Characteristics of a Good Kindergarten

My oldest daughter will be going to kindergarten next year. She is quite advanced in her second year of preschool. She reads on a first grade level, spells, knows all of her letters and counts to 20. She does, however, need to grow with her motor skills. She is just beginning to write letters and draw shapes. What should I ask when I go to see the school? What should I look for?


Particularly when you feel your child is advanced in some areas and needs attention in others, which is characteristic of most preschoolers, you want to find a kindergarten program that will stimulate her growth and development and keep her curious about learning.

At kindergarten age, children need a continuation of what they have been doing in preschool more than a formal academic program. Unfortunately, today many kindergarten classrooms look more like rooms for older children. Interest areas, such as blocks, dramatic play props, toys, art, sand and water tables are usually fewer, less elaborate or nonexistent. There may be limited opportunities for children to make choices but more teacher-directed activities. Children may be required to sit and complete paper and pencil tasks for long periods of time. We do not believe this is in children's best interests.

Look for a kindergarten program that works to strengthen children's social, emotional and physical skills with varied opportunities to explore reading, writing and mathematics, to do what scientists do, to find out about the world and to create through the arts. You want to see children talking with each other, trying materials, solving problems together and in general, deeply involved and excited by their work.

Expect the daily schedule to include times for the class to gather for discussions about a topic they are studying, to resolve a problem in the classroom, to participate in a lesson planned by the teacher and to share work they have completed. Look for one or two planned periods, depending on the length of the kindergarten day, for focused work on reading and writing or math tasks. These might center around making and repeating patterns, sorting and classifying objects and comparing them on a graph, writing and drawing in personal journals, finding words that sound alike in a poem or looking at books. You should see children working in small groups or individually and a teacher going from group to group. You may observe a teacher leading a meeting in which each group presents their work to the class.

Look for evidence of long-term projects. By the time children are in kindergarten, they are ready to tackle lessons in science and social studies that extend for several weeks or months. The key to a good study topic is that children can explore it firsthand, becoming scientists and researchers as they make discoveries.

-- Toni Bickart, Teaching Strategies

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