First Grade New to Kinders: Parent Action Tips, Part 2

New: Classroom Environment Changes

Melissa Washington, a 26-year kindergarten and first grade teacher in San Juan Capistrano, California, says, “Most kindergarten classes are kept separate in a more protected environment. They have a larger, self-contained classroom, including a bathroom, with access to a gated playground often shared with preschoolers.” 1

Parent Action Tip: Towards the end of kindergarten, stop by a first-grade classroom and let your child see the room arrangement. Point out differences. For example, “Look, you’ll have a desk and a chair. Your desk has storage room for your own items, like your pink hair brush and your favorite smelly markers.”

New: Increased Academics

Washington says, “There’s a big change academically. Kindergarten learning focuses on phonics, learning to identify all letters of the alphabet and their sounds and phonemic awareness. First grade reading focuses on fluency and comprehension.” 1

Parent Action Tip: As parents become more aware of academic expectations, Washington suggests, “Instead of drilling your child on facts, focus on learning through play. Make up rhyming words. Rhyming lays a foundation for stronger readers. Keep books in the car and waterproof books in the bathtub.”  1

Parent Action Tip: Washington adds, “Continue reading to your children. Make reading books so special that books become just as exciting as toys. Help them discover that they can learn anywhere, not just at school. Let them collect flowers or seeds and help choose apples at the market.” 1

New: First Graders Learn to Work Together, Listen and Respond

Washington says, “Parents often come in worried about their own child.”1 She tells parents, “It isn’t just about your child. Children coming from kindergarten start to learn that ‘The world does not revolve around them.’ While kindergartens may have a hard time working with more than one other person, first graders learn team work to make a better school community and a better world.”

Parent Action Tip: Blogger Padma of The Teacher’s Digest says, “Children in first grade are at a critical stage wherein they are learning to hold longer conversations.”2 She suggests having longer conversations with your children, using bigger words, and asking them for their opinions. This will encourage your children to speak up more in class and share their ideas and opinions.

New: More Children, Less Help

Many school districts attempt to place fewer children in kindergarten than in other grades. Kindergarten teachers often have more parent/adult volunteers than other grades. More children in the class and fewer volunteers means less one-on-one time and less nurturing from the teacher.

Parent Action Tip: Your children will need to adjust to less one-on-one assistance from an adult. When your children get stuck at home, encourage them to try and see if they can figure it out themselves. This builds self-confidence. At school, encourage them to try on their own first. Then suggest they ask a table partner for help or look at the directions on the dry erase board.

Parent Action Tip: Try to occasionally volunteer in your child’s classroom. Some employers provide time off from work so parents can volunteer at school or chaperone field trips. Offer to help with a project at home such as labeling file folders or preparing supplies for an activity.

With a better understanding of what’s “new” to first graders and trying some parent action tips, before you know it first grade will not feel so “new” to both you and your child.

That is until your child is a “new” second grader!



  1. Phone interview with Melissa Washington, 1st grade teacher in San Juan Capistrano, California on June 8, 2018.
  2. 5 Ways to Ease the Transition from Kindergarten to First Grade by Padma on July 18, 2014.
  3. Image: board [pxfuel.com_en_free-photo-xzbqq]

First Grade New to Kinders: Parent Action Tips, Part 1

My grandson, Parker, couldn’t wait to become a first grader. “Jacob says we get more recesses.”

I try shedding reality. “But you’ll be in school longer.”

“But I’ll have more recesses.” His third-grade friend trumps Grams.

After starting first grade Parker excitedly informs me, “I have recess after breakfast, in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon. I have four recesses.” What could be more important?

Your kindergartener is probably just as excited about going to first grade. I’m thrilled my grandson felt confident and ready, however, there were several aspects of first grade that were vastly different and “new” to him as he transitioned from kindergarten.

Here’s what may be “new” in your child’s first grade class, and parent action tips you can implement to help your child adjust quicker.

