What Happens in Kindergarten?

Kindergarten introduces kids to the routine of school life and builds on their learning from preschool. They learn to sit and listen to stories, and develop better self-control.

Reading and writing are important focuses in kindergarten. Kids learn to recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet (uppercase and lowercase), and their sounds. They also begin to write high-frequency sight words.

Social and Emotional Development

Social-emotional development includes a child’s ability to make and keep friends; understand his or her own feelings and those of others; and engage in prosocial behaviors (like helping out, taking turns and treating people fairly). Kids develop these skills by interacting with adults, especially parents and caregivers. Kindergarten is a time to build on these skills, and it’s where kids first learn how to interact with their peers in a school setting.

Many schools offer programs that help students get to know their classmates better. Some kindergartens allow children to participate in sports teams, for instance, so they can learn about teamwork and a healthy lifestyle. Others bring in people who work in the community, like firefighters or doctors, to talk about their jobs and answer questions from kids. These experiences help students develop empathy and curiosity. This, in turn, helps them become confident learners. Children need these skills to succeed in the classroom, at home and in their future careers.

Physical Development

A child’s physical development includes advancements in motor skills that allow them to move, play and interact with their environment. From an early age, children want to touch, look at, smell and taste the world around them. This exploration is supported by physical movements such as sitting, crawling and walking.

Throughout kindergarten, children improve their balance and coordination as they grow, which leads to more accuracy within their movements (Auger & Rich, 2009). This helps them play with a variety of materials and objects that require fine motor skills.

Supporting a healthy physical development involves encouraging a daily active lifestyle and reducing sedentary time. It also requires educators and families to understand that each child’s progression toward certain milestones can be different. You can help support their development by creating flexible physical development plans and providing plenty of indoor and outdoor space and activities that encourage movement and motor skill practice. Provide training opportunities for staff and families to deepen their knowledge of child development.

Language Development

Children develop language skills from an interaction of their genes (which hold innate tendencies to communicate and be social), their environment and their own thinking abilities. They use cries, gestures and body language to communicate even before they say their first words.

Kindergarten students often have strong oral language and conversation skills, and are able to express themselves clearly and understand other people’s speech. They are able to follow directions and take turns speaking in groups, and have a solid foundation for reading and writing.

Teachers will expand these oral language skills by introducing new vocabulary words, and describing how things look or feel. For example, if a child is excited about something, the teacher might ask them to describe what it looks like. Having a variety of small group activities, such as show-and-tell and pairing students up to read and answer questions together, will encourage a broad range of vocabulary. It is important that teachers don’t interrupt a student when they are talking, but rather encourage them to continue their thought process by listening attentively.

Academic Development

Kindergarten students are taught phonics and early reading skills. They will also learn about numbers, patterns and fundamental arithmetic. Kindergarten instructors work to provide a nurturing environment that fosters learning and growth.

Teachers regularly evaluate the academic progress of students through a variety of assessments. Students who require additional support are referred to content specialists for additional instruction or practice.

Historically, research has indicated that children who start school at older ages do better on standardized tests of math and language arts. But this advantage is not consistent and may disappear. One surprising finding in recent years is that teachers rated children who started school at younger ages more highly on a letter-word recognition subtest than did children who began school at older ages. However, these results did not appear to hold up when the prediction model was rerun using a more robust base regression model. This suggests that these one-time findings were either statistical anomalies or products of some not-yet-understood process of suppression.

What Happens in Kindergarten?
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