|Goals for Preschool: Awareness and Exploration
By: National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998)
Children go through certain phases of reading development from preschool through third grade. They begin with exploring books and go straight through reading on their own. Find out what children should be able to do at each phase, and what teachers and families can do to support their development along the way. In preschool, children explore their environment and build the foundations for learning to read and write.
What teachers do:
- Enjoy listening to and discussing storybooks
- Understand that print carries a message
- Engage in reading and writing attempts
- Identify labels and signs in their environment
- Take part in rhyming games
- Recognize letters and make letter-sound matches
- Use known letters or approximations of letters to write (especially meaningful words like their name and phrases such as "I love you")
What parents and family members can do:
- Share books with children, including Big Books, and model reading behaviors
- Talk about letters by name and sounds
- Create a literacy-rich environment
- Re-read favorite stories
- Engage children in language games
- Promote literacy-like play activities
- Encourage children to experiment with writing
Getting Ready for Kindergarten
- Talk with children, engage them in conversation, give names of things, show interest in what a child says
- Read and reread stories with predictable text to children
- Encourage children to recount experiences and describe ideas and events that are important to them
- Visit the library as much as possible
- Allow children to draw and print, using markers, crayons, and pencils
There are so many wonderful things for your child to look forward to in kindergarten. He gets to go to the "big" school, make new friends, and maybe even ride the school bus. To prepare him (and yourself) for the big move, it helps to know just how kindergarten differs from a preschool or daycare setting. Here's what to expect.
A Bigger Building with More Kids
Kindergartens are often housed in neighborhood elementary schools. There will be longer hallways and staircases and older children in the building. Classes will also be larger. "You could be going from a cozy preschool class of 12 children, with a teacher and an assistant, to a kindergarten class of 25 to 35 kids, with just one teacher," says Debra Weller. Debra Weller teaches kindergarten at Bathgate Elementary in Mission Viejo, California.
- Give pep talks. "Build kids up positively," suggests Weller. Say things like, "You're so lucky! It's your turn to go to the big school!" Explain some of the upcoming adventures, such as going to gym or carrying a lunchbox. Talk about the new people he or she will meet, like the school nurse, librarian, and recess monitors.
- Tour the school during the summer. Point out the bathrooms, the cubbies, the cafeteria, and the playground. Encourage your child to share her concerns and questions. "Reassure kids that they are always safe in the building, and that the teachers are there to help them," urges Roxanne LeRay, a kindergarten teacher at Waverly School in Eastchester, New York. Also be sure to attend any kindergarten orientations or bus safety workshops.
- Arrange summer playdates. If your child hasn't been in preschool or day care, it's important to give her group experiences during the summer. Day camps, community recreational activities, and library and museum programs provide great opportunities for socialization.
- Greater responsibility. Independence is important in kindergarten. Since there's less one-on-one attention, your child will be expected to be able to put on his jacket, fasten his shoes and backpack, open lunch and juice boxes, and go the bathroom by himself. The schedule is more structured than you'll find in preschool or day care, and expectations for behavior run high. "Listening and following through on directions are the most important rules in a kindergarten classroom," says LeRay. Your child must be able to sit still and focus on the teacher, raise her hand before talking, move quickly and quietly through the classroom and halls, and work with others.
- Foster independence. Practice zipping, buttoning, snapping, and getting jackets on and off. Give your child simple clothing that's easy to manage - like Velcro sneakers, elastic-waist pants, and mittens instead of gloves. Classes will make group visits to the hall bathrooms, so go over the steps of good hygiene and hand washing. "Dads might need to educate sons about the use of a urinal," adds Weller.
- Hone listening skills. Reinforce the importance of not interrupting. "If kids are taught that you must wait your turn to talk at the dinner table, that will transfer into the classroom," says LeRay. Also establish consistent routines and break tasks into steps, just like kindergarten teachers do. Give simple, two-part commands, such as, "Hang up your jacket and put your sneakers in the closet." If your child balks at cleaning up or getting ready for bed, remind him of the ritual by asking, "What do we need to do?" For example, before a bedtime story, your child must take a bath, put on PJs, and brush his teeth. "If kids understand that certain things must be done the same way all the time at home, they'll adjust more easily to kindergarten rules," LeRay explains.
