In case you haven’t heard, Kindergarten is the new 1st grade. What does this even mean? More importantly, you may be wondering – What should my child know before starting elementary school? As a special education teacher that has worked primarily with Kindergarten students throughout my ten years of teaching, I have seen the steady increase of expectations for our youngest elementary school learners. Most of us would agree that this shift in curriculum is not even developmentally appropriate, but unfortunately it is the new reality. Here are some ways you can help your child at home get ready for Kindergarten.
Letter Names and Sounds
Gone are the days of “Letter of the Week”. Letter knowledge and sound identification are taught at a much more rapid pace and the curriculum assumes most K students already know their letter names and knowledge of the corresponding sounds at the start of Kindergarten. Exposing your child to the alphabet in as many fun ways as you can will help them become more comfortable with manipulating letters. Feeling crafty? Make your own Bingo cards to help your little one learn those remaining tricky letters. If toys and technology are more your thing, Leap Frog has some amazing products that I have found helpful with some of my students that struggle in retaining letter sound knowledge. Their Letter Factory video contains a catchy tune that even the most resistant child can’t help but sing along, “Every letter makes a sound, the b says /b/. . .”
How to Write Their First Name
Your child will be expected to write their first name on everything and it is preferred that they use both uppercase and lowercase letters appropriately. If fine motor challenges make this a hard task for your child, try writing their name with a highlighter and having them trace over each letter with a smaller golf pencil. Smaller pencils help those little hands with their grasp. The highlighted letters are preferred over dotted letters so that your child sees the letter as a whole and isn’t visually confused. Tactile activities like making letters in sand, with shaving cream, in the air or on sand paper also help them practice correct letter formation while having fun.
Book Handling Skills
Kindergarten students are expected to do a lot of independent reading even before they can technically read. Offering your child practice in holding a book and independently turning the pages will be a tremendous help for them when they are expected to do this on their own in school. Encouraging your child to read the book using the pictures and giving them some background in concepts of print – (reading left to right, letters make up words and words make up sentences, etc.) will be great exposure. And as always, reading to them every night is the best gift a mama can give her child.
Identifying numbers up to 10 (and above) and knowing what they represent. Counting items can be done just about anywhere from the dinner table to the bathtub. Encourage your child to count the steps at a playground or the number of buttons on his/her shirt. There are many ways to slip number sense and counting into our children’s play!
Last but not least, let your preschooler – play, play, and PLAY! I purposely chose a preschool that was heavy on imaginative play and centers because I knew that my daughter would not get much of that in Kindergarten. Let your 3 and 4 year olds have plenty of time to let their imaginations go wild and problem solve with each other. Let them get sticky with glue working on art projects. Let them learn through exploring and asking questions.
So I’m sure we’d all be better off if we would just recall
That little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall, of all you learn here remember this the best:
Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess
Take a nap everyday, wash before you eat
Hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street
And remember the seed in the little paper cup:
First the root goes down and then the plant grows up!
The Kindergarten Wall – by John McCutcheon