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8 Things Teachers Expect Your Kid to Know by the First Day of Kindergarten

Lessons to teach children before the first day of school.


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Is your child starting kindergarten this fall? Make sure she’s prepared: Practice these eight skills at home until she’s a pro.

1. Follow Multi-Step Directions 

This is a big leap for some newbie kindergarteners. Teachers will be asking kids to do two tasks in sequence this year like “Everybody put down your pencil and get your homework folder out,” or “Put your backpacks in the closet and sit down.” If your child struggles with this (doing the first one, but not the second, for instance), she may feel overwhelmed and frustrated, says Kathy Coulibaly, associate spokesperson for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). 

2. Ask for Help

If kids run into trouble on the playground, in the classroom or in the hallways, it’s key they understand how to get help. Your child should feel comfortable asking a teacher, lunch monitor, security officer, bus driver or secretary when there’s a problem, says Coulibaly. “If they hurt themselves on the playground or have an accident, they need to know it’s safe and okay to tell someone at school,” she says. 

3. Share and Take Turns 

Kindergarteners should be able to handle not getting their first choice at a play station and be able to wait their turn. “Mom can address your needs right away, but in a classroom, that isn’t the case,” says Melissa Field, who’s been a kindergarten teacher in North Plainfield for 19 years. “The teacher has to meet all of the kids’ needs.” While impulse control is often still a developmental issue for students this age, children should be able to show some growing consideration for their classmates, says Coulibaly. 

4. Practice Bathroom Independence 

Kids are expected to know how to use the restroom by themselves by the time they get to kindergarten, including getting their clothes back on and washing their hands afterwards. 

5. Sit Still During a Story 

A kindergartener needs to be able to sit and focus on a story for 15 to 20 minutes without jumping up or becoming distracted. Listening to and understanding a story are the first steps toward independent reading.

6. Recite the ABCs

Children should know how to sing and recite the alphabet, identify the letters out of context, recognize the letters in their names and make consonant sounds at this point. “Kids who come in knowing these skills will do a lot better,” says Danielle Bundrick, a kindergarten teacher at Nursery Rhymes Pre-School & Kindergarten in Saddle Brook. 

7. Know Their Numbers

Children should recognize the numbers through at least 20 and for numbers one to 10 they should understand sequence—that four comes after three, for instance. They should also be able to count, sort, put objects in order and describe them. “They should have a numbers ‘sense,’ ” explains Field. “They should be able to give me three apples and understand that ‘five’ means five objects.”

8. Hold a Pencil the Right Way

Kindergarten students need to be able to write some letters and hold a pencil correctly, says Bundrick. Make sure your child gets plenty of time playing with things like clay or Play-Doh, which can help strengthen their fingers and improve pencil grip. 

Michele Silver is a writer living in Montclair. She has a 6-year-old daughter going into first grade.

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