Tuesday, February 4, 2014

{school} answers.

It's a SNOW DAY here in Kansas! We've gotten about 6 inches so far and it is still coming down. 
Since I'm using today to be lazy and stay in my pajamas... I figured it was a good day to try and get some of these questions answered... 

* There seems to be such a push to get kids reading at four... how do you feel about that?

I don't think 4 year olds need to know how to read. (Please remember... I am not nor have I ever been a Kindergarten teacher. So my thoughts may not be what all or even any K teachers would say.)

Should 4 year olds be familiar with books? Yes.
Should 4 year olds know how to hold a book, turn pages, and look at the pictures to "tell" a story? Yes.
Should 4 year olds be able to sit and listen to an entire story be read to them? Yes.
Should 4 year olds know that letters make words and the words on a page are what you read? Yes.
But do 4 year olds need to know how to read the words on pages of books?  I don't personally think so.

When we are getting ready to start Daily 5, I teach my first graders that there are 3 ways to read a book...
1. Read the pictures   2. Read the words   3. Retell

If you have read a book to your child so many times that they can remember the story... some of the words... sit and look at it on their own and "read" the story by looking at the pictures... that is awesome!

If your child can look at a book and just make up their own story by looking at the pictures and thinking about what might be happening... what the people/animal/characters might be saying... that is awesome!

You are well on your way to having yourself a little reader some day.

Things you wished parents would know about getting their kids ready for school/first grade? 
All the answers I can think of right now focus more on getting your kiddo ready for Kindergarten. (Honestly, if your kiddo is ready for K and has a successful K year... they will probably be ready for 1st grade.) 

My biggest advice/tip/plea... if your kiddo has a summer birthday (June, July, August)... especially if they are a boy... PLEASE think about waiting to enroll them in Kindergarten. I know the guidelines say that they need to be 5 by Sept. 1st, (and personally, I think it should be moved earlier... like May 1.)  But since school starts in mid-August, we have kiddos every year that are 4 for the first few weeks of kindergarten. FOUR! 

I know daycare is expensive... I know preschool is expensive... I know some parents are sure that their kids are ready for K... but giving your child the gift of TIME is one of the greatest things you can do for them. That one year can be the difference in your child struggling through school for 13 years (or just doing okay in school) and your child being a leader in school. 

If you aren't sure if your child is ready... talk to a pre-school teacher, or a kindergarten teacher. I have never known a parent that regretted waiting to send their child to K. But I've known several that regretted sending them as early as they did. Around December of first grade some parents start realizing just how high the expectations are in first. Ask a first grade teacher to show you the expectations for what first graders should be reading at the beginning of the year and what they should be reading at the end of the year. It's pretty amazing. 

Ok... off my soapbox now. =) 

Some of the biggest things I think you can do to get your child ready for Kindergarten:
* knowing their letters... (recognizing both capital and lowercase)
* knowing numbers
* being able to count with 1 to 1 correspondence (pointing to objects when the count and making their pointing/counting match)
* being able to write their name (mainly just first name... last is a bonus)
* knowing how to correctly hold a pencil, crayon or marker
* knowing how to use scissors (a little scary, I know... but let them practice with supervision!)
* knowing to correctly form their letters (start at the TOP and pull down... start with the circle, then the lines)

** There are some really good games/apps that you can find for having kids practice making letters. Some of my favorites are the ones that won't accept it if you form the letter incorrectly. Start early with this! Once they have created the habit of forming a letter wrong, it can be so hard to correct! (I would link to some of them, but Gretchen is watching SuperWhy on the iPad right now... and that's a lot of work. Just search for writing letters or letter formation or something. You'll find some.)

Just a few more, less-academic, but still-important skills...
* being able to sit and listen to an entire story
* being able to listen to and follow directions (from someone other than you)
* knowing how to play with/interact with other kids and adults

* What types of things do parents do that annoy teachers? (I'm asking this since our first born will be in kindergarten next year.)
** Please be careful about what you say in front of your child. Grown up conversations about work, money, you getting fired from your job, etc... those aren't things your child needs to be worrying about. And they do worry about it. (And they repeat more than what you would like them to repeat to us, I'm sure. I  learn a lot at share time sometimes.)

