Raise your hands – who is with me in sending one of your babies or grandbabies to Kindergarten this year?
In your child’s academic lifespan, there are few milestones more important than the anticipation that goes with starting Kindergarten. By this point you have probably already attended an orientation and/or assessment, and may even have left feeling more confused than ever!
What Does a Kindergartener Need to Know?
Often schools don’t give parents much feedback on the assessments, as they are used in ways that help determine which students might need extra help, and to give a general “level” to each child. Try not to worry about how your child did – these “levels” are used to make sure classes are evenly distributed in terms of incoming skills. You want to make sure that one class, for example, doesn’t have all of the students with limited skills, where the other class has all of the students who are already performing well. In our district, this testing also places students in an extended day Kindergarten program if they do not demonstrate Kindergarten readiness at testing time. These placements are to help students receive extra support to ensure they will be successful throughout their Kindergarten career.
Each school district is a bit different, but generally Kindergarten testing might assess your child’s ability to do the following:
- name uppercase and lowercase letters and their sounds
- identify and produce rhyming words (identify = Do cat and mat rhyme?; produce = What words rhyme with bat?)
- segment words (e.g., CAT = C-A-T)
- read nonsense words (e.g., hup, mef, bik)
- write his/her name
- draw a person with detail
- attempt to write
- attempt to read
- demonstrate concepts of print (e.g., how to hold a book, where to read, how to turn a page, concept of word, punctuation, illustration vs. text)
- echo read a book with a teacher
- identify numbers
- count (usually the benchmark is somewhere between 20-40)
- identify basic shapes
What Essentials Does a Kindergartener Need?
Although it is exciting and a bit nostalgic to finally buy school supplies, don’t feel like you have to overdo it. Many schools (like ours) pool supplies so that you don’t get notices all year that Ben needs new scissors or Lila needs another red folder. Often these notes come at times you are not close to a office supply store and are usually urgent. Although there are mixed reviews on the pooled resources approach, I have found that it saves me money as a parent, it is convenient, AND it prevents the coveting of others’ supplies. Desperate to buy those cute erasers or smelly markers? Do it – and set up a fancy desk in your home where your child can practice what they are learning at school.
Your child really does not need much for Kindergarten.
For school, make sure your child has:
- A backpack big enough for large papers, a sweatshirt, lunch (if full day)
- Your contact information on the inside of their backpack
- Clothes that make it easy to sit on the floor
For home, make sure your child has:
- Erasers (these are the best)
- Pencil grips
- Good scissors
- Coloring materials (pencils, markers, crayons)
- A journal
- Access to books at his/her reading level
What Can I Expect this Year in Kindergarten?
Kindergarten today is not the Kindergarten we remember as kids. We can debate whether this is a good thing or not all day. However, as a literacy expert, I can attest that I have concerns about how much of the traditional first grade curriculum has been pushed down to Kindergarten. In our state, Kindergarten is not even mandatory. Yet, children are expected to read (and read fairly well) by the time they leave Kindergarten. Consequently, there is a disconnect across the country between what is expected in Kindergarten and how parents are informed of these expectations.
You might notice the beginning of the school year starts as review. By the middle of the year, the pace and expectations will amp up and you will see your child learning to read, writing extended texts, and engaging in basic math. In our area, the literacy curriculum seems to outpace the math curriculum in the primary grades – so you might expect to see a focus on literacy skills.
Whatever you end up seeing this year in school, please remember that literacy skills are developmental. For example, some of the smartest kids do not begin reading until second grade, and other well prepared children come in knowing a lot and then struggle to keep pace with their classmates. As a teacher, I encourage you to support your kindergartener by showing that you value school and that you are proud of them, and give them some time to develop skills on their own.