school not knowing how to write their name, so I feel like I have to have each child's name on their table spot to help them learn to write it. Again, I use color coding, so each table spot will have 1 red and 1 yellow nametag (I won't write the names on the tags until my class list is finalized!).

In my district, 40 minutes of guided reading is required each day- doesn't matter if you teach half-day or full-day. So...I had to make sure I was organized for a whole lot of guided reading groups, since I will be doing it each morning and afternoon and could have 4 or 5 groups in each class. I'm using red baskets and folders for my A.M. class and yellow baskets and folders for my P.M. class. I absolutely LOVE these baskets from Calloway House because they are divided onto 3 sections so I can keep the group's guided reading books for the week in one section, their journals for writing/word work activities in one section, and my folder with lesson plans/running records in another section.

I love those little baskets they have been selling in the Target Dollar Spot the last few years. I have tons of them in all different colors due to my Target addiction. This year, I will use one of the red baskets to hold the math books for my A.M. class and one of the yellow baskets to hold the math books for my P.M. class. When I taught full-day I just had them keep things like math books in their chair pockets, but that is just too much stuff for one chair pocket with half-day kids sharing the chair pockets now.

For my behavior system, I use a clip chart with apples. I clip clothespins onto the sides of the chart and the kids all start each day on the green apple. As they get warnings in class, I move their clip down progressively (to the yellow, "orange," and red apples). The apple chart under the red owl is for A.M. and the chart under the yellow owl is for P.M.

One of my literacy centers is the pocket chart center. I have a big pocket chart at this center that usually has some sort of poem or song that you can put students' names in. For example, we will start the year with "Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?" in the pocket chart. Then students can take nametags with their classmates names/photos and insert them into the poem to read it. I will use the red pocket chart to hold all of the A.M. students' nametags/photos for the pocket chart center and the yellow pocket chart for the P.M. students (these little pocket charts are the ones Target sells in their Dollar Spot each summer).

I know at this point you're probably thinking I'm a bit crazy to take the color-coding so far, but honestly it really helps. I do it with absolutely everything- even their take-home folders and their writing journals. In terms of assessment, I keep a red binder for my A.M. class and a yellow binder for my P.M. class, and then I also have hanging files for each student as well (you can buy colored tabs to put at the top of each hanging file if you want to color code these too).

I will be sharing some of my other half-day teaching ideas as well as my half-day schedule later this summer as I continue getting organized for the upcoming school year...should be fun to try to figure out how to fit in guided reading, writing workshop, and math work stations (not to mention everything else) in under 3 hours!

I would love to hear tips from other half-day teachers out there! Us half-day teachers have to stick together and help each other out!


  1. Hi Meredith, thanks for posting about half-day kindergarten! I love how you are color coding everything that is a great idea! I did color code the name wall but I like how you decided to do it with everything. You have inspired me to do the same. I am not in my classroom yet but you gave me some great ideas to start with! You are right with that many students organization is the key! Thanks!
    What I Learned in Kindergarten

  2. Kuddos to all the half day kinder teachers. As a former half day teacher, I know how hard it is to fit it all in. I love the organization tips. Best wishes as you gear up for the fall.

  3. Meredith,
    I love all of your ideas! I teach a kinder/first grade combo so also color code everything. My kinders go home at noon and then I have just my firsties the rest of the day. Please keep sharing! You are giving me new ideas of things I can color code.
    An Open Door

  4. Oh, can I relate! I have two half day classes, 32 children in all. I call them Early birds and Later gators. Morning is blue and afternoon is green. I have worked really hard to get it organized as well. My kids also have an overlap of 96 minutes. The longest 96 minutes of the day. I have an hour and 45 minutes with each small group of 16. I do math, writing and guided reading with centers during small group time. I do love it. I wait till overlap to do calendar, flag salute, music, poems, stories, social studies, and science. I also request my library and computer time during overlap. I wanted to do math work stations during overlap, but it was very difficult. I might try again next year. I would love to see your schedule.

  5. I also have two classes and I colorcode EVERYTHING, too! I teach all-day, every-other day kindergarten. I use the name tags that you can get at the teacher store that are tents. Students get out their name tag and pencil box for the day then put it back in their cubby at the end of the day. Their cubbies also have journals, folders, etc. in them. My custodian built holders for baskets I found so I have 2-20 basket cubbie sets in my room and I love them!
    Looking forward to seeing how else you organize for two classes!

  6. I do not think you have taken color coding too far at all!! I taught half day kindergarten for 7 years before moving to all day just this past year. My colors were yellow and blue, and everything matched their class color. It made everything so much easier!

    Kari :)

  7. Bless your heart! I couldn't imagine being a half day kindergarten teacher. Wowzers! I am a full day Kinder teacher and still get stressed about fitting everything in. I am now a follower of your blog and would love for you to follow mine as well. I love sharing ideas with other teachers!
    Mrs. Janelle

  8. The color system is brilliant and truly helps to keep things straight. How many days have you been back in your classroom? LOVE the owls!

  9. Last year was my first year teaching half day kindergarten! Sooo happy you will be in the same boat!! I do not think you have gone overboard. I did the same thing last year and it was a huge help. Good luck!!

  10. This is such a great idea. I taught just morning Kindergarten last year and now because we have many students coming in to our school, I have two half day classes. This is such a great idea with the color coding! I am wondering how in the world I am going to keep it all straight with two classes! I have different name tags on their lockers- the regular magnetic ones from Lakeshore for my morning class and then magnetic stars for my afternoon class. I got some different name tags for cheap online, so my morning is pencils and the afternoon is frogs. Behavior charts is one thing that I am most concerned about. For good behavior I am doing little sand pails with pompoms in them for each class. But to track behavior that is anything less than acceptable is where I am stuck at to keep track of. I do have the apples and may just do that with one class on one side and the other class on the other side. We will see. Thanks for sharing though!


  11. I love your ideas. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that after teaching for 25 years in first grade I will be going to two half day kindergarten classes in August. I am really excited but I have spent the last two weeks searching for ideas.I'm not sure how this is all going to work, but I'm confident that it will all fall into place. I will be using the Scott Foresman Reading Street program and the Everyday Mathematics program. I'm sure I will be back for ideas!

    1. Good luck Pam! Half-day kdg is really tough- there is just not enough time for everything you want to get done!