Kindergarten: What to Expect January to March (page 2)

Kindergarten: What to Expect January to March

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Updated on Jan 24, 2011


Just as with literacy, children in the “sweet spot” are deepening the Fall’s conceptual lessons, and the results can be breathtaking. Here are the highlights:

  • In counting, kids won't just learn to go up and down the number line, but by 2s, and sometimes even by 5s and 10s, and they’ll start heading towards 100, too.
  • Time terms like yesterday, today, tomorrow, next month
  • Simple money terms and meaning: pennies, nickels, dimes
  • Early addition: using manipulatives to “take apart”  and rebuild a number like ten.

If kids are zooming through all this, your best bet is just to go along with the ride. But now and then, kids do stumble on math. Often, these are the same kids who are struggling with literacy; both disciplines call on kids to start making abstract symbols for concrete realities, and both of them require a complex blend of visual, perceptual, auditory, physical, and emotional skills. “I get worried,” says Colorado teacher and author Connie Leuenberger, “if, by March, a child can’t count backwards from ten; can’t show me twenty things for the number 20; seems constantly inattentive and off task.” In severe cases, a teacher may call for a “student study team” of school professionals to see what’s up.

But no matter what level your child has reached, this is still a great time for parents to help at home. Try this:

  • Although it may be tempting to drill with flashcards, hold back!  At this crucial phase in their development, kids need to understand the relationship between abstract symbols and concrete objects. Instead, counsels veteran kindergarten teacher Cindy Middendorf, remember that “academics can be taught in a non-academic way.”
  • Going to the store? Count your pennies, nickels, and dimes!  Put a pile of ten or twenty pennies on a table, and practice dividing them and rebuilding them with your child, and then write the numbers you have made.
  • Practice often; Leuenberger suggests, “Count with them every night. Give it ten minutes a day. Just do it every day.”

Social-Emotional Milestones

By March, most kindergarteners have made the big leap: they understand that they can follow routines and be part of a classroom community, explains New York-based teacher and author Kathleen Hayes. “Teachers may build increasingly sophisticated routines,” she says, like the use of sign-in books once all kids can write their names.

Sometimes, of course, children still stumble. Now is a crucial time to gather data.  In what settings does your child thrive, and in which ones does she struggle? Does she prefer fine motor to gross motor activities, or vice versa? These issues can represent tricky calls for you and your teacher: sometimes, they’ll benefit from specialist intervention, but often they are just a matter of development. Now and then, of course, they may prove to be more serious and will benefit from specialist intervention. “Recognizing that development happens in spurts may provide the wiggle room that some kids need,” she says. “If you feel like a failure in kindergarten, it’s not good.”

Want to help? Just as you did in November and December, be sure to stay in close touch with your teacher, and support the rules of the classroom. Kids consistently do better with stable routines and expectations, and the more you can do to make their schedules at home calm and predictable, the better. Remember, too, that by this time of the year there’s a sweet spot for parents: it’s a good time to get to know at least a few other folks in the class. Often, kindergarten friendships aren’t just a kid thing…they’re incredibly rewarding between parents as well, and a helpful source of perspective when things seem awry.

Sound big? It is. But concerned as you may feel, remember, you’re not alone. Kindergarten teachers went into this business because they care about kids, and they want the best for you and your family.

Here's a checklist to keep in mind. By March, you're child should be able to:

  • Start the school day smoothly: say goodbye to parents, hello to teacher; put coat and lunch away, join class startup activities.
  • Sit and listen during rug time without touching others or talking out of turn for up to 20 minutes, provided the activity is at an appropriate level.
  • Stay on task during classroom activities, which are getting more demanding.
  • Behave in ways that are friendly and safe on the playground.
  • Recognize most of the letters of the alphabet with their sounds.
  • Identify 5-10 simple sight words, such as “is”.
  • Write his or her own name easily.
  • Read a very simple, short book with pictures and predictable text.
  • Draw a picture and write simple “sound-spelled” words that tell about it.
  • Make a more complicated pattern, such as AABBCAABBC, and explain it.
  • Count forwards and backwards from 1-20.
  • Count by 2’s.
  • Add simple numbers between 1-10, showing you how 2+2=4 things.
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