I was speaking with a teacher about the length and breadth of preparation we do to ensure children are ready for elementary school. We hear this sentiment time and time again from former parents: “Our kindergarten teacher remarked that our child was so prepared for kindergarten.” “Our teacher told us that the children who come from FUMP do so well in kindergarten.” We read the same types of comments on our Facebook page as well. How does that happen, when we are not using traditional academic strategies in our classrooms? Kindergarten preparedness is FAR more than academics.
I have previously written about our goal for children to be SELF-SUFFICIENT IN THE CLASSROOM. At FUMP, we give children age-appropriate tasks that they can complete successfully. How does that impact a child’s elementary school experience? Today’s Austin-area kindergartens can have 22 children in a class with 1 teacher. While those ratios are common in elementary schools, they create a great deal less individualized attention and support for each child. Children need to have a proper baseline of functioning within a classroom setting. No one wants to see their child be the one that the teacher is regularly prompting to focus and get back on task.
In our threes, fours and PreK classrooms, we take the time to teach the building blocks necessary to function independently in the elementary classroom. As such, one of our greatest goals is for children to work on self-sufficiency. We see these items as some of our primary goals: learning to be a part of the group, following multi-step directions, and taking care of self/materials appropriately.
Learning to be a part of the group is knowing how to get along with peers and reconciling differences independently. Can you negotiate recess conflicts? Can you share materials? Can you respect a peer’s different viewpoint? Our FUMP teachers place a high emphasis on social skills throughout the preschool day. Our teachers are patiently prompting children with appropriate language and teaching rudimentary conflict resolution skills. While Kinder teachers will certainly prompt children in this area as needed, knowing how to navigate their social world smooths the way to a calm, happy experience in their new classrooms.
The ability to follow multi-step directions is important as well. With the hubbub of 22 children milling about, your child’s ability to follow directions is crucial. Children will be asked to enter the classroom, put away their lunchboxes, get a math book and pencil, and meet the teacher in the group area. Can a child remember and execute those steps without adult assistance?
Can a child maintain their materials? We expect children to get their own snacks/lunches, as practice for later years. We prompt children on using their cubbies for their belongings. We patiently wait while children place their items in their backpacks and work to zip them. Teachers gently coach parents to allow their children to enter classrooms on foot, pack and unpack belongings,etc. We are laying the foundation for the day when you child enters a kindergarten room without their parent in tow.
I cannot emphasize enough how crucial these skills are for young children. Not only do they create a sense of competency and mastery for the child’s self esteem, they make the child’s experience in the elementary school setting easier and more comfortable. Children are ready to engage with the teachers and their peers in a successful, confident manner, rather than being addled by learning these skills, which may have been missed earlier. They are open and ready to learn the knowledge and concepts being taught by the teacher, rather than being hampered by the demands to function independently. Kudos to our teachers who do an outstanding job at this core component of our program!