Learning Guide: Kindergarten
Portrait of a kindergartner
Kindergartners are eager, often filled with energy, and -- especially at the beginning of the year -- have a hard time sitting still for very long. Most kindergartners want to be liked by their classmates and their teachers. They'll develop friendships and cooperate in the classroom because they seek adult approval. "If I do this to help you, does that mean I'm a good child?" As the year progresses, these five- and six-year-olds begin to develop the ability to wait, to understand the notion that you defer an act in order to do something else. They also grow in their capacity to listen to directions -- and actually follow them, as requestedWhat your child will learn
The 21st Century's "children's garden," is still the classroom of kid-size chairs, cubbyholes, "circle time" and painting easels. But today's kindergarten is also different -- more academically advanced -- from those of a generation ago: Children are taught to read, write, and compute, as well as to cut, paste, skip and share. Whether your child attends a full or half-day program, he will move beyond the names of the letters of the alphabet to a clearer sense of their sounds; he will learn a lot about how print works on a page. Kindergartners discover how to dictate and to write their own stories. Your child will learn to add and subtract using counters, and you may be stunned by his mastery of the part of a plant, names of the planets, or even the functions of parts of the human body.
You won't find any desks in kindergarten. These children move about the classroom constantly, either working on the floor or at tables. In some schools, your child may not even have an assigned seat. His day will include time to work alone, then come together in a "circle" for group activities; ample opportunities for outdoor play as well as moments of quiet, listening to music or poetry; a period for creative arts and one for academics.
High-tech has a place at the kindergarten table, too. Classrooms may have two or more computers, frequently set aside in a corner that may be labeled "the learning center." Kids typically go there in shifts to use educational game and drill-and-practice software. In fact, many schools purchase special educational software packages for grades K to 2. You won't find these programs in stores; they sometimes are set up to give teachers reports about the child's performance on that software. The effectiveness of this kind of software has not been conclusively proven one way or another; to download a report comparing the programs, try this site: http://www.mff.org/.
Developing social and emotional skills, however, is key to the early elementary years. Kindergarten teachers will spend a great deal of time encouraging children to see that mistakes are a natural part of learning, trying to support kids' self-confidence. Awareness, too, is important: In most classrooms, teachers will lead discussions of fairness and justice and the world outside.