As April showers bring May flowers around the country, a lot of kindergarten classrooms are blooming too. Those little kids who trembled at the threshold? Most of them now saunter into the classroom each morning, only too happy to offer guided tours. And once you’re gone, the children are better than ever at settling into the work and play of their day.
While teachers celebrate these gains, they’re also still working hard. As June approaches, they have their eye on a list that can seem pretty daunting: End of Year Standards. Teachers will, of course, consider every child case by case, but with No Child Left Behind and a general climate of “accountability,” you’ll probably want to pay close attention to what’s coming up. Individual state standards vary, so plan to consult the website for your state’s department of education, as well as your district curriculum, for exact specifics. Across the nation, however, here are common June goals:
Using grade-level materials, your child can:
- Handle a book, using “concepts of print” such as going through from left to right, front to back.
- Hold a pencil properly and use scissors to cut along a simple line
- Write his own name
- Say and write all or most of the letters of the alphabet (some letters may be scraggly), and most of their sounds
- Name and label objects
- Recognize at least 10-15 common “sight” words, such as “is” or “the”
- Draw a picture and write simple “sound-spelled” words that tell about it
- Using grade-level materials, your child can:
- Tell you how numbers represent “how many”
- Count from 1-20 on a number line by ones and by 2s
- Sort out sets of objects, separate and categorize them.
- Compare more, less, and same
- Add simple numbers between 1-10, showing, for example, how 2+2 equals 4 things
- Recognize and create patterns, such as AABBCCAABBCC
- Explain the concept of one-half
- Know about sequence: yesterday, today, tomorrow, and time to the nearest hour
Science and Social Studies
- These topics have been introduced through literacy and math activities all year. Specific topics vary widely by school and state, but baseline skills are:
- Observe, describe, sort, compare and classify objects in simple sets
- Make simple predictions and evaluate what really happens
- Tell whether something is living or nonliving
- Identifying helpers in the community, such as firefighters
- Use a simple map, such as for a child’s neighborhood
- Identify different holidays
- Understand the reason for school and community rules
Your child has been able to maintain the skills that solidified in the “sweet spot”:
- Handle home-school transitions without serious anxiety
- Maintain on-task focus on developmentally appropriate challenges, such as readalouds and activity centers, for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Behave in ways that are friendly and safe in the classroom and playground
- Follow the teacher’s classroom rules and directions consistently
If your child can already do all of this consistently by April, that’s great! But it’s also pretty rare. Just about all kindergarten children can benefit from a few more solid months of classroom work and play, with practice in every area of the curriculum.
It’s also important to remember that children are rarely equally good in all areas. If your child was already racing along the number line in February, celebrate! But don’t despair if that same kid still stumbles over correct alphabet letter formation. Plan to support your child, and the teacher, as everyone works together for success.
What can you do to help at this exciting time in the year? First of all, keep up whatever supportive work you’ve done all year. Summer vacation will be here soon; now is still a time to stay closely involved. At home, here are tips from longtime pros:
- Keep Reading, Reading, Reading, but keep your expectations realistic, too. When you visit the library regularly, read aloud and make it cozy, and talk over the stories with your children. You’re building invaluable positive lifetime attitudes that will prove to be much more helpful than a short term reading score. When it comes to having your child start reading to you, however, beware pushing too hard. Your teacher can tell you exactly what level your child has reached. You can try reading the school’s “predictable” texts together, or invite your child to point out familiar words that appear in a picture book you’re reading together. In the words of Peggy Koshland-Crane, M.A., reading specialist at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, “What is most important is to help children fall in love with reading.”
- Use everyday opportunities to practice writing. Just as in the “sweet spot” of January or February, try to avoid rote drill. Instead, include your child in practical, fun writing activities, like writing to cousins or making a story book for an ill friend.
- Find math all around. The big goal of this early stage of math is "automaticity": teachers want counting, and the concept that those numbers represent things, to be second nature. So it’s virtually impossible to overdo math practice. Anything can be counted, and any bunch of objects can be broken down and then added up again, so you can practice math anywhere!
What if things aren’t going so well?
It’s rare to see problems begin out of the blue in the spring. Hopefully, you and your teacher have been in close touch all year, and there are no big surprises now. What makes April different, however, is that by this point, you and your teacher should have had time to try various interventions and see how they worked. If your child is showing limited or no progress, ask your teacher what other staff in the school may join the team. The school psychologist can observe your child’s learning and social styles; an occupational therapist can take a professional look at your child’s motor skills. Reading and math specialists can offer specific strategies, and sometimes one to one instruction.
Depending on the situation, you may want to request some formal steps. In most schools, the first one will be a “student study team”—names may vary, but the idea is that relevant school specialists will quietly observe your child, and then meet with you as a group to talk about what’s up. As a result of this teamwork, you may also decide to ask for a formal special education assessment; based on the results, your child may qualify for an individualized education plan (IEP).
Whatever path you choose, it’s crucial to sit down with your teacher and any other staff working with your child, and make plans for your child together. You may feel impatient, say experts, but don’t give up. And, says Sheldon Horowitz, Director of Professional Services a the National Center for Learning Disabilities, "Don't wait! Parents can be powerful and effective advocates for their children. Work within the school system to get the best people to provide the most targeted instruction possible - and together with teachers and others, set very specific goals with very specific outcomes that are measured at very specific intervals."
Worried that the process is taking too long? "Know your rights," says Horowitz, and "make sure that you document your conversations and requests in writing." This does not, of course, need to mean there's a pitched battle. "You can trigger a comprehensive evaluation by signing a request" at any point, says Horowitz, "but a productive relationship with the school is an invaluable first step to helping your child succeed."
So what does all this mean for you and your child?
As May flowers burst open and June skies dawn blue, remember, above all, to celebrate. This has been a momentous year for your child, a concentrated time of learning not just about reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, but about what a whole school world feels like. Remember, advises 30 year teacher and author Debra Redlo Wing, of Guilderland Central School District in upstate New York, “Every child is developing in his own way. Your child may be at standard in one area but not another…you have to see this as a balanced approach.” Almost without exception, kids will be ready for first grade come next September with your encouragement and teamwork with the school, even if you will decide to plan on some extra supports in the coming year. Says teacher Constance Leuenberger, from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, “Kids grow so much in kindergarten. It’s just amazing.”