What better a source than going directly to a teacher for some simple ideas to help prepare your child for kindergarten. In this interview, I discussed with a friend and fellow educator expectations teachers have of students as well as suggestions for how parents can help.
Jennifer LaFeve has a bachelor’s degree in Child Development, and a master’s in Curriculum in Teaching. She taught preschool for Head Start in Lansing for 7 years, and has been a kindergarten teacher for the past 2 years at Montclair Elementary in Cumberland County, NC.
Lansing Preschools Examiner: As a preschool teacher, what were your expectations of your students upon leaving your classroom?
Ms. LaFeve: My goals for my preschoolers heading to kindergarten were to be able to recognize at least the letters in their name, and some numbers 1-10 (or at least to have some idea of the difference between letters and numbers and what they are used for) They should be able to write their first name independently as we. I would give them lots of experience with how to use scissors, glue, pencils, etc., properly. They should for sure be able to recognize and name at least 9-10 colors and 4-5 basic shapes. Socially, they were expected to know how to get along with other children and have some idea about effective ways to solve problems with friends on their own.
Lansing Preschools Examiner: What are the skills you feel are most important for children upon entering kindergarten?
Ms. LaFeve: When children enter my kindergarten class, I am happy if they know how to write their first name independently, recognize and name colors and shapes, and have some idea about letters and numbers. Ideally, they are already recognizing numbers at least through 10 and at least half the letters of the alphabet, and are developing an awareness that letters stand for sounds in a word. Having some experience with school structures/routines/procedures is very helpful (sitting quietly at appropriate times, following directions, listening to teacher, solving problems with friends, etc.)
Lansing Preschools Examiner: What key things can parents do during the summer to prepare children for kindergarten academically?
Ms. LaFeve: Work on letter and numeral recognition (colors and shapes if they still need it) in everything you do! Use the environment around you
– Have your child tell you letters/numbers on cereal boxes, magazines, junk mail, billboards, etc…
– Have them locate specific letters/numerals in newspapers, etc..
– Make letter/numeral cards and play concentration, go fish, bingo, etc. with them.
– Pick a letter/numeral/color/shape “of the day” and use it as a “theme” for the day. For instance, eat foods that start with that letter, choose toys/activities that start with it, look for things around the house associated with it, etc. Whatever you can do to increase awareness of letters and sounds, numerals and counting, colors and shapes will be helpful when they start school.
One of the best things you can do is get them their own journal to write/draw in. They can practice letters, numbers, shapes, their name, draw pictures, etc. If they are ready, you can encourage them to try labeling their drawings or practice writing simple words. Remember to let THEM spell words the way they are hearing them. You want it to be fun for them, and build their confidence as writers, without constantly thinking they need to know how to spell things correctly in order to write. It may not even look like letters to you, but to them, they are writing! This is one of the most important ideas that I try to get across to parents!
Lansing Preschools Examiner: Any other suggestions for parents with children entering kindergarten?
Ms. Lafeve: Teach them how to tie their shoes!! Some kindergarten children do not have the fine motor skills for it yet, but keep showing them how to do it and give them plenty of practice! This helps kindergarten teachers TREMENDOUSLY! It is very hard for a teacher to teach 20 or so children to tie their shoes, and takes a lot of time to do it all, so if parents would work on teaching them this skill at home, it would free up a lot of our time!
Other than that, just talking with your child, explaining things to him/her, asking open-ended questions, letting them explore/experience new things, encouraging independence (dressing, cleaning up, simple chores, etc) and helping with different activities around the house goes a LONG way in building vocabulary and helping children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for kindergarten and beyond!
Thank you so much Ms. LaFeve for your words of wisdom regarding kindergarten readiness.