Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teacher Tip: Kindergarten Occasionally = Mess

Look closely... find the orange play dough:




Play dough isn't a noisy classroom material (the rolling pins that the students use to flatten the stuff on the other hand...), which pretty much explains how one of my Stars managed to spread multiple pellets of orange clay all over our classroom carpet while I was reading a story at circle.

He was "cleaning" his center.

Ten minutes later, he "did the writing center:"

When learning and exploring, students can create messes. Mess-making is part of our creative process, but you've no doubt noticed that we often need a clean palette when we start start to get our creative groove on. Children must learn how to not only make a mess, but to clean up after themselves so that classmates and peers can use the space and materials in their own way safely.

* Introduce students to a clean up song, and no, it doesn't have to be the "Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Do Your Share" song either! I play an upbeat instrumental song, a favorite class sing-along, or a lyrically appropriate rock song on our c.d. player and tell the class that the floor/desks/cubbies must be clean prior to the end of the song. Music and movement, cleanliness and cooperation... all good things!

* Tell your students in code, in another language, or indicate by holding up several fingers how many things they need to take care of in the room (pushing in chairs, returning materials to bins, books to shelves, picking up pieces of garbage off of the floor) before going to recess or lunch. Clean up several times throughout the day instead of saving it all for the end-of-the-school-day-rush.

* Assign clean up jobs/responsibilities to students for the week: Student A will push in chairs, Student B will sharpen pencils, Student C will pass out papers, and Student D will inspect learning centers, making sure each rotation enables students to leave a center clean for their peers and join one that has been left clean for their own use.

* Has the Desk Fairy ever visited your classroom? No? Well then it's time to let her visit, leaving the following message with a new pencil or bookmark:

I made a little visit,
and found your desk was neat,
so I thought it only proper
to leave a little treat!

* Purchase child-sized whisk brooms and dust pans. Teach your students how to use them appropriately.

* Fair is fair: if you made the mess, you clean it up. You may ask for help after you've started, but your friends might be busy cleaning up their own messes and won't be able to help.

* Many parents have a clean up system in place at home, but for those who don't, share your clean up song and classroom routines in your weekly letters or messages. Chances are, parents clean up after their children (which is why students leave their materials messy and forgotten with easy abandon) and would appreciate being able to use a routine already recognized by their son/daughter from school.

What are your tricks of the trade for making sure students clean up after themselves? Please share them in the comment section!


  1. Great tips! I like the idea of sharing cleanup routines and procedures with parents and encouraging them to use them at home as well!


  2. These are great ideas for cleanup time. I have something called a "60 second cleanup" and the children crawl around on the floor picking up bits of paper and the odd assortment of things we have used throughout the day. They love it. It's short, energizing, gives them practice with crawling, and gets the room looking better in 1 minute. Our room only gets vacuumed twice each week so our in-between cleanups help do the trick.

  3. In the school we have cleaning competition among the classes and from the first time there are responsibles for cleaning...we change every week. They sweep the floor, clear the bin, clean the board and check the curtains... While others clean the wardrobes and took back the foodboxes to the kitchen....
    they actually like it, I usually make friend groups so it is not that bad....

  4. I hate playdoh. Or more, I hate listening to my aide complain about play doh ha.

  5. Pink Flip Flops, I make sure that our custodian gets extra-nice appreciation goodies throughout the year just because of the play dough- wow, does it get everywhere.... ground into carpets, dried up on furniture, etc.! :)

    Thank you all for the additional ideas!

  6. My students absolutely love cleaning up. I have year 2s and they all 'fight' for the dust pans, so much so that I had to go out and buy additional dust pans. I also have a visual checklist on the board for students to see what they have to do to finish cleaning up.

  7. I've heard of a lot of teachers calling out that they have a "special" piece of trash in mind, and the person who gets it will get a prize. Normally the teacher then picks a person who was working really hard to clean up the room and gives them a small prize, like a piece of candy or some money for a mini-economy. With young students it works so well!

    Have you tried getting a music card from Hallmark? For short cleanups throughout the day (or any short transition, really) you can open the card and tell them they need to be done when the music stops. The teacher who suggested it to me had a Madagascar card and the kids looooved "I Like to Move It, Move It" :)

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  8. LuckeyFrog, I love that "I'm thinking of" technique! Great minds think alike: guess what our clean up song is presently.... I Like to Move It, Move It!

    Madagascar fans, my students.

  9. magic scrap. (as the teacher you choose which student gets it every time, so everyone gets a chance) the student who picks the "magic" scrap gets a little prize. kids love it. Thank you for the other ideas! As a brand new kindergarten teacher I can use all of the ideas I can get.


As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!