What You Need to Know About Your Child's Start at Kindergarten (page 2)
Welcome to one of your child’s biggest adventures ever: starting school.
Prekindergarten and kindergarten provide a safe, happy place for your child to grow, learn and discover. It’s a place where your child can feel confident and secure while he or she constantly explores. Your child will probably have many questions about school. So will you.
What Will My Child Learn?
These are the years when your child learns the foundational skills he or she will need to succeed. When you meet with your child’s kindergarten teacher, he or she may talk about the seven “Domains of Learning.” What the teacher means is the areas, or “domains,” in which your child learns. Each of these seven areas has its own important skills. The teacher will pay attention to how your child performs in class in each of these areas. Every child is different. Not all children learn things at the same ages. The kindergarten teacher will evaluate your child in the first few weeks of school, and talk with you in your scheduled parent/teacher conference about your child’s skills and abilities in the Domains of Learning. Here are some things to think about now as you prepare your child for school:
The Seven Domains are:
- Social and Emotional Development: Does your child get along with others? Follow rules? Start an activity, work on it, and finish it?
- Physical Development: Does your child run, jump, climb, play ball? Button a shirt? Zip a jacket? Use scissors? Trace? Draw? Use good health and safety skills?
- Language and Literacy: Does your child alk and listen to adults and to other children? Speak clearly? Understand stories? Love books? Know some letters and numbers?
- Mathematical Thinking: Does your child sort things by color and shape? Can he or she count?
- Scientific Thinking: Does your child explore? Look, listen, touch, smell and taste to get information? Talk about how things are alike or different?
- Social Studies: Does your child talk about himself or herself, the family and the community? Talk about how people are similar and different?
- The Arts: Does your child dance? Draw? Paint? Sing? Make music? Play make-believe?
Your child's teacher will talk with you about your child's strengths and weaknesses, and work with you to support your child's learning in each of these areas.
Four-year-olds tend to be busy and active. They like to test limits on their behavior. Children at this age need help in understanding the difference between right and wrong, and in cooperating and making friends with others. Some things your child should know and be able do before coming to prekindergarten include:
- Choosing and following routines, such as hearing a story before bedtime
- Beginning to recognize his or her first name in print
- Knowing how to ask an adult for help
- Recognizing a favorite book by its cover
- Being curious about letters, words, numbers, and counting
- Repeating parts of rhymes or some words from songs
- Following basic two- or three-step directions, such as, “Please get your coat, put it on, and stand by the door.”
- Listening to a story when read aloud
- Handling books carefully
- Knowing and following basic rules, such as putting away toys
Five-year-olds tend to be calmer and more independent than four year-olds. But they still need guidance and routines. They may recognize a few letters and words, and pretend to read and write. They love to listen to stories, especially those with a lot of action and repetition. Skills your child will need in order to do well in kindergarten include:
- Getting along with and respecting others, making friends, and having confidence
- Being physically strong and coordinated
- Communicating with adults and other children
- Noticing the connection between written letters and the sounds they make (for example, how the letter “m” makes the “mmmm” sound)
- Showing an interest in stories and reading
- Seeing the connection between a number and the quantity it represents
- Recognizing color patterns and types of shapes (such as a square)
- Being able to place items in a certain order (such as largest to smallest)
- Being aware of the roles of people in his or her family and community, as well as animal and plant life
- Feeling comfortable expressing himself or herself through painting, drawing, clay, etc.
What Will School Be Like?
Your child’s classroom may look a lot different than the kindergarten that you remember. Instead of desks in a row, there may be special learning centers around the room for activities in art, reading, math and other areas. Activities often differ from teacher to teacher and school to school, but they are always built around the Domains of Learning, with prekindergarten focusing more on language and literacy. Every day, your child will develop his or her own skills while making friends and interacting with others. Your child’s teacher is a trained professional who knows how young children learn, and who also understands that no two children are alike. Think of the teacher as your partner in helping your child to learn. In school the teacher will build on what you are teaching your child at home, and at home you will build on what your child learns at school. Start the habit of staying in touch with the teacher about your child’s progress and challenges. Communication between you and your child’s teacher will be perhaps the most important part of your child’s education!
What Does “No Child Left Behind” Mean for My Child?
The No Child Left Behind Act is a federal law, passed in 2001, designed to improve student achievement. No Child Left Behind requires public schools to make sure that all students reach certain levels of learning at each grade level. No Child Left Behind also has requirements for what students must know before they graduate. To make certain that students meet these federal requirements, schools give statewide tests at selected grade levels in reading/language and math. It is important that your child get a strong start in school right from the beginning, so that he or she can meet these requirements. If your child’s school does not meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind or make adequately yearly progress, your child may be eligible to enroll in another school or could receive free tutoring. Charter schools, magnet schools, and transfers are some of the ways to choose a public school for your child. For more information on school choice, visit: www.ed.gov/parents/schools/choice.