Formula for kindergarten success

I wrote a column a couple of years ago about getting ready for kindergarten, and that column attracted more response than anything else I’ve written. Of course, everything we do at Best Beginnings is about getting ready for kindergarten. But as that big first day of big kids’ school looms, as it does now, I thought about the question of kindergarten readiness from a slightly different angle: What does kindergarten success look like?

In a completely unscientific manner, we put that question to Karen Gordon, kindergarten teacher at Northwood ABC, a Title I school in Anchorage. Gordon returned to teaching three years ago after taking 15 years off to raise her own children. Before that, she taught kindergarten for five years, as well as special education.

Here are some of her observations about the keys to kindergarten success:

  • Experience in groups – Whether it’s preschool or a church group or a playgroup, the child who starts kindergarten with plenty of group interactions under her belt will adjust easily to being one of 20 students in class. A child who has been the center of her family’s universe – everything has been about her – will have a much harder time.
  • Lots of conversation – Children whose parents and family have talked with them a lot have more language skills and larger vocabularies. It doesn’t matter which language, either. Any language will do. “We can teach concepts but that requires a language base,” she said.
  • Comfortable with drawing – Gordon sees more children now who are afraid to draw, she says. Kindergartners usually can’t write, so art – drawing with crayons or markers, painting, whatever – is how they express themselves.
  • Willing to take risks – Children who are willing to take risks and are willing to be wrong are at a strong advantage. Trying new things can be hard. If children are afraid to be wrong or afraid to fail, it holds them back.

Kindergarten is a big milestone – for children and their parents. For more information and resources about kindergarten readiness, see our website, as well as these reassuring hints from Mr. Rogers.