What Should a Kindergartener Know?
My baby started Kindergarten right after his 5th birthday. He's nine years younger than my oldest son, and the rules have certainly changed. Kindergarten is much more focused on curriculum and is a lot more like 1st grade now than it was only 8 years ago, never mind what it was when most of us parents were kids.
Whether we agree or disagree, kids now spend most of their time being prepared to take standardized tests and these now start in – you guessed it! Kindergarten. For those who have it available, a good pre-k program can make all the difference. We were unable to participate in that, so I spent a lot of time over the past summer preparing my son so that it wouldn't be overwhelming to him. It paid off! He's thoroughly enjoying Kindergarten despite having no previous school experience.
For those of us who have children born right on the cutoff as we did, the decision to send them or wait for a year can be a daunting one. Here is a checklist of some things your Kindergarten teacher will expect your child to know prior to entering Kindergarten to be successful in school. If your child has had the Pre-K experience, he/she will likely know most of this already. For others, start practicing these things right away.
* Dominant hand. Most children have a dominant hand by this time. A few children, like my son, may be wholly or partially ambidextrous. Although I disagree with making them only use one, in our school system, they require that your child choose the dominant hand they wish to use. It is important to allow your child to make that decision - they know what they are comfortable with.
As a child I was also ambidextrous and was forced to choose the right hand and it caused some problems for me initially. Let your child pick, even if you think "right handed" is easier, if it isn't what they actually are, it makes learning difficult. Most ambidextrous kids, when given full choice, will become lefties :) - embrace it! My son was the exception, he actually chose his right and has since stopped doing anything with the left :(. I think it would be great to just let them be both!
Pre Kindergarten Skills Checklist
Prior to Kindergarten your child should...
*Have a dominant hand and be able to cut along lines with scissors.
Sit quietly and listen without disturbing others.
Recall and follow 2 – 3 step directions (for example:pick up your paper, take it to your cubby and put it away)
Speak in understandable language using complete sentences.
Be able to fully take care of personal needs like dressing, going to the bathroom alone etc.
Be able to listen to a short story and then answer questions about what they just heard.
Be able to express emotions appropriately and at the right times. Raises hand, no disruptions etc.
Recognize and be able to write their first name.
Recognize shapes and colors.
Recognize numbers and count to 20.
Recognize several letters by sight and know some letter sounds.
If you are confident in your child's ability to do all of these things, chances are they will be ready for school. Over the summer, I worked with my son on cutting with scissors and writing his name. We also did numbers up to 20 and he knew all his letters by sight.
Core Kindergarten Curriculum
There are a lot of things Kindergarteners learn throughout their first year of school. It is so exciting to watch them grow at this time, because they change SO much, so quickly. Within a few weeks of school starting, you will see them take off.
Throughout the year they will learn all kinds of exciting things. Many items on the curriculum surprised me, like telling time on an analog clock and learning to count money for example. They also start addition and subtraction problems in Kindergarten now instead of first grade and they learn dozens of "sight words" as well. I remember my oldest son not doing much of this until first grade, so Kindergarten is definitely changing to a much more academic setting than years past!
Here is a more extensive overview of the core fundamentals our school district uses. Yours will probably be similar.
Kindergarten Sight Words
Super Readers is a neat, inexpensive app that makes learning the Dolch sight words easy and fun for your child. It's interactive and will keep them engaged.
Kindergarten Curriculum Overview by Subject
Kindergarten Language Arts (includes reading, writing and oral language skills)
- Left to right progression
- Attentive listening
- Rhyming words and sounds
- Letter and sound association
- Recognizing both upper and lowercase letters in random order
- Introduction to KWL charts (see links for more information on these)
- Understand the difference between authors and illustrators
- Respond to stories through drawings
- Combining drawing and writing
- Articulation of words / polishing of speech
- Retelling stories in proper sequence
- Makes predictions about the outcome of a story
- Refining active listening skills (eye contact, no distractions or disruptions)
- Expression of complete thoughts using full sentences
Kindergarten Math Skills and Concepts
- Positioning (top, center, over, above, below etc)
- Counting to 100
- Counting by 5's and 10's
- Sorting by colors, shapes etc.
