Are you ready for kindergarten?
by Jennifer Cohron
Aug 08, 2010 | 2840 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dionne Nelson, a kindergarten teacher at T.R. Simmons Elementary School in Jasper, works Friday afternoon to get ready for students’ return to class this week. (Photo by: James Phillips)
Dionne Nelson, a kindergarten teacher at T.R. Simmons Elementary School in Jasper, works Friday afternoon to get ready for students’ return to class this week. (Photo by: James Phillips)
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Getting a child dressed for his first day of kindergarten takes a few minutes, but getting him ready for kindergarten takes months of work.

Local kindergarten teachers say that the curriculum is more academic than it once was.

Dionne Nelson, a kindergarten teacher at T.R. Simmons Elementary School, said she remembers sitting for story time, playing dress up and doing cooking activities when she was a kindergarten student at T.R Simmons.

Today's kindergarteners not only recognize their ABC's but are also reading by the end of the year. Some are reading the first day they walk into class.

Nap time is old school. Computer time is in now.

Nelson said parents can prepare children for kindergarten by helping them learn their name and their parents' names, telephone number and address, colors, shapes and letters.

Rather than sitting down with a pencil and paper, she suggests using simple activities and environmental print, which can be found everywhere from road signs to the supermarket and fast food restaurants.

"While riding in the car, ask what letter Wal-mart begins with or what sound a 'w' makes. In the bathtub, get some soap crayons and have them draw a triangle on the wall," Nelson said.

Nelson recommended websites such as www.starfall.com and pbs.org as well.

She added that learning to listen is the most valuable skill of all.

"My most important thing is being able to listen and follow directions because they're going to get the other things if they can sit in their seat and listen," Nelson said.

Parents at Cordova Elementary School receive a packet of information on registration day that explains some of the changes that have occurred in kindergarten since they were in school.

"We did concentrate on the very basics of math and reading readiness. Today, there is a major focus on reading, writing and math skills," the introductory page reads.

Kindergarten teacher Sabra Brown said she keeps expectations high but reasonable for her students in the beginning.

On the first day, she is more concerned with bonding with the kids and encouraging parents to take an active part in the learning process.

"I like my parents to be creative and innovative because one child may learn practicing with pencil and paper but with another it may take the sand or markers and painting," Brown said.

Brown added that parents can help their children most by reading to them at an early age and letting them become independent as they grow.

"Sometimes parents will be surprised when I say, 'They can do that. Let her put that up or let him give me the money,'" Brown said.

Cordova's kindergarten registration packet includes other tips for helping children learn. For example, sorting M&Ms introduces kids to colors.

Cooking together gives parents an opportunity to discuss different tools of measurement and nutrition.

Children can practice saying their name and address while riding in the car or standing in line.

Parents can improve their child's language skills by not allowing him or her to speak in phrases and not finishing sentences for them.

A child will begin to recognize his name if it's written on a piece of poster board in his bedroom.

"There is nothing that we can't do together -- me, that child and those parents," Brown said.