Sending your child to kindergarten can bring nerves and excitement, especially for first-time kindergarten families. To help your child thrive in kindergarten, there are things families need to understand about modern kindergarten that will prepare their child for the rigor and learning that the school year will bring. “Kindergarten has come a long way since I was a kid,” said principal Lorrie Sparks. “The expectations for kids have far surpassed what adults who have graduated within the last 10 years had.”
Through the years, schools have seen a shift from half-day kindergarten to full-time kindergarten. A full day for Battle Mountain Elementary School is about seven and a half hours. In the past, you may have walked into a classroom and seen children laying on nap mats, but naps are a rarity today. The rigor of the Nevada Academic Content Standards, adopted by the state in October 2010, has changed classroom schedules. The standards raise the bar for language arts and mathematics which eliminates naps. “With the full day, students are engaged in reading, writing and math activities all day long,” Sparks said. BMES teachers make sure to include hands-on on activity that incorporate learning, but also allow students to take a brain break. One area where you will see hands-on learning is during math. The Eureka math curriculum that the school adheres to provides great opportunities for hands-on learning in kindergarten. “My students love math,” said kindergarten teacher Katie Good, “They always ask what game we are starting the lesson with. It’s very different than the memorization of math facts that I learned when I was in elementary school. Numbers mean something to kids now and our math curriculum does a great job establishing number sense.” A typical kindergarten schedule includes morning work and meeting, reading workshop, reading interventions, phonics, writing workshop, literacy centers or guided reading, word study, read aloud and math. To break the day up, students enjoy scheduled recesses and specials such as computers, library, music, art or science.
You can also expect more technology-based learning in classrooms. The kindergarten students have weekly availability to use Chromebooks or the computer lab. They will learn to use the trackpad or mouse, keyboard, logging in and out and navigating basic websites. Kindergartners even start to navigate the basics of the Internet with the Google G-Suite by using Google Classroom or Google Docs in some classrooms! Kindergarten students can enhance language arts or math skills with websites such as www.abcmouse.com, www.starfall.com or www.teachyourmonstertoread.com, which are all accessible at home.
Readiness for first grade used to be measured by the ability to write names or recite the alphabet, but expectations are different in kindergarten. Kindergarteners will end the year knowing how to read, write and blend CVC words, write basic sentences using various writing styles, compose and decompose numbers within 10, count to 100 by ones and tens and more. Writing can begin at home before school starts. Allow your child to express their thoughts and feelings by giving them a writing instrument and paper. Kids begin with scribbles and lines, move on to random strings letters, using phonics to write sounds and then begin producing words and sentences. For example, a kindergarten student might start the year drawing a stick figure eating what looks like a blob. Their drawings skills will increase to drawing a legible person eating a slice of pizza. For the same drawing [a person eating a slice of pizza], their sentences will progress from, “p z” to “i e pz” to “i et pza” to “I eet pza” to “I eet petza.” Invented spelling for words other than sight words or CVC words is developmentally for kindergarten students since they are drawing on letter sounds and phonemic awareness to sound out words. Sparks’ advice to kindergarten families is to talk to your child. “You would be amazed at how many kids don’t have simple vocabulary from not being talked to and with.” Common core standard SL.K.6 states that a kindergartener should be able to speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly and respond to poems, rhymes and songs. “My other advice [to kindergarten families] would be to read every night to your child. Just looking at pictures, pointing out certain letters or talking about what’s happening on the page is a way to start kids in the reading process. Reading is the key to success in life,” Sparks said.
“Kindergarten was different that I expected,” said parent Reme Huttman, “I was surprised at the speed of progress that occurred. I was also picturing my son having a very difficult time handling the long days, but he did great! It was a great! He thrived with the challenges and support provided. I am completely surprised by where he is at today. It has been a year of great growth.”
At the end of the year, you will also notice that BMES does not celebrate a graduation ceremony. Instead, the school invites families to join the students at the park for a day to celebrate the year’s hard work. Many schools are shifting away from a formal graduation ceremony to a program, celebration of learning or a day of relaxation to commemorate the work and growth accomplished throughout the year. “Kindergarten is the springboard for kindergarteners’ educational futures,” said Good. “It’s not the ending to be congratulated for all the years of hard work!”
As a parent, one of the biggest things you can do for your child’s education is be involved. Keep your child’s teacher informed of home happenings that might involve your child’s behavior or academic performance at school and let them know how school affects your child at home. Your child’s teacher wants to be your partner.
There are also higher expectations in what incoming kindergarten students need to know. They should be able to follow directions, sit for short periods of time, tie their own shoes and snap, button, zip or buckle their own clothing. Students that begin kindergarten knowing their alphabet, writing their first name in the correct case and recognizing the letters within their first name will have a jumpstart on reading and writing skills since they will be able to start decoding and blending words together quicker. Students who enter kindergarten knowing how to sequentially count to 10 and count objects to 5 will have a jumpstart on mathematics skills.
The kindergarten teachers at BMES would like to wish your incoming kindergarten students a great rest of the summer. We can’t want to meet your children and have buckets of fun watching them grow this year!