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Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences teachers and other faculty members share insights about childhood development and educational issues.

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Kindergarten Prep?

Insights From Ellen Landriau, Kindergarten Teacher

There is so much pressure on kids to succeed these days, and as silly as it sounds, it begins before they even start school. I have been teaching kindergarten for 29 years (teaching in general for 40 years), and while the subject matter I teach has not changed dramatically, the societal pressures around “getting ready” for and “being successful” in kindergarten have.

Amid all the added pressure, parents nonetheless express dismay that early childhood is not as fun as it should be. I have some good news for parents torn between laying a good foundation for academic success and making time for play. You can have it all. Actually, you should insist on it.

Young children learn through play, and learning can and should be a joyous endeavor. Nowhere is this more clear than in a thriving kindergarten classroom.

Before I offer a checklist of skills a child needs to be “ready” for kindergarten, I first want to share my personal checklist for getting my classroom ready for kindergarteners:

  • Visual queues for future readers - colorful letters and sight words with pictures posted around the classroom
  • Comfortable reading spaces - places for reading aloud as a group and for curling up alone with great books
  • Art - works by famous artists as well as student artwork, updated regularly
  • Personal space - each child needs an easily accessible place to store their personal belongings so they can learn to take responsibility for them
  • Great play spaces - kids need time and space to move, explore, and play, inside and outside the classroom

More important than any of the physical components of my classroom is the overall environment I strive to create. My classroom must be a safe, nurturing place where students know it is O.K. to take a risk, make mistakes, and be accepted. That is a year-long endeavor that requires each child’s active participation in our classroom community.

Following is a checklist of skills that help incoming kindergartners make the most of our time together:

  • Name - writes his/her first name
  • Alphabet - able to identify and match most upper and lower case letters
  • Numbers - knows numbers through 10
  • Motor Skills - can zip a coat, put caps back on markers, and use scissors
  • Group Dynamics - participates in group activities and takes direction from an adult (other than their parent)

So, what can parents do to help children do well in kindergarten? Here are five suggestions. The key to all of them is having fun together.

  1. Read to your child daily. Discuss the story and characters. Stop before the story ends, and come up with your own ending. Then compare your ending with the actual one.
  2. Focus on the alphabet one-letter-at-a-time. Go on an outing and find everything you can that begins with that letter. Talk about all the things you find. Draw your favorite thing you found with that letter and try writing the letter.
  3. Find math in everyday things, counting silverware as it gets put away, measuring ingredients as you make cookies, adding up the number of dishes on the table, counting and spending money or adding up money earned for helping out.
  4. Encourage your child to play in the mud, dance in the rain, play on a playground, paint, color and cut!
  5. Treasure together time. Limit screen time, and instead play games, explore your neighborhood, eat dinner as a family, and just talk.

The most effective kindergarten lessons are hands-on experiences that relate learning to the real world. That starts at home, and it can be as simple as noticing, talking about, and enjoying the little things together.

-- Ellen Landriau teaches kindergarten at Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences. You can view her professional bio here.

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