New: First Graders Attend School All Day

Many schools offer the typical half-day morning or afternoon kindergarten. If your child attended full-day kindergarten, the children typically have a rest time in the afternoon. Denise Giardi, a 20-year veteran first grade teacher at John Muir Elementary in Modesto, California says, “Half-day to full-day is the biggest hurdle, especially the first trimester. I often see tears in the afternoon. Children are tired, and they miss their mommies.” 1

Parent Action Tip: The Labor of Love blog suggests, “To help make the transition to first grade easy, you should try to wean your child from naps at the beginning of the summer before the start of school.” 2 About two weeks before school begins, start getting your child to bed earlier until he adjusts to a longer day.

New: Testing the Waters on the “Big” Playground

Not only do first graders have more recesses, they play on the big kid equipment instead of a protected area designated for pre-school and/or kindergarten. Giardi says, “Children are used to their kindergarten teacher supervising recess time. Even children who typically follow the rules may surprise their parents with playground mishaps. Since their teacher isn’t on the playground, they think they don’t have to follow the rules. They don’t understand that the yard duty monitors are the ‘teachers’ now.” 1

Parent Action Tip: After school, take your child to the big kid playground. Let her explore the new equipment. While playing, explain how things will be different. For example, “Your teacher won’t be with you during recess when you’re in first grade. The grown-ups who will be watching you are called yard duty monitors. You’ll need to listen to them and follow the rules just like you did when your teacher was with you. I know you’ll enjoy the bigger playground.”

New: Eat Lunch at School

Parker was used to eating a snack during the morning recess. It’s lunch that was the challenge. He was so excited for lunch recess, he barely ate.

Parent Action Tip: Check if your child’s school requires students to stay at the cafeteria tables at least ten minutes before dismissal. If not, suggest it. Most kids will eat if they can’t leave. Otherwise, your first grader may not be eating much or skipping lunch all together.

Parent Action Tip: Share your expectations for eating lunch. For example, “Eat half your sandwich and your sliced apples before you go to lunch recess. You can eat your granola bar during afternoon recess.” Periodically check-in with your child and see how lunch is going.

Be sure to read part 2 of this blog next week.


  1. Phone interview with Denise Giardi, 1st grade teacher at John Muir Elementary, Modesto City Schools in Modesto, California on May 21, 2018.
  2. How Can We Make The Transition to First Grade Easy?
  3. Image: rank-5980089_1280 []

Prevention Strategy #7: Focus on Behavior, Rather Than the Child

Avoid trying to change behavior by methods that may lead to loss of self-respect, such as shame.

Attack Bullying Aggression Blame Shame

“Shaming makes the child wrong for feeling, wanting or needing something,” says Robin Grille and Beth Macgregor, authors of “Good” Children – at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame.(1)

Shame Defined

A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety; a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute. Synonyms: contritenesscontritionguiltpenitenceregretremorse, remorsefulness, repentancerue, and self-reproach. (2) Messages which focus on “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” may be perceived by a child as attacking and critical. They tend to produce feelings of guilt and shame and can ultimately result in lowering a child’s self-esteem.

Incorrect Responses

  • “You’re acting like such a baby.”
  • “You’re such a naughty kid.”
  • “Big boys don’t cry.”
  • “This is the worst behaved class at lunch today.”
  • “You’d lose your head if it weren’t glued on!”

 Focus on Behavior

Eliminate destructive gestures, expressions, negative tone of voice, shameful words, negative labels, and unfriendly body language.  “When caregivers focus on a student’s behavior, rather than on a student’s character, it preserves student’s integrity and offers positive guidance for learning.”(3) Help students find self-respect. “I believe in me.”

Incorrect and Correct Response

  • Rather than “You should be ashamed you took Sam’s ball.”
  • Say, “When you take the ball, it makes Sam angry.”
  • Rather than: “You’re a naughty boy.”
  • Say, “It’s not safe to climb on tables. Sit on the bench.”

What are ways you can avoid shaming your child?



