Kindergarten is one of the most critical years in a child’s life. It is the beginning of their formal K-12 educational experience and lays the foundation for the rest of their primary school years. Since pre-K programs across Texas vary greatly, how do you know if your child is ready for Kindergarten, and what you should look for in a program for your child? At KIPP Texas Public Schools, our educators make sure Kindergarten students are equipped with the critical skills needed 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 schooling.
Below, our KIPP Texas experts share tips on ways parents and teachers can work together to make the most of their child’s kindergarten year. Academic Content Specialist Stefanie Lau, and Deputy Chief of Academics Ellen Bhattacharyya have taught pre-K and Kindergarten and share their perspective along with recommendations for additional resources.
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.
“We believe that parents are the people who are the first teachers for their kids. It’s great when parents are able to teach the kid something new,” said Lau.
B – BECOME A BOOKWORM
Reading books and oral storytelling are great ways to help your child build the foundational language and sequencing skills needed for a strong start in Kindergarten. Bhattacharyya described what you’ll see in a typical KIPP Texas kindergarten classroom.
“In our Kindergarten classrooms, you’ll see kids with books in their laps, engaging with text, in small group instruction, during guided reading, working with manipulatives and doing small group work during math time. As a result, during a child’s Kindergarten year, we are seeing gigantic growth: 95% of kids will make their typical growth target which equals a year of growth. This is possible with extraordinary attendance”
C – CONVERSATION AND COMMUNICATION COUNT
Building language skills through conversations is helpful for Kindergarten students. 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.
“Every kid gets Spanish every day. Our students receive 45-minutes to an hour of Cultural Studies in Spanish (Estudio Culturales en Español) each day for every child in Kindergarten through fourth grade. Teaching oral Spanish language through the lens of social studies is something that works well for language development with this age group. It is meant to continue oral language development for both native and non native Spanish speakers,” said Bhattacharyya in reference to the Austin schools. All KIPP Texas regions make it a priority to incorporate Spanish language learning in a variety of ways.
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. Bhattacharyya says this is a best practice KIPP Texas implements for Kindergarten classrooms.
“In Austin, we have a lead teacher and partner teacher who supports and allows for more small group work and smaller ratios which we know our younger kids respond well to.”
E – EXPLORE STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATHEMATICS)
It’s never too early to start engaging with kids in the areas of STEM. KIPP Texas Kindergarten students explore STEM principles regularly. In some cases, study of the arts is added in as well (otherwise known as STEAM).
“Kids enjoy making and tinkering with STEM. Early Childhood students are participating in project-based engineering problems based off of different texts we read. For example, after reading “Goldilocks and The Three Little Bears”, kids would work together to construct a chair. This process allows them to read, think, draw and design, then revise, and share with peers,” Lau explained.
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. You can visit your local public library, neighborhood recreation centers, churches, and public colleges and universities in your area for free activities and resources to help your child learn and build character.
“Our focus on character development is something that makes our kindergarten at KIPP special,” said Lau. “We are able to connect character strengths like community and tenacity to the books we read and tie them to things we do in the classroom. Classroom culture is so important, and we create positive spaces for learning and education.”
Resources you can use
We covered A through F, but the many ways you can support your Kindergarten kiddo are endless. For additional resources to set your child up for success in their early years, please visit the links below.
Children’s Learning Institute Family Engagement Resources: https://cliengage.org/public/tools/quality/family-engagement-resources/
Reading Tips for Parents: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-tips-parents-kindergartners
Download the Flyer School App for additional resources, tips and education tools for your child. https://www.flyerconnect.org/