Jasper finished Kindergarten yesterday. Already. Just like that. Year over. And it was a big one, too, much different and more intense than Pre-K. He learned a lot, and so did we.
Now he’s headed off to 1st Grade and Magnolia to Pre-K in the fall. In the meantime, I asked Jasper‘s teacher, the wonderful Brigitte Paino from our local school, Brooklyn‘s P.S. 295, a few questions about what parents with a kid entering Kindergarten should know in order to be prepared. She’s a pro — smart, intuitive, and firm but full of heart — so listen up!
How long have you been teaching?
For 7 years. I taught Pre-K for 5 years and I’ve been teaching Kindergarten for 2.
For parents who have a child entering Kindergarten this fall, what can they do over the summer to prepare themselves and their child?
The best thing to do is to really start focusing on letters and sounds. The more they know, the more they will be able to apply to reading and writing. It would be nice if the parents taught them how to tie their shoes — :-). Another great thing to do is to make a special, consistent quiet time for reading. Children should be reading every day with an older sibling or parent. This will help them acquire literary language.
It’s also good to start establishing routines and giving them more independence and accountability at home (setting the table or making their bed). This will help them adjust to classroom structures and routines.
As a teacher, what’s most helpful for you to have parents know/understand about Kindergarten?
It’s important that parents understand that the teacher has the best interests of the student at heart. Please come to us when there’s important family information to know (divorce, death, health problems, medications; these all affect behavior) and anything else that would help the teacher better understand the child.
It is also very important to establish a routine around homework early in the year, and to set up good habits (like sitting quietly together at a table with a parent). Most important: Kindergarten is fun and challenging. Sometimes you may not understand why we do what we do, but there is always a reason! Please come to us with any questions.
We are preparing kids for 1st grade and need the parents’ support to promote good learning habits — going to sleep early, coming to school on time (sooo important — when they come in late, they feel like they have to catch up and they don’t get that time to settle in slowly.)
In Kindergarten, students will work with many different types of children. It’s good to expose them to other kids over the summer besides family. It’s also good to talk through social issues when they arise — what to do when someone takes your toy or you accidentally hit someone — to help build problem-solving skills.
How is Pre-K different than Kindergarten?
There are more academic structures, such as content area workshops. Students are better able to keep their focus and work more on an independent level than in Pre-K. We still have all the fun of Pre-K — taking into account the social and emotional sides of things — but with more structures in place.
What will be the biggest/most important focus for a child during the Kindergarten year?
Lots! Reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. We try to teach in exciting ways that foster active learning in the classroom. We hope that the children have all of their letters and sounds by the end of the year as well as better problem-solving skills.
What’s the most helpful way for parents to support a teacher during the school year?
Always stay in contact with them (in whatever way the teacher does it — email or phone), and always let them know what’s going on in the child’s life outside the classroom because it ALWAYS affects them in the classroom. Please always read the mail sent home because often teachers need help or a donation of supplies. Become an active participant in your child’s classroom. When the teacher and parents have full contact, it gives the students consistency and lets the child know that there is an open line of communication. This helps with the rules and routines of the classroom.
Is there any one thing you (and other Kindergarten teachers you know) really like for parents *NOT* to do during the school year? Annoying parent pet peeve? (Come on, tell us!)
I love suggestions, but really don’t like when parents tell me HOW to teach or how to do my job better. Teachers are constantly learning and, in the end, we are human beings (and yes, occasionally may make a mistake or two). But we are constantly reflecting on our teaching practices, so please give us the trust we deserve to do the best we can do.
Also, when you help out with the kids in class, please don’t give them anything without asking (like candy) — you never know what they are allowed to have or what allergies they may have. And on a field trip, you are there to help the teacher, not to take your kid off one-on-one away from the group! The class should stay together and the parent should be like an assistant to the teacher.
By the end of Kindergarten, where do you hope to see kids as they leave your room for 1st grade?
Excited about learning!
Thanks, Ms. P. — have a great summer!
Seeing these tips now, after the year is over, I have to say there are things we might have done differently to help prepare Jasper for Kindergarten. Reading to him, we were on top of. But other things? Focusing on letters, sounds, and writing? And, um, tying shoes? We were pretty laid back, and I’m not sure that was such a help to Jasper (more on that — including occupational therapy issues — in another post!)
Anyway, now I feel we’re on track.
What a year! 1st grade, here we come!
What are you doing to “prepare” your kid for Kindergarten? Or did your kid just finish? If so, how was the year? Did you feel your child was ready for it all?