The first day of kindergarten is a major milestone. But if students aren’t prepared for the classroom, that first crucial year of education can be more frustrating than fun.
As the “back-to-school” season approaches, parents, educators, and children are preparing for the year of learning ahead. Unfortunately, a disconnect in how to ready students for kindergarten seems to exist between parents and educators. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, parents focus on helping their young children practice and master cognitive skills (like counting to “10” and recognizing numbers), but most teachers recognize that developing emotional/social skills in preparation for kindergarten is just as important. The result? Students who just aren’t ready to tackle the challenges of school. In a survey sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, kindergarten teachers who were surveyed reported that, on average, 35% of their students weren’t ready for kindergarten.
When educators are clear with parents on what it really takes to be ready for kindergarten, children can flourish in the classroom. This guide will help parents and teachers get on the same page on how to prepare kindergartners for the first day of school.
Students learn a lot during their first year of school; not just facts and figures, but social skills that help them grow as people. But students can maximize their learning in the classroom by coming to class with a mastery of basic, but invaluable, skills. Here’s what every young child should know before the first day of kindergarten:
The list above may seem daunting, but there’s help out their for parents and educators alike. For example, to help their children prepare for kindergarten, parents can turn to educational apps that entertain the kids as they learn crucial skills through interactive games. Parents also need to decide whether a half-day (often three hours) or full-day (five to six hours) kindergarten program is better for their children. Full-day programs have been linked to higher classroom achievement down the line, but some young children just can’t focus for that long yet.
Inevitably, some students will arrive for the first day of kindergarten un- or underprepared. That’s where teachers come in. To inspire students to work hard, and to encourage parents to get involved at home, teachers can send home extra progress reports with struggling students. Parent-teacher conferences may be needed if the progress reports aren’t doing the trick. Smart learning strategies can also help students catch up. For example, teacher Heidi Butkus has collected a number of strategies she uses to help underprepared kindergarten students master the alphabet in the classroom.
Teachers and parents should also be prepared to handle the bouts of homesickness that crop up during the first weeks of school. According to child psychologist Christopher Thurber, parents should avoid passing on their anxieties to students by avoiding statements that express ambivalence about starting school — like, “I don’t know what to do without you!” Teachers, meanwhile, should be careful not to single students out or make them feel bad for feeling homesick. Homesickness in many kindergartners is perfectly natural, and patience and communication can go a long way in soothing a homesick child.
Once in kindergarten, students will be concentrating on learning the skills they need to move a grade up. Here are the five things kindergarteners should learn before the transition to first grade:
These are the things that every kindergartner should be learning, but some students are capable of mastering more. Parents and teachers should look out for signs of giftedness in especially bright students, like strong memories, asking unusual questions, and easily recognizing complex relationships or patterns. A child’s giftedness can be nurtured through school gifted programs, creative after school activities and clubs, and by encouraging curiosity in and out of the classroom.
Students may fall behind during the school year. If that’s the case, parents can turn to apps to help students at home, and teachers should look to remedial school programs that can give struggling students extra attention. Some young children, though, just aren’t ready for the rigors of elementary school. If a student hasn’t mastered many of the 10 skills listed above and doesn’t show much enthusiasm for learning, waiting a year before kindergarten could be to his or her benefit. Parents can consider enrolling the child in preschool and working on getting the child up to speed at home.