Monthly Archives: July 2009

Choosing the Right Backpack for Your Child

We are seeing them all around us.  They creep into your favorite store when we aren’t looking.  Everywhere you go, school supplies are sneaking into the scenery.  As you and your child start to do back to school shopping, one major investment will be your child’s backpack.  Please take your time and choose a backpack wisely. Kindergartners will be taking their backpack to and from school 180+ days of the year so:

  • Look for durability– you would be amazed at how often each day backpacks get kicked, thrown, squished, and even have food spilled in them
  • Please, please no backpacks with wheels.  Most schools do not allow them as they end up causing more accidents when young children carelessly wheel them around corners and bump into teachers and friends.
  • Look for a large backpack. Small children usually choose large library books at school and the books have to be properly covered during all types of weather (Murphy’s law states the smaller the child the larger the book that is chosen from the library:)
  • Children gravitate towards fancy backpacks with lots of small compartments and lots of really tough zippers,snaps and buttons and although parents try to be practical, the child usually wins out.  Your child needs to have a backpack with one large zippered area and few or no small zippered areas. When children come to school with a note from home, Mom/or Dad has placed the note in the backpack but it often takes a 5 year old almost 10 minutes to check out every little buttoned, snapped, or zippered compartment before finally finding the note for the teacher. Remember, that most kindergartners can not zipper their own coats so chances are, the same will be true for backpacks.
  • Kindergartners like to take their work and scrunch it up into a very small ball in order fit into their very small pockets on their fancy backpacks creating frustration for the teachers who had hoped that the school work would make it home in one piece.
  • Finally, whichever backpack you and your child choose, please have your child practice opening and closing it several times before the first day of school so that your child will understand how all of the bells and whistles on it work.
  • Happy shopping!

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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten

Lifelong Benefits from Learning Nursery Rhymes and Poetry at a Young Age

Nursery Rhymes are disappearing from the language of our young children.  What a tragic loss this is.  More and more children are arriving in Kindergarten without any knowledge of Nursery Rhymes.  Research has shown that children who struggle with rhymes will more than likely later struggle with reading.

Here is a list of Nursery Rhymes that you and your child may enjoy together

Here is a site where you can print (for free) simple nursery rhyme booklets for your child to enjoy and color
There are many benefits to learning nursery rhymes and preschool songs:

1. Nursery rhymes, poems and songs will provide your children with opportunities to develop an appreciation for rhyme and rhythm.

2. The development of auditory skills comes from listening to poems, songs and rhymes and LISTENING is an important skill to develop.

3. Poems and verses use words to paint mental pictures and help to expand their imagination.

4. While you read, sing, play and act out nursery rhymes together you are conveying to your children that sounds make words and that words are fun and you are creating a sense of humor.

5.  Rhymes and Fingerplays help children to develop fine motor skills and coordination.

Invest in your child’s future and purchase a nursery rhyme book that the entire family will love.  Your child will enjoy hearing the rhymes over and over until he/she knows them by heart.


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Learning to Recognize the Letters of the English Alphabet…Where to Start

We have 52 letters in our English alphabet, 26 capital letters, sometimes called upper case letters (A,B,C) and 26 lower case letters (a,b,c).

Any Kindergarten teacher will tell you that the children don’t use capital letters very often, or even at all during most of the Kindergarten school year.  However, which letters do parents and preschool teachers teach first?  The capital letters! You will not see any text in books that are written exclusively in capital letters, nor do we write in all capital letters.  In order to read text your child will need to know all 26 lower case letters. The alphabet letters that your child will be using in Kindergarten are the lower case letters, with the exception of the first letter of your child’s name.  Capital letters are taught first by parents and preschool teachers because the simple sticks and curves that make up most of the letters are easier to learn.  My own philosophy is that since the capital letters are not used often in Kindergarten, we should start with the 26 lower case letters when teaching children the letters and leave the capital letters off to the side for awhile. In Kindergarten, we have to re-teach children who have learned to write their name in all capital letters.  We have to re-teach children who have begun a little writing at home in all capital letters.  These skills are very challenging to re-teach and for the children to re-learn.  Our job is to teach the letters that the children will need to know and be able to function when reading a book, or writing in a journal.  After your child learns the lower case letters, then, teach the upper case letters and the process will go very quickly. If you are just starting to teach your child his/her alphabet letters, please start with just the lower case letters. Your child’s Kindergarten teacher will thank you and your child will thank you.

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More to Being Ready for Kindegarten than Knowing Your Letters and Numbers: Part 2

Non Academic Skills Useful for Transition into Kindergarten Part 2

These skills are a continuation of the non-academic skills that were mentioned in yesterday’s blog.  Honestly assess your child, before he/she heads into kindergarten and if you notice that your child is weak in one of the following skills now is the time to work on them at home.

