Published Online: July 8, 2014

Program helps children get set for kindergartner

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — As a new school year approaches, sometimes it can be difficult to predict who will be more nervous for the first day of kindergarten: The kids or the parents.

To help combat some of those first-week jitters, area kindergarten teachers work to prepare both children and parents alike for the transition into a school setting, both academically and socially.

Julie Lauer, a kindergarten teacher at Caze School, offers a program called Mother Goose on the Loose, a monthlong program held during the summer to help prepare children for the start of kindergarten.

Some of the goals of the program include acclimating students to routines and responsibilities, learning songs, chants and nursery rhymes, as well as fine motor skills and math and reading concepts.

"I'm not focusing so much as writing your name and learning your ABC's, but rather how to get in line, taking turns to listen to the teacher at the same time, raising your hand to be called on, and other similar things that are sometimes forgotten," Lauer told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1vWPhU1 ).

Lauer had 17 students enrolled in the program this summer with a regular attendance of about 14. Students are exposed to a variety of different activities during the program from 8:25-11:55 a.m.

Students learned 16 nursery rhymes and listened to 40 stories read aloud by Lauer throughout the month, all of which Lauer says are crucial components to a kindergartner's development.

"Sometimes we forget the importance of knowing nursery rhymes, and kids don't know them that well anymore," she said. "Being stuck in front of a TV or video games kind of zaps their imagination. Kids don't really have the imagination they used to have."

Lauer said practicing and emphasizing routines and responsibilities with future kindergartners is sometimes skipped over this time of year, but it's an important foundation to have for students to adjust to the school setting.

"There's a lot of ground work to be made before they can start learning their ABC's and numbers," she said.

Jackie Kuhn, director of English, arts and language at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, said establishing routines before the start of school will help make the transition easier, such as establishing bedtimes and waking students up earlier.

But Kuhn emphasized the one thing parents can do to benefit their children the most is simply talking to them.

"No matter where you are, if you're in the car, grocery store, at a restaurant or getting ready for bed, talking to them and helping them increase their vocabulary is huge. Pointing out stuff to them, anything as small as a letter or a color and getting them to ask questions, will help them," Kuhn said.

Pam Decker, the principal of Joshua Academy, said their preschool students receive assessments at the end of the year and parents are then given areas to work on and practice before their child starts kindergarten.

Decker also said that for parents getting ready to send their child to kindergarten, it might be worth looking into online activities to help prepare for what they might encounter in the classroom. Decker said there are apps and other online resources that can help students brush up on vocabulary lessons and beyond.

Kuhn said the EVSC focuses heavily on getting kindergartners, as well as their parents, ready for the school experience. Kuhn said orientations are offered in the spring for incoming kindergartners to help them experience the classroom setting. In addition, she said most schools offer open houses several days before the first day of school to allow students to see their classrooms and drop off school supplies.

Lauer said allowing students to see their classroom and meet their teacher before school can make a difference in their school experience.

"I've always noticed that the kids that come out of our summer school program come into the start of kindergarten more confident and ready to go," she said.

Lauren Merillat, a parent of one of the students who attended Lauer's Mother Goose on the Loose program, said she enrolled her son because she wanted to prepare both of them for what they might expect this fall.

"It's helped him get more in tune and prepare him for what's to come. And it's a plus to get to know his teacher beforehand," Merillat said.

Knowing your child's teacher helps alleviate nerves for parents, Decker said.

"As a parent, you have to have a good relationship with the teacher, because they're your first line of defense for your child," she said.

Decker said on the first day of school it is common for parents to have a hard time letting go, but it's all part of the process.

"On the first day or two of school, I'm always shooing parents out the door and the separation anxiety if often theirs, not their child," Decker said. "They need to let their children know that they're safe and that they're coming back for them."

While Decker said first-day-of-school tears are common for kindergartners and their parents, she emphasized that putting a positive spin will go a long way.

"The first day of kindergarten can be very emotional, but you just have to talk it up and get that child excited no matter what you're feeling. There might be some tears, but you have to continue to excite that child and continue to send them every day," she said.

While first week anxieties might be stereotypical for kindergartners, Decker said all school ages can feel that anxiety. The key is staying positive.

"I think that school is a very exciting time for the lives of children, and parents need to encourage and participate in that excitement, and remember that isn't just for kindergarten, it's all up until high school."

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com


This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Evansville Courier & Press.


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