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- Challenging Your Students on Assessments - March 23, 2016
Last week, I explored the academic side of Kindergarten readiness. But school readiness is not all about regurgitating facts because some things just cannot be measured. One child’s brain development differs from another’s, but there are many things that teachers look for that have nothing to do with intelligence.
Here are 10 more things to help your child be ready for Kindergarten:
1. Potty Training
You may think this is a no-brainer. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed more and more children arrive at Kindergarten screening with the tell-tale rustle of training diapers. These little ones are physically capable of being toilet trained, so that’s not a factor. Once a little boy proudly told me, “I went poop on the potty for the first time on Tuesday!” It was Thursday. His dad confirmed that he only became fully toilet-trained 2 days prior.
Now teachers are prepared for the occasional classroom wetting accident. Kindergartners are little and excited, so we understand when accidents happen. But we cannot be called away from the classroom environment to wipe and change little bottoms all day long! Nor is it fair to the school nurse, who has to care for the whole student population and has many boo-boos to mend.
Being independent in the bathroom also includes pulling up and zipping pants afterward. I have witnessed too many students shuffling back from the bathroom with pants around their ankles because they didn’t know how to zipper or buckle belts by themselves.
2. Personal Hygiene & Self-Help Skills
After you’ve made sure your child can go to the bathroom by themselves, teach them to wash their hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is great for on-the-go germ-killing, but nothing can replace regular soap and water.
When all these Kindergarten students mingle for the first time, you can count on a breakout of the sniffles during the first couple months of the school year. If you’re wiping your child’s nose, stop. Children should learn to realize when their nose is dripping down their face. And then they need to learn how to blow and wipe their nose independently. (Preferably on a single tissue, not a shirt sleeve.) After they blow their nose, show your child how to dispose of their dirty tissues in the garbage, not on the floor or on their desk. Then this is the time for hand sanitizer – not a huge, dripping glob of it, but just an itty bitty drop. This year, our school installed automatic hand sanitizer dispensers outside every student bathroom. It is typical for the little ones to get one, two, or three helpings of hand sanitizer for the pure joy of watching the dispenser work like magic!
And then as the weather gets colder and outerwear changes, work with your child to learn to use zippers, buttons, buckles, and snaps independently. Let your child practice putting on and taking off coats, jackets, snow pants, boots, and shoes. This makes morning arrivals and afternoon dismissals go much more smoothly!
Speaking of shoes…. Shoelace tying is a skill that is not actively taught in the Kindergarten classroom anymore. Do your child’s teacher a favor – if your little one hasn’t mastered tying their shoes yet, please buy them sneakers with Velcro straps. Either that or double-knot their laces and wrap the shoes with duct tape so that they don’t come loose. (I’m kidding. Sort of.)
Work with your child on expressing themselves verbally. After the first few days of initial shyness, every child who is physically and developmentally capable of doing so should be able to raise their hand and communicate their wants and needs. Whether it’s needing to go to the bathroom or wanting a pencil, teachers can only help if the student speaks up!
However, teachers do draw the line at tattle tales. Unless someone is bleeding/throwing up or a tornado has touched down or Ryan Gosling entered the room, we prefer children to speak for themselves rather than having a class spokesperson.
4. Working Independently
Kindergarten teachers are smart. We know that little ones should not sit like statues for lengthy periods. We get them up to wiggle and move and play pretty often throughout the day. We incorporate movement and play in the lessons. But in the age of instant gratification, it sometimes feels as if asking a child to sit and concentrate on a task for more than 30 seconds is a challenge. Build your child’s stamina by giving them fun activities (such as puzzles or coloring pages) to work on without distractions from the television or other forms of technology. If they can concentrate on one thing at a time, they will be able to transfer that ability in the classroom setting.
Being independent goes beyond the classroom, too! The first month in the cafeteria at lunchtime is crazy. About 75% of a teacher’s lunch period the first month of the school year is spent opening milk cartons, piercing straws through juice boxes, opening snack bags, and peeling bananas. And then there are the inevitable tears of a little one who spent their whole lunch period chatting with their new friends but forgot to eat. Help your child practice opening their lunch items on their own and to eat within a certain timeframe without you reminding them to finish.