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December 4, 2020

The ABCs of pre-K: How to prepare your child for their first time in school

How do you know if your child is ready for pre-K and what should you look for in a program for your child? At KIPP Texas Public Schools , our educators make sure pre-K students are ready to thrive throughout elementary school.

We take responsibility to help fill gaps where needed, and ensure students are ready to excel in their first formal year of school. 

Enrolling your child in an early learning program will have a long lasting effect on a child’s life.

Children in early childhood education programs are:

  • less likely to repeat a grade
  • less likely to be identified as having special needs
  • more prepared academically for later grades
  • more likely to graduate from high school
  • higher earners in the workforce

Access to effective, diverse programs breaks down structural barriers that have prevented all children–particularly children of color and children from disadvantaged families–from achieving their full potential.  In a recent study of KIPP pre-K programs across the country, researchers found that “after five years, KIPP pre-K combined with KIPP early elementary had “positive significant impacts on reading and math achievement.”

School readiness is so much more than knowing colors, shapes, and ABCs. Children’s skills and development are strongly influenced by their families and through their interactions with other people and environments before they even start school. A school-ready child is engaged, eager to learn, willing and able to follow directions, and happily adjusted to group life in a classroom setting. To determine if your child is ready to start school, please review our expectations outlined below.  Proficiency of these skills will ensure your child has a successful school year. 

Communication and Language:

  • Ability to express necessary needs and feelings
  • Ability to follow directions given within a reasonable amount of time

Daily Living Skills:

  • Ability to go to the toilet on their own.
  • Ability to feed and dress themselves. 

Social and Emotional:

  • Ability to separate from parent/guardian with a minimum level of anxiety
  • Ability to act and react safely with peers and adults (Unsafe behavior in a classroom setting includes acts of physical harm to themselves, their peers, and their teachers; running away from school staff; and tantrums that exceed a reasonable duration of time and intensity.)

School Readiness Decisions

  • If a student is ready for pre-K, the school will communicate with the student’s parent/guardian. If they are experiencing difficulties adjusting, then a meeting will be set up to discuss their progress.
  • If a student is not making progress or their behaviors are increasing, the student will be deemed unprepared to function appropriately within a KIPP Texas early childhood classroom. 
  • A final parent/guardian meeting will be held during which the school will recommend that, for the remainder of the school year, the parent/guardian continue to work on developing behaviors to be able to attend school.
  • The school leader/designee based works with families to determine if the student has the skills and development needed to be in school. 

This policy does not apply to special education students or students with special education concerns.

Once you determine your child is ready to start school, our KIPP Texas experts share tips on ways parents and teachers can work together to make the most of their child’s pre-K year. Senior Manager of Early Childhood Janet Delicia de Carrejo and pre-K 4 Teacher and Team Leader Nadia Abdalah share their perspectives along with recommendations for additional resources.

The ABCs of pre-K

A – AWAKEN IMAGINATION THROUGH ACTIVE PLAY

Whether it’s make-believe play or constructive play, allowing kids to explore and pretend helps them interact with the world in new ways which leads to better imagination and learning.

Use your child’s fondness for pretend play to prepare them for preschool. Pretend that you’re going to school, hanging up your backpack, and sitting down for group time. Play games, read stories, and make a simple snack. Teach your child a few basic social skills. Talk about how to get someone’s attention, take turns, or join in play.

“Outdoor play is an extension of indoor play. Children tend to feel more free to move around and explore while outdoors. This is where they become more aware of their surroundings, start to ask questions that build on their vocabulary and begin to have an awareness of their natural sense of exploration,” said Delicia de Carrejo.

B – BECOME A BOOKWORM

Reading books and reading out loud are great ways to help your child build foundational language skills and contributes to your child’s ability to understand what they read. Reading to your child provides them with background knowledge on their young world, which helps them make sense of what they see, hear, and read.

“Introducing your child to the vast world around them through books and stories is vital in the foundation of early education. Instilling the love of literacy at such a young age will positively affect the way they think and feel about the how and why– not only in reading, but throughout their learning journey,” said Nadia Abdalah, KIPP Texas pre-K 4 teacher and team leader.

In our pre-K classrooms, you’ll see kids with books in their laps, reading aloud, practicing writing, engaging in make believe play and participating in small group instruction. 

C – CONVERSATION AND COMMUNICATION COUNT

Effective communication skills are integral to children’s self-expression, their development of social relationships, and to their learning. Discussing things they’ve watched on TV or going for a nature walk and pointing out what they see helps them build their verbal communication skills. Our experts pointed out that even if English is not the student’s native language, all language is helpful in a child’s development. Communication and language development happen best when done in a consistent, caring and responsive manner. 

D – DOUBLE UP ON DAILY SUPPORT

Being in school for the first time can be daunting for children. Having two teachers in a classroom ensures the school can meet the emotional and academic needs of kids who are in school for the first time. This is a best practice KIPP Texas implements for pre-K classrooms.

“Allowing children to make their learning environment their own, makes for a better place for them to express themselves with their peers, their teachers and at home,” said Janet Delicia de Carrejo, KIPP Texas senior manager of early childhood.  

E – EXPLORE STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATHEMATICS)

It’s never too early to start engaging with kids in the areas of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math. “Children are exposed to many different avenues of learning in today’s society—technology being a large part of that. We allow our students to dive deep into their own self-paced learnings through literacy and math in a fun and engaging way. They become more independent by navigating their own learning through trial and error, combined with the purposeful instruction and support of their classroom teachers and peers,” said Abdalah.

KIPP Texas pre-K students can build a strong foundation for future learning by exploring STEAM skills and concepts through play and discussion.

  • Science encourages investigation and answering questions, often involving experimentation.
  • Technology refers to using simple tools like crayons and rulers, as well as more complex ones like microscopes and computers.
  • Engineering refers to recognizing problems and testing solutions.
  • Arts encourage creativity and allow children to illustrate concepts they are learning.
  • Mathematics deals with numbers, but also patterns, shapes, organizational skills and much more.

F – FIND FUN, FREE ACTIVITIES

Socialization is important for your child. It allows you to set the stage for the rules in public and the rules at school, which can sometimes be different than the rules at home. There are free resources online from your public library and colleges and universities that can help your child learn and build character.

“Character building is a very important part of our mission here at KIPP Texas.  We focus on the development of the whole child—not just through academically challenging content, but also the fundamentals of being a positive influence in their communities and the world,” said Abdalah. 

“We champion our students by teaching them to take chances with BOLDNESS, embrace CONNECTION, the importance their VOICE holds, strive for EXCELLENCE, and the beauty of DISCOVERY.  There’s never a “too early” to teach a child that they matter, as well as everyone else around them,” she added.

RESOURCES 

We covered A through F, but the many ways you can support your pre-K children are endless. For additional resources to set your child up for success in their early years, please visit the links below.

Preschool STEAM

Children’s Learning Institute Family Engagement Resources 

Reading Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Download the Flyer School App for additional resources, tips and education tools for your child.