"I’m going to first grade!" How exciting! No more kindergarten. No more preschool. “I’m one of the big kids.”
OK. You and I know they’re still the little kids, but first grade really is different than kindergarten. The room is set up differently. The schedule is different. Expectations are different.
I teach first graders in my church. The kindergarten director is my friend Melita Thomas. She and I work together to help kids deal with all these changes and to make this exciting transition go as smoothly as possible for our kids.
About six weeks before promotion, I start to visit in the kindergarten room to help the kids be aware of and excited about changes in room set-up and schedule. I let them know that blocks and the home-living area will be gone, but tell them about the fun games and activities we will have. I tell the kids how excited I am that they are coming to first grade.
Each time I visit, Melita introduces me and invites the kids to tell me their names. We start playing a simple game where I try to remember every child’s name. The kids think it’s fun, they begin to get used to seeing and hearing me, and by the time they come to first grade I already know all their names!
I also teach kindergarten VBS every year. I get a whole week to be with the kids, to see them in a learning situation, and to really begin to build relationships.
We have a long-standing tradition at my church that helps mark the transition to first grade. Each year on promotion Sunday all the rising first graders are presented a Bible from the church. I get to help with the presentation. The pastor signs each Bible in advance, and we hand-print in each Bible the child’s name and a life-verse chosen by the child’s parents.
In other churches, I have reminded parents that their child will need a real Bible because first graders use their Bibles every week in Sunday School. I have suggested that if a child has a picture Bible or story Bible, his parents might consider marking this important time in his life by presenting him with a Bible he will be able to use for the next several years. Then they can help him remember to bring his Bible every week to Sunday School.
Before the new year begins, I remind parents that their child will need a good breakfast or maybe even a quick appropriate snack before or after Sunday School. Many if not most preschool departments include a weekly snack time. Most children’s departments do not snack every week.
Finally, I try to partner with parents to help their kids be aware of and excited about all the changes, to look for the positives, and to share in the excitement.
James Hargrave is an Editor for LifeWay’s "Bible Teaching for Kids" and ministers to 1st graders and their families at First Baptist Church – Nashville, TN