Kindergarten represents a big step in any child’s life; it traditionally marks the transition between home and formal schooling. Research increasingly shows that children’s performance in kindergarten – along with their readiness to take that step to formal schooling – directly predicts how well those children will perform later in school.
Critical Early Learning Happens at Home
According to the Urban Child Institute, the years from birth to age three are critical to prepare for kindergarten. During the toddler and preschool years, parents lay the foundation for later success by developing a child’s language, thinking skills, self-control, and self-confidence. To help their children, parents can recognize kindergarten readiness – both in the eyes of teachers and in what research has to say about readiness skills that translate into later academic success.
In a study of approximately 3,000 students in two economically and demographically diverse counties, California tested children entering their kindergarten year to determine varying levels of school readiness. From the tests and interviews with the children’s teachers, the researchers identified the four general skill areas as markers of kindergarten readiness: Academic, Self-Regulation, Social Expression, and Self-Care/Motor Skills.
- Academic Skills constitute discreet knowledge and tasks often associated with literacy and mathematics, such as writing one’s name, recognizing letters, counting up to 10 objects, identifying primary colors and shapes, and recognizing rhyming words.
- Self-Regulation encompasses a child’s ability to control impulses and effectively participate in group settings. It includes paying attention to a single task for an extended period of time, following directions, playing cooperatively, and participating in group activities.
- Social Expression concerns how children understand their own feelings and communicate those feelings and desires to others. Some of these “learner behaviors” skills include curiosity, risk-taking, and persistence.
- Self-Care and Motor Skills include using small manipulatives (pencils, counters) and performing basic self-help tasks like buttoning coats, washing hands, and tying shoes.
Self-Regulation Skills Are as Important as Academic Skills
The study’s researchers tracked the children’s progress for the next four years to determine how closely kindergarten readiness levels correlate with school success. A small number of children in the sample (2%) were retained in the first year of the study and needed to repeat the kindergarten year. Those children’s readiness scores were compared to children who were not retained, with the finding that students retained lagged far behind their peers at kindergarten entry in self-care and social emotional domains, but not necessarily in academic skills.
In fact, a separate study of 600 kindergarten teachers found that academic skills are not deemed the most critical kindergarten readiness skills. Teachers identified the following as the most important kindergarten readiness skills:
- The children can use the toilet, dress, wash hands, eat, and blow nose by themselves.
- The children stay focused and pay attention for 10-15 minutes at a time.
- The children ask for help when they need it.
- The children can hold a pencil, use a crayon and cut with scissors.
The teachers place importance on self-regulation and self-care skills because when a child can take care of his or her own needs, interact successfully with adults and peers, and pay attention in the classroom, the teacher can focus more easily on academic skills.
Click to Read Page Two: Kindergarten Readiness Predicts Third Grade Test Scores© Copyright 2013 Nicole Fravel, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting