Off to the Write Start
At the beginning of the school year, the teacher will assess your child's writing skills to see where she stands: Can she write her name? Are the letters legible and spaced correctly? Does she use all caps, or does she understand the difference between upper and lower case? To make sure that the class is on the same page, the first few months are typically spent re-familiarizing children with the alphabet. This would include review of the upper- and lowercase letters, how to print them correctly (lots of bad habits develop in preschool, such as forming letters from the bottom up), and what each letter sounds like.
You can expect your child to receive take-home and in-class worksheets featuring each letter as it's studied. The worksheets will show the letter written with a series of dots or dashes (instead of continuous lines), along with arrows indicating the direction in which the pencil should go. Tracing over the dotted lines will help your child learn to print the letter on his own.
To prime students for reading, teachers help kids make the sound connection with each letter of the alphabet, often devoting an entire week to each one. Fun activities are typically designed to saturate the class with the letter. For example, "P" week could kick off with a pajama party. The kids — and teacher — come dressed in their pajamas. While the children munch on pretzels and potato chips, the teacher reads a P-themed book, such as Laura Numeroff's, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Homework — these days kindergartners have it — consists of practice making upper and lower case "Ps" (usually in a handwriting notebook with lined paper). Adding an element of fun, the kids are also given pictures of "P" words (pig, pumpkin) to color.
Other kindergarten writing goals include:
- Distinguishing letters from words and words from sentences.
- Printing name, address and phone number correctly "on the line."
- Being able to recognize, write, and spell between 30 and 50 high-frequency or "sight" words, such as "the," "is," and "I."
- Using writing (letter, pictures, and words) to express meaning.
Writing for Meaning
At this stage, teaching writing as a form of expression is mostly done through teacher modeling. For example, a teacher might write a partial sentence on the board ("I have a _______") and ask children to fill in the blank. Early in the school year, they'll draw a picture and print whatever letters they hear in the word. Kids can usually identify the beginning and end sound — for example, a "d" and a "g" if the word is dog. After the December holiday break, however, children are usually able to provide more details about their drawings. Teacher prompts encourage them to think like writers. For instance, your child's teacher might ask, "What is the dog's name?" or "What do you do with the dog?"
Beyond a doubt, kindergarten is much more than a place to go for coloring and playing, as it was years ago. But one thing hasn't changed: it's still a nurturing place where kids are introduced to their first real school experience and, hopefully, a love of learning too.