Conquering Kindergarten

kids smiling in a kindergarten classroom. for an article about magnet schools in tulsa

Kindergarten can be tough! One day you are king of the house, the next day you have to share adult attention with 22 other children, you can’t play with your favorite toy because someone else has it, and you have to sit quietly when all you want to do is run and play outside.

Even if your child has been in daycare or preschool, kindergarten is his first step into 12 years of compulsory education. As a parent, you want that first step to be a positive one.

Jenks Public Schools kindergarten teacher Kelly Pitezel and retired kindergarten teacher Eva Hale, believe that most preschoolers are happy, curious and love life, but if they experience too much frustration in kindergarten they can get stressed and begin hating school. “Once that happens it can be very hard to draw them back out,” says Pitezel.

According to Pitezel, children who enjoy kindergarten the most have a leg up on some of the basic kindergarten skills. “We have some kids who don’t know the ‘ABC’ song, who don’t know how to count, who don’t know the letters in their name. Those kids can become very frustrated and often, when they are frustrated, behavior problems start. It’s not because they are not capable. They are just trying to make up for five years of not learning.”

Pitezel says that kids who have been introduced to some of those basic things at home “are going to be more successful—the transition to school comes easier for them.”

Hale adds that she likes to see children start kindergarten with at least an emerging ability to handle a pencil, manage with scissors, identify colors and show interest in drawing and building with small blocks such as LEGOs.

In addition to some of the basic academic skills, Pitezel and Hale say that children need to be ready socially. According to Pitezel, one of the biggest adjustments for many children is learning to wait to speak. “Parents sometimes forget that it is OK to say, ‘I’m talking to my friend right now. I’ll listen to you in a moment.’ When children get to kindergarten and they are in a class of 22, they need to be able to share the adult in the room with other children.”

Pitezel says she can spot children in public who have never had to wait. “They are the ones in the grocery store patting their mother’s stomachs or pulling on her sleeve until they get her attention.”

Pitezel advises parents to help their child practice waiting by saying, “Let me wash my hands and dry them and then tell me.” She says the important thing is to communicate, “I hear you, I see you. What you have to say is valuable to me. Hold that thought until I finish this task.”
Hale adds that she believes children are ready socially when they can play well with others, sit through church or other events without being totally entertained, and sit and listen to a story.

According to Pitezel playing board games with children is a great way to get them ready for kindergarten. “They learn to take turns, use math skills, and interact with others.”

Finally, both teachers say they can always identify the children who have been read to. “They know how to hold a book, understand left/right orientation and know that pictures relate to the story,” says Pitezel “Parents have to take responsibility,” adds Hale. “I had one child who really took off once I started spending individual time with her. No one at home had taken the time to read to her.”

Both Pitezel and Hale stress that one of the most important things you can do to prepare your child for school is to read, read, read to your child!

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist:

  • Listens to stories without interrupting
  • Recognizes rhyming sounds
  • Pays attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Understands that actions have both causes and effects
  • Shows understanding of general times of day
  • Cuts with scissors
  • Traces basic shapes
  • Begins to share with others
  • Starts to follow rules
  • Recognizes authority
  • Manages bathroom needs
  • Buttons shirts, pants, coats and zips zippers
  • Begins to control self
  • Separates from parents without upset
  • Speaks understandably
  • Talks in complete sentences of five to six words
  • Looks at pictures and then tells stories
  • Identifies the beginning sound of some words
  • Identifies some alphabet letters
  • Recognizes some common sight words like “stop”
  • Sorts similar objects by color, size and shape
  • Recognizes groups of one, two, three, four and five objects

Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S

Categories: Big Kids, School-Age