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What to Expect in Kindergarten (page 2)

What to Expect in Kindergarten

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Updated on Sep 18, 2008

What to Expect in Math: Many preschoolers have already learned to chant the numbers from 1-10 and often much higher. But in kindergarten math teachers work on key early concepts of mathematical reasoning. In the very beginning of the year, expect to see lots of objects for counting; this is because teachers want to make sure that students deeply understand that numbers aren't just singsongs, but symbols that represent real things whether it's cubes or blocks or shoes. They'll also work with pattern blocks and shapes, learning to create and recognize repetitive patterns that they'll translate into abstract skills in upper grades. As kindergarteners work with these patterns, they'll also compare sizes, discovering concepts like more, less, and same. When they have fully grasped early counting, they may also go on to break up numbers: odd and even, counting by twos; and doing early addition, especially with hands-on discovery activities.

What to Expect in Science: Kindergarten science is frequently embedded in math and literacy work. A common core science skill in kindergarten, for example, is sorting objects and categorizing them by a variety of criteria, such as "dead" and "alive," or "plant" and "animal." Don't expect those skills to be taught with lab coats and beakers. Instead, teachers will often use books, or hands-on activities, or create mathematical representations such as bar graphs. You can help your child learn to fall in love with science, by introducing fun, hands-on activities at home.

What to Expect in Social Studies: Virtually every kindergarten curriculum includes work on understanding that kids live in a town or community beyond the boundaries of their home. It also covers key American holidays, and examines rules that everyone must follow so that home, school, and community are all safe places.

With so many preschools offering challenging material, some kids may enter kindergarten already reading, or perhaps messing around with math problems that could belong in higher grades. This does not mean that the "simple" topics of kindergarten are a waste of time; what's important is that your child have a deep, automatic understanding of key concepts. And no matter what the topic, teachers expect to adjust lessons to the many learning styles in the room.

A fundamental goal of every kindergarten classroom is to help kids understand not just the "what" of school curriculum, but the "how." Just as important as mastering phonics will be learning to sit still for story time; handle playground time; make new friends; follow the teacher's directions, and manage school routines. Just as with reading or math, teachers will not expect little adults. But they will ask children to work in groups, do structured, age-appropriate activities, and listen to adults in charge. Watch a neat line of kindergarteners following a teacher to lunch or the library and it all looks easy. But step inside a classroom, especially in September, and it can look like rocket science. If your child still struggles heavily with these behaviors in June, you can expect the school to be quite concerned. But at the beginning of the year, it's not a worry.

What does this mean for your child? Especially in the beginning of the year, you can expect frustrations from time to time, but overall your child should enjoy kindergarten, and should find its challenges manageable. Talk about school with your kinder. Fill your home with letters, numbers, and books. And if you have concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to your teacher. Kindergarten is a frontier year, and with support from loving adults, just about every child can settle in just fine.

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