** Please follow through on things like reading and homework. I always tell parents that they very best thing you can do to help your child become a better reader is to read with them. Read to them... listen to them read... take turns reading. It really does make a difference. 

** Just be honest. Whether it's about behavior, school work, life at home... honesty will always help. 

** Communicate with teachers. Again... behavior, school work, things going on at home, medication changes... please talk to us and give us some insight as to what is going on in your little person's life. 

** Please know that we are always trying to figure out new ways to help your child, new ways to reach your child, new ways to allow your child to feel success. Trust our judgement and know that we really have your child's best interests at heart.  Don't feel threatened if we are wanting to talk to you about your child. We value your input and your knowledge about your child and want us to be able to work together. 

** Let your child's teacher know that you appreciate them. Even a quick little note or email can mean so much. Really. I have some that I have kept that are at least 10 years old. Maybe more.

* How are you handling this winter? We've been in a polar vortex for days... and I am worn out keeping little people (and myself) entertained.
This question may not have been directed towards school, but that's where I'm putting it. Because face it, these little people haven't had near enough outside recess lately. And outside recess is important when you are 6 and 7 and confined to a classroom for hours and hours each day. 

I've collected several cd's over the years with lots of fun and silly songs. Songs that require you to stand up, move around, dance around, jump around and get out lots of wiggles! We do lots of singing and moving and dancing throughout our day. Most transitions involve some kind of song. I do them with them (and get disgusted by how out of breath I am sometimes after these crazy songs!) and usually look for one or two kids who are singing/participating and have them come help me lead. They love that. 

(I may have a certain red-head today that is driving me a bit crazy, though. My girls are both off somewhere... drawing, playing, pretending. Entertaining themselves and being as quiet as little mice. Lawson, on the other hand...)

* What books do you love to read aloud to your kids and to your class? 
Goodness, this post has gotten long... (no links, sorry... my kids think they need lunch!)

Favorite authors: Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Tomie dePaola, Dr. Seuss, Patricia Polacco, Bill Martin, Jr., Kevin Henkes, Laura Numeroff (all the "If you give a ____ a ____..." books)

Favorite books to read aloud:
* Junie B. Jones (first graders LOVE these read aloud)
* Pete the Cat (and you really have to sing the parts that he sings. You just do. Check youtube if you don't know the tune)
* Martin Luther King books (LOVE reading books about MLK. The discussions are so fun.)
* The Little Yellow Chicken by Joy Cowley (we do so much with this book... predicting, graphing, writing. If anyone has an extra copy of The Little Yellow Chicken's House, PLEASE let me know!)
* My Father's Dragon (chapter books... there are 3 in the series)
* Tops and Bottoms
* Stellauna
* Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
* Miss Nelson is Missing (and the ones that follow)
* The Great Fuzz Frenzy

 I know there are more. But those are the ones that came to mind right now. Whew!

The weather is looking like we may be in for another snow day tomorrow! =)
So there might be more answers coming soon!
Happy snow day!


Anonymous said...

I'm right on that soapbox with you about waiting to send children to school. Our daughter has a late August birthday and some of her classmates are a whole year younger than she is. As a primary teacher myself, I have seen the difference waiting that extra year can make. What is one more year of paying daycare compared to 13+ years of possible struggles in school. I, too, have said that parents don't regret waiting that extra year, but some regret sending them early. Enjoying a snow day today, too! Hoping for another one tomorrow!

sundancesally said...

This is a great post! Ditto on everything that you've written. I especially agree with waiting to send your children to school. Giving the gift of time is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Tell the little red head that I said hello! Enjoy your snow days this week!

Toni :O) said...

The other blessing of waiting to send your child to school is that gives you another year of delaying college costs! Woot! Great post Amy! :0)

Ben said...

What a great post! Indoor recess ideas include adventure to fitness .com. Teachers get a free login and they get the kids moving while learning! I also love the cosmic yoga adventures on YouTube. The kids are captivated by her storytelling and follow along with her quite well.

Love your advice about school and being ready. Kindergarten has changed even in the last few years. Students without a prek experience are at a disadvantage. Kindergarten is what first grade was when we were kids. I don't agree with all of it, especially when some things are developmental, but the expectations are high.

Thanks for sharing!