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Old 07-17-2005, 07:44 PM
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Ready, Set, Go! From Preschool to Kindergarten

Ready, Set, Go! From Preschool to Kindergarten

The transition from "little school" to "big school" is not so tough for kids but for moms and dads it can be harrowing. Here's some advice from Early Childhood Educator Robert Freeman to help you feel secure in your choice of schools.

A few weeks before my daughter, Alexandra, was to graduate from preschool to what we called "bigschool" (better known as kindergarten) I asked her if she was nervous. "No way Daddy, it's going to be fun", she quipped. I only wished that I had felt as comfortable with the idea. Since registering her for next year's kindergarten class, my mind had been filled with questions and concerns for what her new school year would bring.

It wasn't the fact she would be attending a new school with new surroundings, or the socialization aspect of meeting new friends. Kids in general tend to acclimate themselves to their environment quickly and make new friends easily. I was more worried about the kindergarten curriculum. How was it going to integrate and build off of her preschool learning experience? Was she ready academically? Would she know as much as her new classmates?

As an educator, and more importantly as a parent, I was concerned about what I should look for in her "big school" transition that would keep her connected to the learning process. Today, with nearly 96 percent of all children participating in some type of early childhood program, there is an increasing focus on the learning continuum that occurs from the preschool to kindergarten. Most of us think of kindergarten as more academic than preschool, however even in kindergarten it is important that children still get to be children.

Good kindergarten curriculum includes such events as snack time, recess, and individual and group activities. At this age level relying totally on worksheets or standardized tests are inappropriate assessments to monitor a child's academic progress. The kindergarten environment should promote the active exploration of the child's world with concrete learning experiences. Studies have shown that the most significant intellectual learning process for young children occurs in action and through the use of their senses. The fact that a child learns by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling does not make the information less accurate, or their learning less valid.

Alexandra, as many children do, attended a preschool within our neighborhood. There was a shared commonality among her classmates. Her kindergarten classroom was a different story. There were a multitude of differences in the backgrounds, age ranges and abilities of the children. Instead of creating confusion this diversity brought rich, new experiences to Alexandra's life.

The kindergarten curriculum should be responsive to the differences and needs of each child and provide activities and instruction that ensures the progress of the student. Parents need to look for a program that promotes individual differences and teaches the child how these differences unify and strengthen us as a society. During the last few years research has shown that the key to a successful transition for children is not necessarily through bridging the gap between educational programs, but more in ensuring a continuity in certain areas that characterize all good early childhood programs.

In 1996, The National Association for the Education of Young Children published characteristics of a good kindergarten program. Here are some things parents should be looking for in their child's kindergarten program:
  • All activities should be well planned. Children should be working and playing, not aimlessly wondering or forces to sit quietly for long periods of time.
  • Children should have access to various activities during the day, such as block building, picture books, paints, and art materials.
  • indergarten should offer a balance of small group, large group and individual activities for the child.
  • The curriculum should develop a child's social skills, including conflict resolution strategies.
  • Teachers should read books aloud, modeling reading techniques throughout the day, not just at group story time.
  • Children should learn numbers, colors, and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. These skill should not be taught in isolation.
  • The classroom should be decorated with the children's original artwork: their own writing with invented spelling and dictated stories.
  • Children should have an opportunity to play outside everyday that weather permits.
  • The kindergarten curriculum should be adapted for those children who are ahead as well as for those who need additional time to grasp a concept.
The teacher should have a system of assessment to monitor each child's progress.

Both Alexandra and I had a wonderful kindergarten experience. As a parent, I learned that there was no magic formula in the transition from preschool to "big school". Individual kindergarten classrooms vary and their curriculums will vary according to the interests and needs of the children. The key point to remember is that all good kindergarten classrooms will encourage the the growth of a child's self-esteem, their independence and their individual strengths. The focus will and always should be on the development of the child as a whole.

About the Author:
My name is Robert E. Freeman. For the last 6 years I have been a sixth grade communication skills teacher at Carroll Middle School in Robeson County, N.C. I have a M.A. in elementary education, an Ed.S specialist degree in education and am working toward a Ph.D in instruction and curriculum. I am a divorced dad raising a 7 year daughter, Alexandra. I love working with kids, playing sports and traveling.

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