What Do Children Learn in a High-Quality Kindergarten?
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Your child continues to develop a wide range of skills in kindergarten, including physical, social, emotional, language and literacy, and thinking (cognitive) skills.
Physical development is the way your child moves her arms and legs (large motor skills) and uses the small muscles in her fingers and hands (small motor skills). Playing outside and taking physical activity breaks during the day help children build healthy bones and muscles, focus better, and feel less stress. Doing puzzles, writing, drawing, and working with clay are some activities that develop children's finger and hand control.
Social development helps your child get along with others. Teachers support children's social skills by helping them work together, include each other in activities, make and keep friends, and resolve disagreements.
Emotional development lets your child understand his feelings and the feelings of others. Teachers help children recognize, talk about, and express their emotions and show concern for others. They also support children's development of self-regulation—being able to manage their feelings and behavior.
Language and literacy development includes understanding language and communicating through reading, writing, listening, and talking. Literacy is a big focus in kindergarten. Your child will use these skills throughout his life.
Thinking, or cognitive, skills develop as children explore, observe, create, ask questions, do new tasks, and solve problems. Teachers help children plan what they're going to do, encourage children to discuss and think more deeply about ideas, and include children when making decisions.
Every state has learning standards that describe what children need to know and be able to do at a certain age. Teachers use these standards to balance what children need to learn with their knowledge of how children learn best.
Whether they are helping children write thank-you letters to a library they visited, decide what material would best support the cardboard bridge they are making, or brainstorm solutions to keep the lettuce in the class garden from wilting, teachers connect learning across subject areas to give children a deeper understanding of a topic.
Speaking and listening (oral language). At school, your child has many opportunities to listen to and speak with children and adults. Oral language skills allow children to communicate effectively and are strongly linked to reading and writing. To support these skills, teachers
- Explore new vocabulary words with children during science, math, social studies, and art, while on field trips, and during reading and computer time
- Give children opportunities to talk about what they know and make connections to their own lives
- Encourage children to take turns when talking so they learn to politely listen and speak
- Ask children to explain what they're doing and what they notice
Reading. Children enter kindergarten with different reading experiences and skills. No matter what children already know, teachers help them continue to develop reading skills and a love of reading. They
- Share books and other types of information in both print and digital formats, and post different types of print around the room (like the daily schedule and helper charts) so children see that reading is useful and fun
- Read with children every day, individually or in a group
- Teach children letter sounds
- Point out and explain parts of written language, like capital letters and punctuation
- Support children who are learning English in addition to their home languages
Writing. Your child will work on many skills to develop his writing. For example, he might draw pictures to plan a story. When he writes, his teacher might encourage him to use his own spelling. She'll show him how to form letters and leave space between words. The more he writes, the better he'll get at it. To support children's writing, teachers might do the following:
- Provide lots of writing materials, like different kinds of paper, pencils, markers, crayons, and digital devices (such as tablets and computers)
- Model—show and explain—specific skills
- Have children write in different forms, like observations in their science notebook
or instructions on how to feed the class guinea pig
- Encourage your child to review and look for ways to improve his writing
- Share the pen—on a large sheet of paper, the teacher writes some of the words of a story, and then invites the children to write some too
Math. Math is all around us! When your child's class is learning about patterns, for example, she might discover them on the kitchen tile at home, on a butterfly's wing, and on her striped shirt. Teachers use math concepts during everyday activities and encourage children to solve real problems, like using rulers to measure the plants they are growing. They ask questions to extend your child's thinking and encourage children to explain their answers.
Science. Teachers provide materials and activities that encourage children to be curious (as they naturally are!) and to make discoveries: building and taking apart things, examining objects, thinking about why certain things happen, and explaining what they find out. Teachers help children think like scientists—to predict what will happen, test their ideas, come up with solutions, and record (document) their learning through pictures, graphs, writing, and photos.
Social studies. In kindergarten, children learn how their family and their class are part of the school and local community. Teachers offer lots of opportunities for children to share their opinions, listen to others, resolve disagreements, and learn about their languages and cultures. Long-term projects in geography and history connect skills and concepts to events children are familiar with.
Creative arts. Children express their feelings, ideas, and creativity in many ways—by exploring different art forms, inventing and telling stories, dancing, making music, and combining materials to make something new. In a high-quality kindergarten, your child might act out a story, learn about painting and architecture, and learn to appreciate the art of many cultures. Creating helps your child imagine, focus, and think about problems in a new way.
Technology. Computers, tablets, smartphones, digital cameras, and other technology are available in many classrooms. Children use them to find information, solve problems, create, and learn at their own pace. When children use technology together, they learn to cooperate, consider different ideas, and make group decisions.