Advertisement

Kindergarten: Is Your Child Ready?

By Dina Santorelli


 


If Not, There’s Still Time to Prep for the Basics


The big day is nearing when parents across Long Island will send their little ones off to school for the start of kindergarten. Is your child ready?


 


We all know kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. There’s more to it than stacking blocks and playing house, but chances are, you’ve dutifully prepared your young one for this scholastic milestone. Perhaps your child already recognizes some common sight words and rhyming sounds or can cut with scissors and trace basic shapes. But, can he pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks? Can she separate from you without being upset? Do they share with others?


 


Academics, while essential, are just one aspect of the kindergarten experience. Classes are made up of children from a variety of backgrounds – some have attended preschool, others have been in a daycare setting since infancy and some children have been home with a parent, picking up simple life skills and exploring their surroundings on a daily basis. With these factors in mind, kindergarten teachers expect and prepare for a range of skill levels.


 




tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">“We understand that 5-year-olds come to us from all different places,” says Sharon Williams, who retired this past June as principal of the East Islip School District’s Early Childhood Center. “Some are still functioning at the 3- or 4-year-old level, while others are reading. We spend the first part of the school year teaching children how to be students in a developmentally appropriate way.”


tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 


tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Sharon Kaplan, who teaches first grade at Forest Park Elementary School in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District says, “Academically, we expect just an awareness of letters, numbers and an understanding that letters put together represent words.”


tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 


tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Teaching Personal Responsibility


tyle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">As more and more kindergarten programs expand from half-day to full-day sessions, teachers are able to cover more academic ground in a single day. “A full-day program increases a child’s ability to stay on task and allows teachers to cover a broader part of the curriculum,” Kaplan explains. “For example, children work with math manipulatives and have social studies or community – subjects teachers could never do in half-day [sessions].”




="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Full-day programs also offer more time for free play and interaction among students; therefore, one of the greatest assets would-be kindergartners can have, even at the tender age of 4 or 5, is a sense of personal responsibility. “Parents should encourage their children to be as independent as possible,” says Adrienne Gomels, a kindergarten teacher at Albany Avenue Elementary in the Farmingdale School District. This means children should be able to take care of their “things” – manage backpacks, zip clothing and perform simple tasks such as inserting straws into juice boxes and opening snack bags.


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Encouraging Peer Play


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Incoming kindergartners should also know how to get along with others by taking turns and understanding that when someone speaks to them they can show they are good listeners by looking directly at the speaker.


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">“Socialization is a big part of our philosophy here,” says kindergarten teacher Allison Coppi, of the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School in Port Jefferson. “Think how hard it is to continue on your educational career without knowing how to get along with others. So, we do a lot of communal things in class to encourage that, and parents should try to do the same – have play dates for children in their area or join a group at the park.”


="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> 




pt">With just one month to go before the big day, Long Island educators offer these additional get-ready-for-kindergarten tips:


pt"> 


pt">• While it’s important that children be wary of strangers, “children should know that school is a safe place,” stresses Gomels, “and they should get used to meeting new people.”


pt"> 


pt">• “Self-conceptual knowledge is important,” says Kaplan. “Aside from knowing their name, children should know where they live, their phone number, how old they are and when their birthday is.”


pt"> 


pt">• “Children must recognize authority,” Gomels explains. “Teach them to be respectful of teachers and to listen to direction without interrupting.”


pt"> 


pt">• Assign household chores to children and they can learn more than just personal responsibility, suggests Williams. “When you fold and sort laundry together, children learn things like classification, which is a great pre-readiness skill,” she says. “Helping with groceries, dishes, setting the table – these are just day-to-day common sense things that we don’t even think of as being teachable moments, but they are.”


pt"> 


pt">• “Begin establishing routines over the summer, such as going to bed at a preset time, so that children can adjust quickly to school schedules,” says Gomels.


pt"> 


pt">• “Have children know that it’s OK to make mistakes,” Coppi notes. “Try not to hound them too much for spelling things right, because then they’ll worry and go to school with a negative impression.”




br>

• Foster self-esteem, Gomels emphasizes. “Children should be proud of who they are and understand that even in a class of 20-plus children, where a teacher’s individual time may be limited with any particular student, he or she is still very special and important.”


br>

• “Probably the greatest thing parents can do, is to spend time every day reading to their children – turning pages and pointing out letters, reading road signs, and signs in supermarkets, everywhere,” says Williams. “Raise children’s awareness that the world is filled with words.”


 


Resources


 


Books


Suggested reading for you and your imminent kindergartner:


br>

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, Puffin, 2001. Presents an introduction to the alphabet in rhymed text.


br>

The Night Before Kindergarten, by Natasha Wing, Reading Railroad Books, 2001. Chronicles preparation for the big day.




 


When You Go to Kindergarten, by James Howe, William Morrow & Co., 1995. A real-life look (with color photographs) of what it’s like to go to kindergarten.


 


 


Dina Santorelli, a freelance writer and mother of three living in Massapequa Park, has a daughter entering kindergarten this September.


Advertisment