The following is an excerpt from an NAEYC online author Q&A event with Ben Mardell and Melissa Tonachel on the topic "Focus on Kindergarten". The Q&A took place August 29–September 2, 2011. To view more highlights from 2011 online Q&As, click here.
I teach preschool, and I would like to know what teachers would like children to know when they walk through the door on the first day of kindergarten.
Of course, not all kindergarten teachers want the same things of entering kindergartners. One thing we all know is that children come to kindergarten from a wide variety of experiences and settings, so expecting them all to know and be able to do the same things is unrealistic.
Our primary hope—and we cannot emphasize this enough—is that children enter kindergarten excited to be at school. Beyond that, we would like them to have some experience with these things, with the recognition that some children will not yet:
- listening to others and taking appropriate turns for expressing ideas and questions;
- handing materials respectfully and putting them away;
- sustaining engagement with an activity or process;
- identifying and pursuing their own interests, choosing materials and having some ideas about how to engage with them productively;
- being safe in relation to the group (staying within school bounds) and attending to personal needs (washing hands); and
- asking for help when they need it.
There are other habits and skills that children may have begun to develop but which we understand will not be at all finished in preschool or even by the end of kindergarten: solving problems with peers, taking the perspective of others, increasing their stamina, and building academic mastery, for example. But back to our first hope: that on the first day of school, children come to kindergarten with an expectation that school will be fun, fair and a good place to learn; that they arrive with joy and with confidence that school is a good place to be.