Kindergarten: What to Expect October - December
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Now and then, it happens by mid-September. But usually, it starts in October and stays through December or so: an exciting time when kindergarten kids start to find their bearings in “big kid” school. As leaves turn and mornings take on a chill, those kinetic former preschoolers start getting down to the business of letters, sounds, numbers, and group citizenship that is kindergarten curriculum.
By Thanksgiving or so, just about all students have typically figured out their daily routines. They know when and how class starts. They know which coats go on the blue hooks and which cubbies store lunches and which ones art supplies; and they usually even remember this from day to day. While friends may change from day to day—this is kindergarten!—they understand how to manage most of the time on the playground and in class group work. And all these daily habits feel solid and soothing enough that the whole room starts to gain a sense of unified focus.
If your child is in this phase, you’ll probably know it just by feel. Mornings will get easier, because there will be less anxiety about what to expect. After school, you’ll almost always hear happy stuff about the day. And in school, the teacher will see a child who quite calmly fits in and steadily moves ahead. Unless, of course, things aren’t going so well. It happens in just about every class, and often that’s just because kids this age grow and change at such different rates. Or maybe there’s been a change at home, such as a new baby. Sometimes, however, it’s also a sign that something’s up.
So how can you support your child at this "getting down to business" time of year? Here are some tips from teacher experts. As December rolls around, look for:
In today’s standards-based kindergarten classrooms, you can expect plenty of attention to early reading and writing. By late October, most kindergarteners will be past those first-month jitters, and teachers will be starting extensive practice in identifying letters and sounds. The class may chant and sing songs at rugtime; listen to rhyming stories and talk about them; and they will also start writing the letters that make each sound. They’ll start to learn very simple sight words like “is” or “as,”—words that Debra Redlo Wing, 30 year teacher and co-author of “Welcome to Kindergarten, a Month-by-Month Guide to Teaching and Learning,” calls “popcorn words, because they pop up everywhere!” Be aware: early literacy is an extremely complicated stage, calling on kids’ ability to see, hear, handle pens and pencils, put letters into sequence, and make sense of what comes out. This is the time, says Wing, when “we’re bringing the children along. Do we expect them to read predictable texts? Not yet!”
At this stage, your best bet is to stand by proudly and congratulate your child on every letter sounded out and every word written, no matter how zany the spelling. It’s a wonderful time for your child to be a mad scientist of language; there will be plenty of time later for coherence and neatness. If you do find, however, that your child consistently resists picking up pencils or markers; and especially if your child does not seem to be able to connect letters to sounds, even with lots of practice, pay attention. The fall months of kindergarten are a time to observe carefully, along with your teacher, and offer support. Many children, especially those young for kindergarten, may just need a little more time to develop, and will catch up just fine. But if your child is really struggling, now is the time to ask careful questions: what experiences seem most challenging? In what settings does your child thrive?
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