Tag Archives: school readiness

Kindergarten Readiness Begins at Home

kindergarten-readinessThis time of year, we begin to hear the buzz of parents, teachers, and others discussing kindergarten readiness. “Is my child ready academically?” “Is my child ready socially?” Teachers work hard all year to prepare little ones so that they are ready for kindergarten. Parents depend on information from their child’s preschool teacher to assure them that their child is ready for the next step in their educational journey. Parents also seek opinions from family members, friends and fellow dance and soccer parents. “Should I hold him back since he has a summer birthday?” “Should I send her even though she seems immature socially, yet ready academically?” What can you do to help educate the parents of children in your preschool program about kindergarten readiness?

As early childhood professionals, we know that children will be screened for readiness in five critical areas known as Learning Domains and that there are developmental standards that a child will need to meet in each domain before they can begin kindergarten. Teachers in preschool programs work with children on these during the day, but do parents in your program feel equipped and understand the importance of also working with children at home?

So much learning takes place when children are engaged in play. Encourage parents to find simple moments in each day to help children become “kindergarten ready.” You can share this list with parents of things they can do at home to promote school readiness.

Keeping the lines of communication open with parents is key to successful school readiness. Sharing the results of screenings and assessments helps the parent understand where the child is developmentally, and what areas need to be improved. Keeping parents informed of the a child’s progress helps them reinforce what they are learning. There are many resources that you can share with parents. Five to Thrive is our local campaign to promote kindergarten readiness and registration information. Share the “Readiness Check-up Quiz” where parents can assess their child at home to see if they are developmentally on track.

School Readiness: What Can You Do to Help?

What does it mean for a child to be ready for kindergarten?  Everyone, from families, schools, politicians and community members, has a different idea about what it means for a child to be ready for school. One thread I hope they all have in common is that idea that readiness to learn is based on relationships.   If you ask a kindergarten teacher what she needs packed into a child’s backpack on the first day of school, most will say a love for learning, self-regulation and curiosity. All of these things are taught through relationships.

Because all children learn at different rates, early childhood professionals must meet each child’s developmental needs at their pace. We have to get to know them, to understand what they need and how they need to learn. There are very few children who enter second grade without knowing their letters and sounds, but each child should be given the respect and support to learn them in their own time and in their own way.

It’s just as important for schools to be ready for the children that are entering them as it is for the child to be ready for their first day of school. Change is hard for adults, and it’s hard for children, too! There are a few simple things we can do to ease the transition and boost children’s confidence:

  • Because many early childhood classrooms have children going to multiple schools, it would be beneficial for children to know which of the friendly faces from their class they might see at their new school. Make a picture and name chart that lists all the children going to the same school. Children will see they won’t be alone!
  • Attend open houses at the new school either as a class.
  • Create a photo book of all the people that the children will encounter at their new school. This should include teachers, principals, office staff, custodial staff and the lunch crew. Once the photo book is created for each school the children will be attending, it can be kept in the book area year after year.
  • Read picture books about children going to kindergarten and leave plenty of time for questions.
  • Allow children to practice carrying items on trays during activities. The lunch room trays can be tricky to maneuver in the beginning of school.

Beginning kindergarten is a transition for everyone involved. Providing developmentally appropriate activities for children that build their confidence, their curiosity and their love for learning is the key to success… and you’re building on that relationship that will help them to be school-ready, too!

Everyday Things in New Ways

Imagine if you were a scientist and got to have breakfast with Galileo. That’s what I felt like this morning when my day started with breakfast with Ellen Galinsky in a discussion about how children learn. Well, I should tell you that Ellen is not sitting at my breakfast table at home, but is the keynote speaker at a national conference. Brrrrr, it’s cold in Minneapolis!

Ellen’s work, Mind in The Making, shares seven essential life skills for children. Her talk this morning was motivating and illustrated to the group that all adults play a key role in helping children pick up seven critical life skills. It got me thinking about school readiness, a conversation that gets a lot of airtime in early childhood circles. Aren’t skills for school really one and the same as skills for life?

Let’s try to break down this school readiness thing, and instead of being intimidated by testing, assessment, and standards, let’s focus on what matters- the children. In my estimation, we teachers must do the best that we possibly can to provide children with real experiences that are linked to the skills they will need in kindergarten and beyond. Kindergarten readiness skills are the same skills that will help children succeed all throughout their lives.

So, where should we start? How can you find out what children need to know and be able to do to have success in school AND life?

1. Talk to kindergarten teachers or elementary school principals near your program. This will get you what you are looking for, and is a great way to develop a relationship.

2. Watch the children. Watch each child for a long time. Knowing what children are able to accomplish with and without help will guide you to planning activities for them. Can Louis sort red teddy bears into a pile and green teddy bears into another pile? Can Jasmine hold a book upright, turn the pages individually, and imitate the telling of a story using the book?

3. Love and care for each child while they are trying new things. Ask questions to the child. “What will happen if you add one more block to your tower?”

4. Use tools like your state’s early childhood standards and research-based curriculum to break down the knowledge and skills into smaller “chunks.” Look for sections that correlate to some of the skills you have observed in your children. This will get you started with a lesson plan that meets the developmental level of all children.

5. Watch the children again. Make notes on index cards (easy to carry in your pocket) for every child. Refer to these when you make your next plan. The process of observing, making a decision about what each child needs to work on, and preparing the plan is a cycle.

6. Repeat. Repeat again.

Now that my breakfast with Ellen is over, I look to her for a pearl of wisdom in closing: “These essential skills don’t call for expensive programs, fancy materials, or elaborate equipment. They simply call for doing the everyday things you do with children in new ways.”