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A Guide to Every Grade

Jon Whittle


Once upon a time, kindergarten was all about teaching social readiness, learning how to line up, sit quietly in a circle, and put things back. In recent decades, "readiness skills" in language, reading, writing, and math have been emphasized. Experts generally agree, however, that much of the "learning" that happens in kindergarten should be nonacademic. Make-believe and fantasy are a big part of the kindergartner's approach to the world. Enjoy it.

What to Expect

1. Lots of activity. Kindergartners are doers, not sitters. While children will learn, increasingly, how to sit still and listen, the emphasis in the classroom will be on hands-on reality and action, action, action, both indoors and out.

2. Imagination! Children in kindergarten are, in some ways, at the imaginative peak of their lives. Kindergarten should make the most of this special time. That is what the paints and dress-up clothes and blocks and Play-Doh are for.

3. Learning letters. The most common formal instruction in kindergarten is the teaching of the alphabet and its associated sounds. Teachers will teach this to an incredibly diverse crew: Some children will already know how to read, while others will struggle with the letters all year and may still not know them well.

4. Families and holidays. Social studies do not usually exist, per se, in kindergarten. But the rudiments begin as the teacher encourages a discussion of families. Holidays are useful, too. They're fun, they teach about customs and other people, and offer many arts-and-crafts-related tie-ins.

5. Ongoing social and physical maturity. As the year moves along, your kindergartner should demonstrate an increased understanding of rules and cooperation, a longer attention span, and better coordination.

6. Print curiosity. Another feature that may emerge toward the end of the year, if not before, is a marked curiosity about printed words your child sees  -- on signs, boxes of food, stray household objects, even clothing labels.

Watch Out for:



  • Toilet accidents. While not uncommon, some of these are avoidable if you help your child learn how to make his needs known to the teacher. Some are quite shy about this.


  • Not getting along? A persistent inability to share or a lack of playmates may indicate a problem that deserves attention.