What Kids Learn in Kindergarten
Most kindergarteners want to learn all about the world and how it works. Kindergarten teachers often build on this enthusiasm by offering projects that encourage children to delve deeper into the areas that interest them. Children may make life-size tracings of themselves as they learn about the human body, or study animal habitats by researching information about the class pet.
Many kindergarten classrooms offer more formal learning and traditional school experiences than preschool. But kindergarten is still intended to stimulate children’s curiosity to learn more about the world around them. It’s the job of the kindergarten teacher to help children become comfortable working in a classroom setting and to introduce some basic literacy and math-related skills in the midst of their important discoveries.
Language & Literacy
Kindergarten children notice that words are all around — in books, at the supermarket, at the bus stop and in their homes. They play with language by creating silly rhymes and nonsense words. While this is usually great fun, it is also a very important step in learning to read.
Teachers read a variety of poems, stories, and non-fiction books aloud to children. Kindergarten children learn that letters and sounds go together to form words, and how to identify alphabet letters and their sounds. Many kindergarten children are expected to read words by the end of the year.
Parents may receive their child’s first poem, as kindergartners will be asked to do more writing than preschoolers. Your kindergartener’s writing may look like a combination of letter strings and scribbles to most people, but it carries a most important message — that he can write to create his own stories, to tell about his experiences, and to share information.
Counting cubes, number rods, and other math materials help kindergartners work with a larger set of numbers. Children also begin to use physical materials to solve simple addition and subtraction problems, like how many cookies they’ll have left after they’ve shared some with a friend. They’ll learn about time, using tools like clocks and calendars regularly in the classroom. While they’re not fully able to tell time or even realize exactly what a month or a second is, they’ll begin to understand that one measures a longer amount of time, and the other a short amount.
In kindergarten, children learn about plants and animals and explore the weather and seasons. Teachers use simple science experiments to introduce children to the process of scientific inquiry. Kindergarteners are now capable of remembering more information and using it to make connections between things. They can separate toy animals into groups, such as those that are found on the land, sea, or sky; or animals that hatch from eggs and animals that do not.
Kindergarteners are ready to expand their world beyond their homes and classrooms to the larger neighborhood or community. They learn more about the rules that help people get along with each other. They may begin to form opinions on issues and understand that others may have different points of view — noticing that a classmate didn’t get a turn during a game and letting the teacher know by saying, “That’s not fair!”
How Kids Learn in Kindergarten
Growing & Changing
Kindergarteners have grown a lot since their preschool days. They’ve grown bigger and are becoming more graceful and coordinated. They’ve grown intellectually and can focus on tasks for longer periods of time. They’ve grown socially and have a better handle on the skills needed to make friends and work in a group. They’ve become complex thinkers and are better able to understand detailed answers to the many “why” questions they have about the world.
A Sense of Wonder
Kindergarteners learn best by active, hands-on exploration and discovery. They make sense of the world by experiencing it physically.
“Rachel Carson may have said it best,” says Nancy Roser, Ed. D., Professor of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. “Carson described children as learning from a ‘sense of wonder.’ This sense of wonder allows kindergarteners to become absorbed in the puzzles that surround them. They attempt to figure out those puzzles by exploring, constructing explanations, and asking more questions.”
Follow & Focus
Kindergarten children often wonder about complex abstract concepts that they may not be ready to fully comprehend. They may look at a globe and wonder why people don’t fall off the bottom of the Earth, because they may not be able to really understand gravity. They may imagine that it’s possible to stand on a cloud, even though they know that it’s made up of water droplets.
Children in kindergarten are becoming more mature in both their thoughts and actions. Your kindergartener can usually follow directions from his teacher and focus on tasks. While a preschool teacher may have let children play freely at the block center, a kindergarten teacher knows that she can ask children to complete a related assignment, such as recreating on paper a pattern that they’ve begun with blocks. Experiences like this help kindergarten children gain basic skills. They’ll use these basic skills later in their school life when they’re asked to solve a math problem, conduct a science experiment, read a book, or write a story.Parents, Don’t Stress Over...Reading blues: Self-esteem issues can crop up when kids take longer than their classmates to learn to read. But it’s important not to rush them. We need a child to be on autopilot with one level before moving on to the next. Try starting with the basics. Help your child practice (and master!) writing letters. That skill will segue into reading. But don’t push too hard. You can take the pressure off by reading picture books or ones he has mostly memorized. You can also do most of the reading, letting him be in charge of familiar words.Accidents: Many 5-year-olds still aren’t in touch with their body cues—and with so much new going on, they just might be too busy to realize when they need to use the restroom. Try breaking the habit of waiting until the last minute to visit the restroom. Tell him he must go to the bathroom as soon as he notices that he has to, not when he finishes the activity he’s doing. Set times for him to use the bathroom, like after breakfast and before lunch.