Responding to Routines

  1. Learns new routines after limited practice
  2. Moves quickly and quietly from one activity to another without individual reminders
  3. Reacts appropriately to changes in routine
  4. Cares for personal belongings

Conducting Oneself According to Classroom Rules

  1. Waits appropriately
  2. Lines up if teacher requests that he or she do so
  3. Sits appropriately
  4. Focuses attention on the speaker, shifts attention appropriately and participates in class activities in a manner that is relevant to the task or topic
  5. Seeks attention or assistance in acceptable ways
  6. Separates from parents and accepts the authority of school personnel
  7. Expresses emotions and feelings appropriately

(From:  S.E. Rosenkoetter, A.H. Hains & S. A. Fowler)

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More to Being Ready for Kindegarten than Knowing Your Letters and Numbers: Part 1

Non Academic Skills Useful for Transition into Kindergarten

There is more to being ready to enter kindergarten than knowing your letters and numbers.  If you are a parent of a preschooler, you have a little time before kindergarten, but if you are a Kindergarten parent, please take some time during the next month to honestly assess your child in the following skill areas:

Playing and Working Independently and Collaboratively

  1. Plays and works appropriately with and without peers
  2. Completes activities approximately on time
  3. Stays with an activity for an appropriate amount of time
  4. Plays and works with few individual prompts form the teacher

Interacting with Peers

  1. Imitates peers’ actions when learning new routines
  2. Initiates and maintains contact with peers
  3. Responds to peers’ initiations
  4. Learns and uses names of peers
  5. Shares objects and takes turns with peers
  6. Plans activities with peers

Following Directions

  1. Responds to adults’ questions
  2. Responds appropriately to multi-step verbal directions
  3. Responds appropriately to verbal directions that include common school-related prepositions, nouns, and verbs
  4. Complies with groups as well as individual instructions
  5. Modifies behavior as needed when given verbal feedback
  6. Recalls and follows directions for tasks previously discussed or demonstrated
  7. Watches others or seeks help if he or she doesn’t understand directions                                                           (S.E. Rosenkoetter, A.H. Hains & S. A. Fowler)

Kindergarten Teachers will be expecting your child to come to school prepared in the above non academic skills, so please help your child practice them every chance you have.


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Making new friends in Kindergarten is a challenging task

Most 5 and 6 year olds anxiously wait all summer long for the day that they too, can start school. They have usually been to the school for a spring visit, have seen the classrooms, walked the halls, and met the teachers (although not necessarily the teacher that will be theirs).  They are ready…they think.    Before that big first day of school arrives, make sure that your child will know what to do when attempting to make new friends. Making new friends can be scary for a kindergartner.  You have to help your kindergartner learn that making new friends is a skill and it takes time to practice this skill. Most 5 and 6 year olds have had their parents close by for reassurance when situations for making new friends have presented themselves in the past.  Now, they must approach other children on their own.  You could role play using puppets with your child about what he/she should say in unfamiliar social situations that will be faced in kindergarten.  Some young children will ask another ‘to play’ but the other child doesn’t really know what your child means.  Teach your child to ask a specific question, “Would you like to play blocks with me?” “Would you like to look at books with me?” and then practice what your child should say after his/her new friends answers.  What your child can not possibly understand is that all of the children in the room are just as hesitant about the making a new friend process as he/she is.  So they all wait for the others to do the work.  Teach your child to take the initiative.  The first question that most kindergarten teachers receive at the first parent teacher conference is: “Does my child have any friends?”  “Who does he/she play with?” Although these skills are taught and practiced at school, these questions usually lead to a brief lesson for parents in helping to teach their child at home the social skills needed to be a friend. Becoming and maintaining friendship is a lifelong skill that receives much reinforcement in a kindergarten classroom.  Check out most kindergarten report cards, over 50% of the grades will be for social skills.  Help your child prepare, practice now so that making new friends will not seem so overwhelming.

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PRESCHOOL: Setting the conditions for your child’s success in kindergarten.

Recently I was sitting at a meeting of public school educators who teach preschool through 5th grade, when a preschool teacher started talking to me about the spelling lists that she used in her classroom.  I knew that her intent was to wow me with the latest and greatest from the preschool level, but her words had exactly the opposite effect on me.  I could not believe what I was hearing, spelling for 4 year olds!  What are we doing to our children? What pressure are we putting on these young minds that are not developmentally ready for this kind of advanced task?  Spelling lists and spelling tests should NEVER be in any preschool.  No exceptions.

“Often, early childhood educators give children worksheets because they and the parents want to see evidence that the children are learning. However, all young children, including kindergartners, learn best through appropriate hands-on

experiences and interactions with others.” Susan A. Miller and Patricia Cantor

Many preschools are feeling the trickle down pressure for their children to perform well in future standardized testing. Therefore, they are jumpstarting the paper and pencil work in preschool.  4 year olds should be doing NO paper and pencil work.  Ever! Paper and pencil work does not accurately gauge whether or not a child understands the topic on the paper.

Parents, please choose wisely when selecting a preschool for your child.  Ask your friends to make recommendations, make a visit and ask questions…lots of them.   Along with no paper and pencil work, a few things a great preschool should have:

  • Teachers who love what they are doing and it shows
  • A clean and nurturing environment
  • Low teacher – pupil ratios
  • Oral language and then more oral language: stories, songs, fingerplays, puppet theaters
  • Books:  books read by the teacher and books for the children to explore on their own
  • Opportunity to talk and listen with other classmates thus learning how to interact without mom or dad there to help
  • Many different types of manipulatives to include blocks, lincoln logs, open ended toys that mandate use of the child’s imagination
  • Painting, sand table, water table

I am a kindergarten teacher, but I know that the foundation for lifelong learners is begun years before the children ever walk through my doorway.


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