  1. Grille, Robin and Beth Macgregor, “Good” Children – at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame,
  3. Guiding Children’s Behavior. Island Health. August 2014.
  4. Image: Attack-Bullying-Aggression-Blame-Shame-2087867 []

Prevention Strategy #6: Offer Choices

Choices are Legitimate

With increasing maturity should come increasing choices. Being able to make decisions helps develop maturity but be sure the decisions are within the limits of the children’s capacities and experience. Children should be able to participate, individually and collectively, in making decisions. Remember not to ask open ended choices that a child doesn’t really have any control over. For example, we don’t ask children if they want to wear a coat outside when it’s 30 degrees.

Incorrect Questions

  • Do you want a drink?
  • Do you want to do your homework?

When to Use Choices

Use choices only when you’re prepared to let the child choose and follow through Here’s how. “Here are your choices. Would you like (choice A) or (choice B)? You decide.” As children get older they can choose from more options.

Correct Questions

  • Do you want white milk or chocolate milk?
  • Do you want to do your homework before or after your snack?

What choices could you offer your child?


Image Source: Stick_figure_choice []

Prevention Strategy #5: State Expectations in the Positive, Rather Than in the Negative

Eliminate words like: no, stop, don’t, can’t, quit (except for dangerous situations). Adults use negative words so often that children tune us out. Almost anything you might tell a child “no” to, can easily be rephrased in a positive and encouraging way. Using the positive decreases the likelihood for children to respond with defensiveness or resistance.

Here’s How it Works

  • Tell the child what you want them to do or are permitted/allowed to do rather than what not to do
  • Make a statement
  • You’re not asking a question
  • Adding “please” is polite, not positive


Incorrect and Correct Responses

Incorrect  Response Correct  Response
1.      Don’t sit on the  table.

2.      Quit poking Amanda.


3.      Stop moving around. I’m trying

to tie your shoe.


4.      Stop screaming

1.      Sit on the bench.


2.      Keep your hands to yourself.


3.      When you hold still, I can tie your shoe.

4.      When you are quiet you can go out to play.

How might stating instructions in the positive create more cooperation?


Image Source: positive-negative contrast 455580 []

Prevention Strategy #4: Confident Tone of Voice

Myth: The louder we speak, the greater chance of controlling behavior

Yelling produces yelling. The louder an adult gets, the louder children get. Negative examples of confident tone of voice: screaming, swearing, name calling, shouting, or sarcasm.

Incorrect Response:

Educator: Says in a loud voice to a group of students across the hallway, “Line up. Line up for lunch.”

Students: Talk louder and pretend to laugh at a joke.

Educator: Raises voice louder, “I told you to get in a straight line for lunch.”

Students: Laugh and talk louder.

Fact: Softer and Closer

Talk to children about inappropriate behavior in private, rather than in front of others. Show respect. Talk with them, rather than “at’ them. Move-in close (about an arm’s distance), get at student’s level, look student in the eyes, and speak in a soft tone, if not a whisper, directly and slowly. The calm voice helps avoid escalating a power struggle. “The calm voice is comforting and powerful, especially for the student experiencing a difficulty and needing supportive guidance.”1

Voice Match

If a student can’t voice match, whisper, “I can hear you. I’m right here.” They will automatically lower their voice for a while. You want to be in closer proximity to the student and use a softer, quieter voice. This is the opposite of our natural reaction to get louder.

Correct Response:

Educator: Walk over to students who are in “line” for the cafeteria; get about an arm’s length away from students. Say in a calm voice, “When you’re in a straight line, we can go in the cafeteria for lunch.”

Students: Comply with Educator’s instructions.

How do you use your voice for effective discipline?



  1. Carosso, Dr. John, The Softer and Closer Approach, October 28, 2010,
  2. Image: megaphone []

Prevention Strategy #3: Offer Straightforward Explanations for Limits

When students (and adults) understand the reasons or rationale for limits, they are more likely to comply. They may not like it, but at least they understand the reason. Teaching students the “why” of a limit helps them internalize and learn the rules of social living.