- A Faster-Paced Curriculum Kindergarten students are now being expected to meet standards that were once reserved for 1st graders, says Weller. At the beginning of the year, your child should know how to write her name in upper and lower case letters, count from 1 to 10, and identify basic colors and shapes. There will be less free play than in preschool, though the focus will still be on fun. Teachers will use songs and games to deliver lessons about math, science, social studies, and language arts. Another big change: Homework. Your child will probably have about 20 minutes a night — usually a math or alphabet activity, journal writing, and listening to you read aloud.
What Should Be Learned In Kindergarten?
- Create a study spot. Establish a homework place - whether it's a desk or the dining room table — and store pencils, crayons, paper, scissors, and other supplies in one central location. This helps develop the organization skills needed to thrive in the kindergarten classroom. "We move through material pretty quickly after the first six weeks, and if children are disorganized, they won't be able to keep up," says Weller.
- Look for everyday learning opportunities. Instead of drilling your child on numbers and letters, let the lessons unfold naturally through fun things you do together. For example, cooking builds math and measurement skills. Sorting laundry or Legos teaches children to classify. Writing in the sand strengthens fine-motor skills and letter recognition. Most importantly, snuggle up and read to your child every day. Rhyming stories and silly poems are especially helpful because they bring kids' attention to the sounds in words, an essential pre-reading skill. "Your goal is to nurture an eager learner," says Weller. The kindergarten teachers will take it from there.
Article by: Lilian G. Katz, Director, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
Most American children attend kindergarten, and many participate in all-day kindergarten programs. While there have been efforts to extend the kindergarten day, research suggests that how kindergartners spend their time may be more important than the amount of time children spend in class. That is, longer days doing unsuitable activities have no educational advantages over the traditional half-day kindergarten program.
What Are Appropriate Teaching And Curriculum Approaches For Kindergartners?
Early childhood and kindergarten specialists have always highlighted the importance of play in young children's learning. In the course of day-to-day experience with young children, it is easy for teachers to see that unplanned play is a natural way of learning. Observations of children's play show that play provides a wide range and real depth of learning in all areas of development. These areas include: physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.
However, it is just as natural for young children to learn through spur-of-the-moment exploration (close observation, experimentation, and inquiry) as through play. Many observers have noted that young children are natural scientists and anthropologists. They give generous portions of their seemingly endless energy to learning all aspects of the culture they are born into: they learn its language, stories, music, and literature; they investigate with all their senses and emerging skills what people mean, when things are appropriate and when they are not, where things come from, what they are for, how they are made, and how adults and peers respond to them. They try to make sense of common objects by prying into them, taking them apart, and manipulating them in a many ways. Appropriate curriculum and teaching methods include activities and encouragement for kindergartners in these quests and feature the importance of individual children's feelings and emotions in group settings.
The Kindergarten Curriculum
The developmental characteristics of children of kindergarten age call for a curriculum with variety and a balance of activities. These may be provided in a project work framework (Katz and Chard, 1989). For example, kindergarten children can take on projects in which they research a real event or object. In the course of such projects, the children will strengthen literacy and number skills. They also improve speaking and listening skills and get new words as they share their findings with others.
A Good Curriculum provides activities that include:
A major challenge for schools concerned with the best use of children's time in kindergarten, is the provision of meaningful teaching and learning activities. The wide range of physical, social, and intellectual characteristics represented in a group of modern beginning kindergartners makes an informal, flexible approach to the kindergarten curriculum necessary.
- Integrated topic studies, rather than whole-group instruction in isolated skills;
- Opportunities for children to learn by observing and experimenting with real objects;
- A balance of child- and teacher-initiated activities;
- Opportunities for spontaneous play and teacher-facilitated activities;
- Group projects in which cooperation can occur naturally;
- A range of activities requiring the use of large and small muscles;
- Exposure to good literature and music of the children's own cultures and of other cultures represented in the class;
- Authentic assessment of each child's developmental progress;
- Opportunities for children with diverse backgrounds and developmental levels to participate in whole-group activities;
- Time for individuals or small groups of children to meet with the teacher for specific help in acquiring basic reading, writing, mathematical, and other skills as needed.
Getting Ready for Kindergarten, Greater Responsibility, A Faster-Paced Curriculum
Parlapiano, E.H. "What's Different About Kindergarten?"
Scholastic Parents. 1996-2009.