ND Teacher of the Year: Kindergarten Readiness

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota Teacher of the Year Sara Medalen joins us on North Dakota Today to help families prepare kindergartners to start school.

She wants families to know children develop at different stages, just as we all learn to walk and talk on our own time. She encourages families to help prepare kids to go to school, but not stress too much about whether they can check every box of readiness.

Kindergarten readiness varies from school to school and teacher to teacher, but Medalen says there are a few areas in reading, math, self-care, fine motor and social/emotional skills that will serve every child.

To help a child practice reading skills this summer, the best thing caregivers can do is read along with them. Establish a daily routine where children are holding the books and turning the pages. Practice making predictions with your young readers, or retell the story to each other.

Help them identify which words rhyme, or recognize their first name if it appears in the pages. Start practicing letters by identifying some of them on the page. You can start with the letters in their name.

Medalen suggests helping children practice some math skills, like counting to 20. She encourages families to help young learners identify numbers to 10, some simple shapes and colors.

Self-care will be a big part of the adjustment to school days for kids, as they are going about most of their day without constant one-on-one attention from adults. Teachers will hope children can use the bathroom and wash their hands independently. Practice opening lunch items on their own by packing their lunches even at home. Help children practice getting dressed, zipping up coats, and putting on and removing shoes by themselves. Help them practice giving answers to a few must-know questions, like their birthday or parent’s names.

Some fine motor skills will be necessary for school, like holding pencils properly, maintaining control while coloring or using a scissor. Practice this during art time at home.

Medalen’s final tips can be a little more challenging in the age of COVID-19, but you can help them practice social and emotional skills especially by being in touch with family members and neighbors. It will be important for kids to practice separating from a parent or caregiver before going to school and to gain more interaction with other kids. There, they learn to take turns and share, which will be important lessons when in a classroom setting.

Finally, set kids up for success by helping them establish healthy routines, which will provide them with the proper amount of sleep. Children ages five to 6 need 10-12 hours of sleep each day. Kids ages six to 12 need nine-12 hours of sleep.

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