Offer Explanations

Here’s some examples. “The sand stays down low so that it doesn’t get into people’s eyes.” “When you put the balls back, students can find them when they want to use them.”

Incorrect Response:

Educator: “Pick up your trash.”

Student: “It’s not my trash. Why do I have to do it?

Educator:Because I said so.”

Correct Response:

Educator: “Oliver, please pick up the trash around your table.”

Student: “It’s not my trash. Why do I have to do it?

Educator:That’s a good question. I know that it’s not all your trash, but I’m asking different students each day to help clean up the area around them, so the table is clean for the third graders. Thanks for helping today,” and walk away expecting that Oliver will comply.


Image Source: conversation-bubble []

Prevention Strategy #2: Make Limits Effective

We looked at prevention strategy number one. Today we’ll look at prevention strategy number two make limits effective.

Direct Instruction

We make the mistake of believing children know how to line-up, listen, walk in hallways, share, take turns, etc., but often they do not. Provide direct instruction and opportunities to practice desired behaviors. Example: “Samantha, stand here. Dominick, stand behind Samantha,” or use visuals. Use reinforcement for correct behavioral responses. When children do what is expected, praise them.


The problem with counting and repeating instructions over and over are that they teach students NOT to listen.(1)  Children know they’ll have several more chances to comply. Train children to respond on first request. What behaviors do you need to train your children about? Why do parents and educators like counting for behaviors?



  1. McCready, Amy. Why Counting 1-2-3 Isn’t Magic (Plus 4 Tools to Use Instead)
  2. Image: behavior []

Prevention Strategy #1: Establish Clear, Consistent and Simple Limits

We looked at ineffective guidance strategies in my last blog. Today is the first of ten prevention strategies, part of 13 guidance strategies that work. The first strategy is establish clear, consistent and simple limits.

What are Limits?

“Limits are statements of what behavior is appropriate. They ensure students know what is expected. Limits should be clearly related to the safety and protection of self, others, and the environment.”(1) “Be Safe. Be Responsible. Be Respectful.” are the most common limits I’ve seen. Examples: “Inside we walk.” “We throw balls outside.” “Chairs are for sitting on.” “This can is for recycling; this one is for garbage.”

Agree on Guidelines

For educators, agree on what the guidelines are for: lining up, dismissal from cafeteria, play areas, getting on bus, etc. At home, decide on the guidelines for general behavior and specifics like clearing dishes off the table or bedtime routines.

Consistency is Critical

Try not to pretend we didn’t see a misbehavior. When educators or parents don’t feel good it is easy to pretend that we didn’t see the misbehavior, so we don’t have to use our energy to deal with it. Whether we feel good or not, setting limits works best when we’re able to reinforce the behavior consistently over time. What behaviors do you set limits on? What is difficult about being consistent?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior, BC Health Planning, 2003.
  2. Image: Know the rules []

What Guidance Strategies Don’t Work?

Before we look at what works with children or students, let’s look at what doesn’t work. What guidance strategies don’t work with children or students?

Ineffective, Inappropriate and Unacceptable Guidance Strategies

  • Counting “1, 2, 3 . . . “
  • Repeating
  • Yelling
  • Threats, usually overstated
  • Bribes
  • Sarcasm
  • Inconsistency
  • Belittling
  • Withholding love and affection
  • Silent treatment
  • Controlling through shame or guilt
  • Forcing promise from child
  • Acting like a child or student. Remember, you are the adult!

If you’re like most parents or educators you’ve tried some of these to no avail. You’ve probably discovered that they are ineffective and don’t work. Why do we keep doing what doesn’t work?

It’s what we know. It could be how we were raised as children or how we’re raising our own children. How ever we came about using ineffective strategies, we need to stop. What ineffective, inappropriate or unacceptable guidance strategies do you use?

But it is hard to stop doing something unless you have something to replace it with. In the next 13 blog posts you’ll learn to replace these ineffective strategies with guidance strategies that work. You’ll learn ten prevention strategies and three intervention strategies which equals a baker’s dozen.


Image source: megaphone []