By now most Kindergarten conferences are either over or will be by the end of this week. We’ve talked a lot about adjustment and social concerns but I realized I haven’t really gotten into academic concerns. Years ago, academics in Kindergarten meant letter and color recognition, number counting, and maybe reading at a Level A by the end of the year. Boy, has that ever changed! Now Kindergarteners are expected to be reading at a C or D level (more on leveled reading in later posts), doing basic addition and subtraction, writing in sentences, etc, etc.,etc. (Don’t panic! It’s only December. Most academic growth occurs from Feb. – May.) That’s why K teachers get so annoyed when someone says,”Oh, it’s only Kindergarten. What can they possibly learn?” A lot…that’s what!
So what can you do to foster learning at home? First of all, read, read, read to your child. Even if you can only set aside 5 – 10 minutes a night, that’s great. Reading readiness is the main focus of Kindergarten right now and nothing says it’s important (and fun) to a five year old than spending time with a parent who values reading. Letter and sound recognition are important prereading skills that you can easily help with in fun ways. Some are:
* When riding in the car with your son/daughter, point out the first letter of store signs (ex. K….Kohls, S….Stop and Shop, etc.) . Ask your child the letter sound and then take turns listing other words that begin with that sound.
* When reading with your child, ask him/her to find and point out a specific letter (“all the s’s, m’s, f’s, etc.). This can progress to all the letters that make a specific sound, and then to high frequency words if your child knows them. Another way to do this is to ask the same questions but in a book or magazine you are reading. Nothing makes a child feel more important than to be able to “read” grown up material! 🙂 (As a quick note…I did this with one of my sons at 5 years old years ago when we were out for a snack after school using the NY Times. A couple of people in the diner thought he was reading it. Lol. He was finding the word “the”. )
* Rhyming is another prereading skill. Again, when you are driving or out for a walk, make up lists of rhyming words together (ex. cat, bat, sat…..boy, ploy, soy, etc.) In academic terms these are “word families”……another thing your child will learn this year.
* When you are making a list to go food shopping, ask your child to “write” something down for you so you don’t forget it. Even if it’s not perfect, you are validating prewriting skills. Help him/her to “stretch out” the first sound….for example, mmmmmmmilk. (Quick note here…..writers become writers by writing so don’t be too quick to insist on perfect spelling right now. That will come later on in the year. Just get your child to write something even if it’s “f” for milk. That’s ok.)
* Help your child to sign holiday cards or pictures he/she draws for relatives, etc. (Grandparents are great recipients!) Try to make sure he/she starts with an upper case letter and then uses lower case letters for the rest of his/her name. You can dot the letters in for your child to trace over if needed. Again, right now don’t worry too much about neatness. That will come as your child writes letters more and more this year.
Some ways to help with Math skills are:
* To reinforce patterning, when your child is playing with cars, have him/her make a blue car, red car, blue, car, red car pattern with them. Switch it around to a big car, big car, small car pattern. Keep making the patterns progressively more complicated. This can be done with anything….M&M’s, Dolls, dinosaurs, etc. Let your child come up with his/her patterns, too.
* Help counting skills by having your child touch each toy and count them to see how many he/she has. This can be with blocks, action figures, toy dishes, etc.
* If your child writes to Santa, show him/her how to number each request. (Santa has to keep count, doesn’t he?)
Cutting is another Kindergarten skill. An idea to help with that is:
* If your child has trouble cutting, give him/her paper that you have drawn straight lines on. Help your child follow them by putting you thumb and pointer/middle finger on either side the place where the scissors are held together. That way your child can cut but you can help guide if needed. Try to help your child to understand how to cut smoothly and not keep stopping. Progress from straight to wavy lines. You can also just give your child paper to cut randomly. Put those cut pieces into baggies for him/her to keep.
The point of all of this is to reinforce academic skills in a quick, fun way. You don’t have to sit down with your child every day for an hour to do so. We all lead busy lives and these are ways to help your child while doing everyday activities. (If you have any other good ideas, and I’m sure you will, please post them in the comments any time this year. If they work for you, someone else in our group will want to try them.)
As I’ve said before, you are your child’s first teacher and his/her best cheerleader. Remember to let him/her know how proud you are of how he/she is progressing in school. Maybe some of these suggestions will help you to do so.
Take Care. 🙂