August 9, 2008

Kindergarten Isn’t First Class for Many

The first day of kindergarten might conjure images of a 5-year- old clutching a new lunchbox in one hand and fiercely gripping Mama's leg with the other.

Madison McPherson won't be one of those children.

"I get to meet new friends," she said excitedly.

In a couple of weeks, Madison will start kindergarten at Hammond Hills Elementary School.

She said she thinks the work will be harder than pre-K, which she attended at Grace United Methodist Church.

She's not worried, though.

Last year, she said, she "colored, made stuff and we went to music and science and we played at recess."

She also learned to write her name.

The numbers of kindergartners stepping into a classroom for the first time is dwindling, according to teachers.

"Most children have had some experience with the classroom," said Laura Murphy, a kindergarten teacher North Augusta Elementary School.

Last year, only four of 24 children in Murphy's kindergarten class at North Augusta Elementary School had not attended pre-K.

"They really need extra assistance," she said.

In pre-K, children typically learn to recognize colors, letters and shapes. Some of the children can count and write some of their letters when they enter kindergarten.

Murphy balances giving children who haven't been to pre-K extra help without singling them out. She doesn't want them feeling inadequate.

"You want to make sure they feel as comfortable in your room as children who already know these things," she said.

Madison's teachers at Grace told her kindergarten might be different, but the biggest difference Madison can see is that she will spend the whole day at school instead of just half of it.

Madison said she will "color, write, go to recess and eat lunch."

"By the time they are leaving kindergarten, they're learning to read and write," Murphy said.

Madison is preparing for kindergarten by helping her mother do things like making grocery lists. At the store, she will check off the list.

Murphy said preparation such as this can help children ease into school. She recommended parents talking to children each day as they go through daily routines, teaching children the various items they come in contact with.

"A lot of times when children come to school they don't know what items are," she said.

In kindergarten, children will learn to count to 100, recognize all of their letters and learn how letters make up words, words make up sentences and sentences make up books, Murphy said.

They will also learn life skills such as schedules, patience, responsibility, caring and cooperation.

"These area all life skills they need to learn," she said.

Murphy said the most important thing teachers and parents can do is let children know how proud they are.

"Everybody learns differently," she said.

Reach Lisa Kaylor at

[email protected]\

Getting ready\ Murphy suggested a few steps parents can take to help prepare children for kindergarten:\ - Talk to your child every day as you do things, whether it be shopping or driving. Identify streets, explain the meaning of stoplights, identify vegetables and where they come from, etc. Talk about seasons and weather.\ - Read to your child every day to foster a love of reading. Through reading, children will learn that letters make up words and words make up books.\ - Make sure children can dress themselves.\ - If possible, take a tour of the school.\ - Let children experiment with school supplies such as markers, glue and scissors.\ - Teach children about relationships such as mom, dad, sister and brother.\ - Teach children their addresses, phone number, first and last names, birthday and parents' first and last names.\ - Identify colors, shapes, count with them and teach them the ABC song.

Originally published by Lisa Kaylor Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.