Getting Ready for Kindergarten

The Slice – April 2012: In Our High Schools | In Our Middle Schools | In Our Elementary Schools

Starting kindergarten is an exciting transition for many families and young children. But, is your child ready?

“I look for children who are curious, eager to learn, and can pay attention for short periods of time. Can they follow simple directions? Do they show an interest in books? Children come in with a variety of backgrounds. Everything else can be learned in an accepting, nurturing, stimulating environment.” –Debbie Scalero, Kindergarten Teacher, Escondido.

For more than 45 years, PAUSD has provided a successful transition model with its popular Young Fives program, partly funded with PiE dollars. Sharon Keplinger, Principal, knows firsthand that a high quality preschool experience can prepare children and their families for success in kindergarten and beyond. Keplinger focuses on children’s development in each of the four basic building blocks of school readiness:

Building Blocks of Kindergarten Readiness

  • Social and Emotional Development
    • Teach children how to ask for help
    • Encourage turn-taking, sharing, and trying new activities
    • Provide opportunities to focus, work independently and in a group
  • Self-care and Physical Well-Being
    • Allow children to manage their own self-care (buttons, zippers, shoes)
    • Support independence in the toilet, wash hands, blow nose
    • Practice using crayons, pencils, paints (fine motor skills) and kick balls, hop, climb (gross motor skills)
  • Language development
    • Extend children’s understanding of books, stories, words, and songs
    • Listen to children’s thoughts, wants, and needs
    • Encourage children’s verbal expression
  • Early Academics
    • Practice the letters of the alphabet and learn to write name
    • Count 10 or more objects correctly, practice sorting and matching skills
    • Teach some rhyming words, colors, and shapes

(More tips at the Santa Clara County Partnership for School Readiness, under “Parent Resources:” http://www.sccpsr.org)

Preschoolers acquire these skills in high quality pre-K programs and from their families. PAUSD’s cultural diversity means that each child approaches kindergarten with different levels of preparedness. Some families focus on pre-academics while others focus more on self-care.

The National Center for Early Development and Learning outlines the importance of kindergarten in establishing competencies critical to children’s school success and achievement. They recognize current trends in early elementary education, such as increasing emphasis on formal instruction and the acquisition of skills, as well as greater maturity demands for self-control and attention. The ability to self-regulate—to control behavior and emotional responses–promotes positive social interactions that lead to increased confidence in a child’s ability to work and play in a group, another key indicator for school success.

Keplinger explains that when children begin kindergarten without these readiness skills, they may struggle more in the classroom. When they are prepared, then early academics come more easily and the teachers don’t spend valuable classroom time teaching these basic skills. She recognizes that PAUSD and PiE have been leaders in supporting the importance of early learning environments, “The district has been way ahead of its time, recognizing the importance of doing something early.”