Kindergarten: What to Expect January to March
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It’s after winter break, and your child is turning over a new leaf: those wide eyed kids who spent the Fall adjusting to big kid school are launching into a new phase of learning.
Back in September, kindergarteners worked on “readiness” skills like “concepts of print,” (the way books and writing work), as well as letters, sounds, rhymes, and some early sight words. In math, students spent the fall on fundamental concepts like the meaning of numbers, their sequence, and what’s bigger, smaller, or equal. Some kids breezed through, but for some, it wasn’t always easy. Some kids may have taken as long as two months—until Halloween—just to feel comfortable in the setting.
But now, in the latter half of the kindergarten year, all those “readiness skills” are starting to pay off. Virtually all children have settled into their daily routines, and they are proud to march into class, manage cubbies, and sit for rug-time. They can see their progress with letters and numbers, and they’re ready to go deeper. In fact, the weeks from January to March are often so settled and productive that teachers call this the “sweet spot” of the year. Classes are starting to work as communities, and everyone benefits.
So what should you expect, and how can you help? Look for deeper, broader versions of the work begun in fall:
In the “sweet spot,” you should expect your child to continue making steady progress. The teacher will watch carefully to see where your child is, and work from there. As a general rule, look for continued constant practice with:
- Letter recognition and sounds…now including a few combinations, such as “th” and “sh,” and looking at the way vowels can have more than one sound.
- Simple sight words such as “is” or “the,”
- Early “sound-spelling” with colorful leveled readers.
- Longer read-alouds, especially as kids and teachers talk over what the story is about.
Each day, reading practice is also interwoven with writing. Many classrooms, for example, include daily “journal” work, in which a child draws a picture and then writes about it. The fearless spelling in kids’ early literary efforts may seem cryptic to you, but have no fear: this is still a major step forward and you don’t want to get in the way.
Problems? Usually, these started popping up in the Fall, but even if not, make sure you’re in touch with your teacher. “Generally, I’ve been in touch with parents all along,” says Bonnie Brown Walmsley, kindergarten teacher and author of Kindergarten: Ready or Not!. Since every child is different, she counsels, teamwork is crucial. “Get the information. Get the dialogue going.” Teachers will try to explore a wide variety of strategies for engaging your child. In her classroom, for example, longtime teacher and writer Deborah Redlo Wing keeps track of behaviors by their frequency, duration, and intensity. She also encourages parents not to be shy. “If parents have a gut feeling, ask the teacher to take it seriously—it’s kind of a kid by kid thing.”
Want to help at home? The experts agree: keep reading, reading, reading! Some tips:
- Plan weekly visits to the library, and savor that kids’ book section.
- When you read aloud, reinforce what you’re doing by moving your finger across the text, and when you hit sight words that your child has learned in school, invite him to read them.
- To build comprehension, also try “picture walks” in which you leaf through the story before reading it, and ask your child to predict what’s coming.
- If your child brings home little books of “predictable” texts, do invite her to read these to you, and celebrate! This is a major milestone. Finally, don’t forget that family life is full of chances to practice writing. Does your child have a favorite food? Have him write it on your grocery list! Is it Grandma’s birthday? Make sure your child adds to the good wishes on the card. Any pavement near your house? Get some sidewalk chalk and have your kid make those letters as big as her arms. All of it will make your child a stronger writer.
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