- Pattern recognition
- Same, lesser and greater than
- Ordering numbers 1 – 20
- Writing numbers 1 – 20
- Beginning addition and subtraction
- Counting pennies
- Identifying all coins
- Measuring longer/shorter, heavier/lighter
- Measuring with non-standard units
- Introduction to graphs and interpretation
- Time concepts: first, next and last
- Telling time on digital and analog clocks (hour and half hour)
Kindergarten Science Concepts
- Living and non-living things
- Sink and float
- Weather and seasons
- Five senses and how you learn from them
- Comparing objects and contrasting (cold/hot, light/heavy etc)
- Plants and how they grow
- Animals - various animals, their habitats, how they live etc.
- Basic concepts of being healthy
- Making good choices
- Recognizing unhealthy and healthy foods
- Understanding feelings
- Personal hygiene and dental health basics
- Personal responsibility for behaviors
- Good citizenship characteristics
- Flag and pledge
- Introduction to economics: needs vs wants / goods and services
- History basics: Influence of past on the present, customs and traditions
- Concepts of time, locations, place and movement
- Introductions to maps and globes
- Similarities and differences among people
- Cultural heritage through music, dance and literature
Wow, now that's a list. Do you remember learning all of that in Kindergarten? Not me :), then again I think it would have made it more exciting. Of course, this also means it is much more challenging and many parents are looking for ways to help their child succeed.
This age group is the best at learning, they truly are sponges and they absorb everything! It's by far the best time to instill a natural curiosity and love of learning in children; one that will hopefully stick with them throughout their school experience. Unfortunately, for those who struggle it can also set them up for a lifetime of struggle with learning and no parent wants that for their child.
Kindergarten Learning Activities:
- Build learning into their everyday activities. Math for example is an important part of everyday life, whether we recognize it or not. Allow your child to count things like stairs, the number of cookies on the plate, etc.
- Have your child put things away and sort them by size and color.
- Keep a calendar and have your child help plan and write down important activities and events. This helps them develop concepts of time and also allows them to know what is expected of them when.
- Give your child coins to count as they put them into their piggy bank. Let them buy something and count out the money they need.
- Look for shapes wherever you are and have your child identify them, make it a game.
- As you travel, you can play travel games and look for patterns or shapes, count cars or trucks, or items of a particular color etc.
- Read to your child daily, make it a routine habit.
- Say a word and have your child help you think of words that sound the same.
- After you read a story have your child retell his favorite part.
- As you read, stop and ask your child what he/she thinks will happen next.
- Play games where your child has to listen and follow directions. “Simon says” is a good one.
- Go outside and explore, talk about the things you see in the neighborhood, out in nature. Let your child discuss what he is interested in learning more about and then find materials on those topics. For example if your child points out an interesting insect, when you return home, “Google it” with your child.
- Provide opportunities for experiments. You can do this with simple recipes in a kitchen, or by asking questions as you do regular activities. What, when and how questions are a great way to engage in conversations.
- Highlight science in everyday activities to pique your child's interest. When you garden for example, explain how the light and water make the seeds grow and why you need to water the plants etc.
- Plan activities using things like lists, maps and charts to help your child get a feel for them.
All of these activities can be made very natural, so that your child actively participates and finds it fun. It also allows you to instill learning without having to set aside blocks of time to only focus on learning activities. Kids succeed when learning is fun for both the parent and the child. No one wants to sit and just memorize things or be bored – kids this age want to explore and engage all of their senses in the learning experience, so do what you can to encourage that.
The difference you will see in your child between the start of Kindergarten and the last day of school will astound you. I was floored by how much my oldest son grew mentally and emotionally in that first year of school.
How do you help your child embrace and love learning? Do you think Kindergarten has changed a lot?
How do you feel about Kindergarten?
Helpful Resources for Parents of Kindergarteners
- Dolch Sight Words - learning to read with Dolch sight word classroom activities
Dolch Sight Words are used as a part of many school core curriculum's now. Here is there website where you can learn more about the concepts and words.
- K-W-L Chart - ReadWriteThink
This K-W-L Chart, which tracks what a student knows (K), wants to know (W), and has learned (L) about a topic, can be used before, during, and after research projects.
- Free printable kindergarten worksheets to help prepare your child for first grade.
Fun, free kindergarten worksheets for enhancing skills and preparing for first grade. Use these extra sheets throughout the Kindergarten year to give your child extra practice.