January 23, 2018

Early Childhood Learning Part 3: The Pre-Kindergartener

I have spent a bit of time in a kindergarten classroom, both teaching, and volunteering as a mom.  And from those experiences, I bow down to kindergarten teachers!  You see, a kindergarten class is full of 20-30 kids who for the first time are experiencing being at school, five days in a row.  For some of them, it is their first time ever being at school.

This is what a moment in my son's class looked like:  Teacher asks students to go work on a letter sorting worksheet.  A few kids got right to work, and finished quickly.  Early-finishers either found something to do or made trouble.  Others were slowly getting started.  Then there were a few kids who didn't even know how to hold scissors correctly.  Many needed help taking the cap off the glue stick, and a few kids couldn't hold a pencil correctly, let alone write their name.  Oh, and let's not forget the kid in the corner who had finished and was now reading a "Magic Tree House" book to himself.  All the while, teacher is going about trying to help everyone and put out fires as she goes.  Now, there is something to be said about classroom management and differentiated instruction, but that's not the point here.  I don't think there is ever such a big gap in abilities as there is in a kindergarten classroom.  And yet, a kindergarten teacher is required to teach a lot of things!  Then she scarfs down some lunch, resets the room, and does it all over again for another 20-30 students.

*Long sigh.*  That was a long story.  But the reason I told it is to explain why I think teaching pre-kindergarten skills to 4-year-olds is so important.  Why not do all we can to help a kindergarten teacher out and set your child up for success!  Whether your child will go to public school or not, I feel like these are useful and age-appropriate things for 4-year-olds to learn.  You'll notice that several of these things were mentioned in my post about 3-Year-Old Learning.  The difference now is that for fours, I work on mastering these skills, where threes were just being introduced to the them.

pre-kindergarten skills

Scissor, Pencil, and Glue Skills
With 4-year-olds, I keep working on cutting and gluing practice, writing name, and forming letters and numbers.  By the time a child is kindergarten age, my goal is for mastery of these skills:

  • Independently able to remove and replace glue stick cap.
  • Uses the correct amount of glue in the correct place 
  • Holds scissors correctly
  • Can cut around basic shapes
  • Holds a pencil correctly (pinches with fingers instead of with fist)
  • Can independently write name without looking at name card
  • Can write many letters and number 1-10

Mastering Letters and Sounds
One of my biggest focuses is helping 4-year-olds to learn all of their letters and sounds.  One of the things that helps me the most in this process is to continually assess.  I need to know which letters a child knows, and which ones she still needs to work on.  I use this form to keep track.  Sometimes I will let a child be involved in marking the letters off, and other times I will just keep track for my own records.  I use a variety of methods to work on letters and sounds, still trying to keep it fun and create learning through play.  

free pre-kindergarten assessment printables
Preschool Assessment Pages Freebie
Pre-Reading Skills
A four-year-old may or may not be ready to learn how to read.  But at this age, I make sure to work on pre-reading skills.  Some of these skills include:
  • Knowing that we read from left to right
  • Knowing the difference between a letter and a word
  • Knowing that words tell a story
  • Knowing about author and illustrator
Pre-reading printables

Pre-Reading Skills Pages

Beginning to Read
Some fours have mastered all of the letters and sounds, they can even name the beginning sound in a word.  For those who are ready, I start teaching how to sound out CVC words.  I try to let the child guide the pace and provide a variety of engaging ways for them to begin sounding out words.  In fact, I created my Help a Child to Read packets as a tool for those who are ready to move on while others are still working on letters and sounds.  While I am not stressed about every child being able to read fluently by kindergarten, I don't hold back those who are ready.
learn to read CVC words

short a CVC words practice
Learn to Read CVC Words Short a

Learn to Read CVC Words BUNDLE


Preschool math is so fun!  It can go with the holiday or the theme and really feels more like play.  These are the math skills I work on with 4-year-olds: 
  • Identifying shapes
  • Counting and telling how many
  • Representing a number with objects
  • Sorting
  • Completing a pattern
  • Counting to 20
  • Simple addition and subtraction (for those who are ready)
  • Names of coins and what money is for
  • Graphing

I found that 4-year-olds really enjoy non-cookie cutter art.  If you want a group of 4-year-olds to create an art project that will look just like yours and just like everyone else's, then you'll have to do it for them!  And what's the fun in that?  While we did do some cookie-cutter projects, it was always fun to do art projects where they could add their own style to it.  This consisted of providing a variety of materials and an idea, and then letting them roll with it.  In this painting project, I demonstrated a few different ways to use the paintbrush and a fork, and then let her paint whatever and however she wanted to.

4-year-olds love science experiments!  But the great thing is that at this age, they can be SO simple!  How can we melt this ice?  What will happen if I put this candy in water?  Will this sink or float?  Preschool science is all about making predictions and then seeing what happens.

If you have been working on these skills and your child is not completely proficient in all of them by kindergarten, try not to stress!  Moms have enough to stress about.  Keep working at it, keep assessing and being aware of what your child knows and what she still needs to learn.  She will get there! Remember that each child is different. In case you missed the other posts in this series:

Early Childhood Learning Part 1:  The Playing Toddler
Early Childhood Learning Part 2:  The Exploring Three-Year-Old