School Readiness tends to be a huge buzz word of sorts, but parents often don't really have a good idea of what it means, what it looks like, or how to truly prepare their children.
I meet many parents who are very nervous to send their children to school because they are afraid that they may not be "ready". (Fortunately, 9 times out of 10 I can tell the parents, if you care enough to worry, your child is most likely ready!)
There is no wonder that there is so much confusion in this area because what most people consider "Readiness" I would actually break up into two categories: Readiness Skills, and School Content Knowledge.
These are generally skills and behaviors that you will see your child do. These skills will help them to exist in a classroom full of other children, and follow the directions of other adults. Being able to do these things will allow them to learn and be successful in their day. It often turns out that many of these skills are things that parents are still assisting with or doing for their children.
- Sitting and attending- Think of story time, at least 10-15 minutes by Kindergarten.
- Attention Span- Think of sitting to complete a game or activity. They should be able to sit and engage in one thing rather than always bouncing from thing to thing. Aim for at least 10-15 minutes by kindergarten, but start small.
- Listening and Following Directions- Children should be able to listen to and respond to verbal directions without an adult physically prompting them.
- Dressing Themselves-At the very least they should be able to put on shoes, coats, hats, mittens and backpacks. Teachers can offer some help, but can't dress them all.
- Independent Toileting- Your child may be potty trained, but can they do everything on their own? Consider; getting clothes up and down, sitting on a toilet, flushing, and washing their hands.
- Caring for Personal belongings Can your child pick things up and put them away? Both toys and activities, and things like coats and shoes, dirty dishes, etc. They will be responsible for doing these things mostly on their own at school.
- Fine Motor Skills- These skills are mainly of the hands and fingers. Think picking up small things, holding a pencil, using scissors. While they don't need to be experts, it really helps if they have had some experience with these things. Also, while handwriting and scissor skills were once explicitly taught in the early grades, it usually is not these days.
*Don't panic if your child is not very skilled at things on this list. Just keep them in mind as you go about your day, and your child will get better!
Also, teachers are prepared to have some kids who need help in these areas and your child will improve through the year. It's just easier on everyone involved if they can do these things before they start school.
School Content Knowledge
These are the things that children will be learning during the school year. The teacher will be covering these things one by one during the school year, so while it is really great for children to know these things before they start, it's not really necessary. If your child showed up on the first day of school with every skill on the readiness list, and NONE on this list, they could still be VERY successful in school. That's what makes them "Ready"!!
- ABC's- Letter names, sounds, beginning sounds and all that goes with it. This is actually a large part of Kindergarten Curriculums, so whether or not your child knows them on day 1, they will be learning them throughout the year.
- 123's- Counting out loud, counting objects, identifying numerals and all that great stuff is also a big part of the curriculum. Again, it's wonderful for kids to have these skills when they start, but it will definitely be taught all year.
- Shapes- Recognizing and naming basic geometric shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, etc.). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this too will be covered. :)
- Colors- Colors are an area that tend to be a little wishy-washy in classrooms. They are generally not a specific part of curriculum, partly because I think most children know them by Kindergarten. Also, just because they are not taught out-right does not mean they won't be used and talked about on a daily basis.
- Reading/Writing- I have had parents of preschoolers ask me if they should be concerned that their child was not reading yet. The answer is NO. The goal by the end of Kindergarten is to have children using these skills, even at a basic level. If you want to start somewhere with your child, it is extremely helpful for beginning school if they can read and/or write their names, but again, it's not necessary and will be taught.
Hopefully this will clear some things up a bit, and posts will follow to cover most of these areas.
If you're still confused about which skills are which, ask yourself this question: "Can a teacher with 15+ students reasonably do this for every child at once?" If the answer is no (Put on coats, sit them on a toilet, put away their belongings) it is probably something you should work on before school. If the answer is yes (Teach letters and sounds, practice counting) then it's probably a safe bet that they will learn it in school!