Assess Your Child Using Kindergarten Readiness Standards
Kindergarten readiness standards are tools for parents to understand what their five year olds should have knowledge of before entering Kindergarten. While these standards do vary from state to state, the general expectations are similar and can help parents prepare their students for school, especially if they are not already attending a voluntary pre-Kindergarten classroom, whose goals and objectives are to meet their states Kindergarten readiness rates.
The list might seem daunting or long for parents, but the information is more simplistic than may first appear. Mastering these skills before Kindergarten isn’t a requirement, but the general knowledge of numbers, the alphabet and social skills are important.
As an educator of preschoolers, it is my objective in a classroom to ensure that students can meet as many of the Kindergarten readiness standards as possible before leaving my classroom. The more they understand, know, and can show us they know how to use the information, the better they will perform academically.
It is important to note before I go into further detail about what your child should start to understand is that all children are different. They learn at different speeds and they might only have a few items on the list that they have totally mastered. Keep in mind that these are items that they should be working on prior to Kindergarten and the more they are exposed to it, the easier it will be for them when their brains are ready and they have their “light bulb moment”.
Socially it is important for students to be able to follow multiple step directions, typically three or four. In a regular classroom environment, they will be expected to follow multi-step directions on a day-to-day basis. Picture charts at home are a great way to address this task. They can have picture charts for items before they go to bed, for cleaning off a table, or for helping take care of a family pet. These charts will help them be confident and master multi-step directions.
Students should be able to sit for 15-20 minutes at a time, increasing their attention span as they get older. Television isn’t a great way to test this skill, but working with children on projects or tasks around the house is definitely a great gauge of their attention span.
Children should be able to interact with their peers and work toward getting along with them. Naturally all children have problems with some of their friends, but they will need to learn how to address situations on their own and how to make sure they can communicate when they don’t care for something that is being done to them, and vice versa. They should be able to connect to a person that they have hurt and apologize. In my classroom, students learn that they should treat someone else the way they want to be treated. This generally works when it comes to behaviors that others don’t care for.
Gross Motor Skills
It is important to see if your child has fine or gross motor skills that will enable them to be prepared for Kindergarten. Some things to check for: Can they cut with scissors well or do they complain that their hands hurt? Can they write their names, holding a marker correctly? Can they button or zip their own clothing?
Some children have smaller hands and small tasks are more challenging for them. Luckily, you can work with them with Play Doh, clay, and practice, to help them develop stronger muscles in their fingers and hands so that they can quickly work toward these tasks. Can your child throw and catch a ball, or run and kick without tripping? These are more gross motor skills that will be used in physical education and recess.
Academically, Kindergarteners can be expected to learn a lot of information. The more your child is exposed to numbers and letters, the better able they will be to perform and start to read in Kindergarten. Students should be able to recognize the letters in their first name, as well as their written name. A goal in my classroom is for students to recognize 75% of the alphabet before leaving at the end of VPK. They should be able to state the letter sounds for 50% of the letters. Again, don’t freak out if your children don’t match these percentages, but do work with them at home and encourage their learning before they start school next year.
There are great learning tools for children that are fun and easy to manipulate at home. Best of all, they don’t cost a ton of money. You can use rice, Play Doh, sand, almost anything that gets messy to encourage kids to shape letters, spell out their name, and “feel” the shapes of the letters. Leapfrog has excellent resources for home use to keep kids hearing the letter sounds, from videos, to reading systems, these products keep kids listening to how the letters sound and they start to repeat it. There are songs out there (check out www.drjean.org) for movement and letter sound activities, to get kids even more hyped about learning their alphabet. Some kids before kindergarten are ready to read. These Kindergarten readiness standards are designed to segue students into more advanced reading and math concepts.
For numbers, students should be able to rote count up to 30. They can easily to do this because counting is a sequence. If you address a calendar with your child, they will see these numbers on a daily basis and just count with them. Counting does not mean they understand what numbers actually mean, and neither does number recognition. They might be able to recognize what the number eight is, but they should also be able to share with you how much the number eight represents. When this is mastered, they have a better understanding of numbers and one-to-one correspondence, when you have a set amount of objects in front of you, say five, and a student can look at the items and tell you without counting them that there are five items.
Beyond the Basics
These are the basics of what a students should have prior knowledge as they prepare for Kindergarten. Additional items include reciting songs or nursery rhymes, being able to recognize all of their shapes and colors, knowing what the author and illustrator of a story do, what the parts of a book are, how to create patterns or matching sets, and understanding left and right.
Entering Kindergarten should really be a positive experience for you and your child. School is a great learning opportunity and a fun environment for kids to expand upon their learning and social skills. There are multiple resources available through libraries, websites, and the school your child will be entering.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s entrance into Kindergarten, it would be a great idea to contact the school and find out more information about what the classrooms are like. You might even be able to take a tour or the school might offer a program for entering kindergarteners to visit and see what their school is like. I hope these guidelines have given you a better idea of how to prepare your child for learning in Kindergarten.