Kindergarten Lingo: 10 Important Terms Every Parent Should Know
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Did you ever have those “first day of school” dreams when you were a kid? The ones that were full of anxiety-producing scenarios and forgotten clothes? Well, now that you’re all grown up, and it’s your child who’s headed off to school for the first time, the dream has probably changed. And it goes something like this:
The teacher greets you and begins to rattle off questions. “Have you been working on you HFW’s? Don’t forget your assessment appointments so that we can make sure she’s hitting the benchmarks and standards. Does your child have an IEP, an SST, or even just a PB&J for lunch? How’s her phonemic awareness? Her comprehension skills? What’s your position on NCLB, the Constructivist approach, and experiential education?
Luckily, it’s all just a dream. Kindergarten really isn’t scary or complicated. But every world has its lingo, and kindergarten is no different. As you and your child progress through the year, there's sure to be some jargon that pops up here and there that you’ve never heard before. Here's the scoop on some common kindergarten lingo, so you'll know what the teacher's talking about, when she throws some terms your way:
- Modeling: The process of teaching by demonstrating. For example, teaching a child how to read from left to right, by sitting with them as you read a book aloud, and moving your finger across the page as you say each word. Your child’s teacher will model all day, and expect you to do the same.
- Assessment: Activities to help the teacher gauge the progress of each child. Teachers will do all kinds of assessments throughout the year. In the first few weeks of school, they'll use assessments to figure out where each child stands in terms of reading, writing, and math. Then, as the year moves on, they'll continue assessments in order to compare, evaluate progress, and plan the next steps they should take in the teaching process.
- Standards and Benchmarks: A basis of comparison for the progress of each student. They help teachers plan their curriculum, set goals, and evaluate themselves and their students. As kids get older, standards are also the underpinnings for many statewide achievement tests. Standards and benchmarks may be set by the state or the school district. For example, in Illinois, one of the writing standards for kindergarten is that students "use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and structure"-- a hefty goal. But things get more specific with the benchmarks teachers should use at this stage to make sure their kids are on track, which include things such as students being able to "write upper and lowercase letters", "write words based on how they sound, using initial consonants and some ending sounds" and "begin to write simple sentences".
- Phonemic Awareness: The awareness is a set of skills that helps students recognize the individual sounds that make up words. For example, they're able to seperate the sounds in the word cat into three distinct parts: the hard /k/ sound at the beginning, the /a/ sound in the middle, and the /t/ at the end. Besides being able to recognize the individual sounds in words, phonemic awareness also includes skills like being able the blend sounds, such as /k/, /a/, /t/ into the word cat, and being able to hear the common sound in several words, for example, which sound is the same in the words hen, hat, and hill (/h/).
- Comprehension: The word comprehension turns up a lot when teachers are talking about reading. In a nutshell, it means how well a child understands what she’s read. Comprehension is often measured by how well a child can recall what she’s read, and her ability to make inferences and predictions about a story.
- High-Frequency Words: Some teachers call them “kindergarten words,” some call them “sight words,” and still others will have their own way of describing this infamous set of words. They are the most commonly used words in the English language, and many kindergarten curriculums include learning them by sight, rather than by sounding or “stretching” them out. Many of these sight words, such as "the", do not follow "sounding out" rules, which is another reason students are encouraged to memorize them.
- Concepts About Print: Sometimes referred to as “CAP,” this set of skills includes knowing the difference between a word and a letter, knowing to start reading at the left and continue towards the right, being able to locate the title, author and illustrator of a book, and being able to point to each word as it is being read. Depending on the school, concepts about print may vary.
- Reading Fluency: How quickly, accurately, automatically and expressively someone reads. There are many kinds of assessments that are carried out in kindergarten to test reading fluency.
- Manipulatives: Tools that can be handled and played with that facilitate the learning process. For example, in kindergarten manipulatives are used frequently to teach math. Instead of just counting aloud, students might be given a set of beads or pennies, and given the opportunity to play with these manipulatives as they work their numbers.
- Centers and Stations: Locations for rotating group work. While one group may be reading with the teacher, other groups may be working independently in the math area, or with a classroom helper. The time of the day where this group work occurs is sometimes called “Center Time” or “Stations,” but may have a different name altogether.
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