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Ready for Kindergarten?

Ready for Kindergarten? Five teachers tell you what preschoolers really need for next year. Expert’s Pick Ready for Kindergarten, Stinky Face? by Lisa McCourt Illustrated by Cyd Moore Learn More If your child’s preschool years are coming to an end, your thoughts are probably turning toward kindergarten. But is your child ready to move on to the “big” school? What skills do kindergarten teachers expect their new students to have? To help answer those questions (and ease your mind), we’ve asked highly regarded kindergarten teachers from around the country to share their insights on helping your child gain the right mix of kindergarten-readiness skills. The skill sets they are looking for might surprise you. Because of the national focus on improving education and meeting standards, you might think that it’s most important for children to enter kindergarten knowing their ABCs, numbers, shapes, and colors so they can keep up with the curriculum. While teachers would love children to come in with some letter and number recognition, they don’t want you to drill your kids on academic skills. There are equally — if not more — important readiness skills that set the stage for your child’s learning. Raising an eager learner is the goal, and it can be achieved easily through play and day-to-day activities. What follows are the top readiness skills that kindergarten teachers look for. Enthusiasm Toward Learning Solid Oral-Language Skills The Ability to Listen The Desire to Be Independent The Ability to Play Well with Others Strong Fine- Motor Skills Basic Letter and Number Recognition Enthusiasm Toward Learning “I look for those qualities that prime children to be successful in school,” says Kim Hughes. Does the child approach learning enthusiastically? Is she eager to explore and discover? Does she ask questions, take initiative, and persist when tasks are difficult? “Parents can set aside a little time each day to investigate the world with their preschooler and answer those endless questions,” says Sandra Waite-Stupiansky. As you drive or walk along in the park, point out your child’s surroundings — the different trees or the various birds at the feeder. Demonstrate how things work. “You’ll help your child develop beginning science skills — the ability to form a hypothesis, test it out, and come up with new questions and theories,” Waite-Stupiansky explains. “The more kids notice, the more curious they’ll become. And we’ll be building on that curiosity in kindergarten.” Solid Oral-LanguageSkills “Children need wide background knowledge about their world and the words to go with it,” says Lisa Mosier. “I want to know where they’ve been and what they can talk about.” You can help build language skills by taking your child to many new places and giving him words and descriptions for what he is seeing. At the zoo, explain, “There’s a tiger. See how he has stripes and looks different from the lion?” Mosier says these experiences have a huge impact on literacy. “If you’re reading a book about zoo animals and it says ‘Look at the tiger,’ and you can’t tell the difference between a lion and a tiger, then you won’t have the background knowledge to help you tackle the word. When children come to words that they don’t know, they won’t be able to make a good guess because it isn’t in their vocabulary.” Research shows that one of the best predictors of later reading success is a well-developed oral vocabulary in kindergarten. “PreK kids are learning vocabulary at the rate of five to six words a day,” says Waite-Stupiansky. “It’s just amazing how they will retain words if you use them several...

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