The Guide to Kindergarten

Review general curricula for kindergarten, including what to expect for each subject and at-home activities to support learning in the classroom.



The Guide to Kindergarten

Kindergarten is the grade that bridges students’ preschool educations with their future elementary school learning. There is still plenty of playing, singing, and craft-making in kindergarten, but it is often balanced with more rigorous writing, reading, and math lessons. Kindergartners also continue to learn and get used to the routines of school, how to work in groups, and how to be successful students.

The expectations for what students should achieve, and specifically whether they should know how to read and write by the end of kindergarten, varies across schools. Consult with your child’s school and teacher for details regarding specific philosophies and curriculum.

Kindergarten classrooms are often organized by centers or areas that are divided by different subjects and different types of play. For example, a typical kindergarten classroom may have the following centers: reading, arts and crafts, building and math toys, and a "pretend play" area. The school day is structured with both time for free play (during which children can choose which centers to play in) and structured scheduled lessons devoted to each subject.

Research has shown that participants in full-day kindergartens often achieve higher standardized test scores in the future and generally excel in school. In addition, they develop strong social skills as they engage in more child-to-child interactions and develop their interpersonal skills.

Reading in Kindergarten 

In kindergarten, children begin to grow as independent readers and become more familiar and comfortable with reading. Reading is intertwined into the daily life of your kindergartner. A kindergarten classroom is full of words and labeled objects. Students read and talk about books, as well as read the day’s schedules, class letters, songs, and poems throughout the day.

In order to build reading skills, your kindergartner:

  • Learns all of the letters of the alphabet (upper case and lower case) and their sounds.
  • Begins to “read” books himself, mainly by memorization.
  • Recognizes several basic sight words such as I, my, you, is, and are.
  • Reads and listens to stories and then talks about the stories, including their plots, characters, and events.
  • Follows words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
  • Recognizes and can produce rhyming words.
  • Adds or substitutes individual sounds in simple, one-syllable words to make new words, such as replacing the “C” in “Cat” with an “R” to create the word “Rat.”

Reading Activities

  • Read and Repeat: Have your child “read” her favorite book to you, using her memory, associations, and clues from the pictures.
  • Alphabet Books: Use drawings or pictures from magazines to create an alphabet book with a letter and an object that begins with that letter on each page.
  • Fill in the Blank: When you read a favorite picture book to your child and come across a short word that rhymes or is familiar to your child because he knows the book very well, stop and let him say the word. Point to the word as he says it and spell it out.
  • Act it Out: Act out parts of or the whole story of your child’s favorite and well-known books.

Writing in Kindergarten 

In kindergarten, your child really begins to grow as a writer. Kindergartners start to write words (often using their own creative or invented spellings), and even write their own books and stories about their lives and what they’ve learned. Creative or invented spelling is a crucial part of developing writing skills. Using this method, your child spells words using the letters and sounds he hears. This is an important part of your child’s writing development as he gains a deeper understanding of letters, words and their sounds. In addition, most of the words your kindergartner learns to spell correctly are one syllable words which often follow the pattern of CVC, or CONSONANT, VOWEL, CONSONANT — for example, "Cat," "Big," or "Rug."  And of course, the reading that your kindergartner does is directly connected to developing his writing and literacy skills.

In order to build writing skills, your kindergartner:

  • Writes uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Writes his/her name.
  • Writes some letters and words when they are dictated.
  • Uses invented or creative spelling to write a variety of words.
  • Uses conventional spelling to write some words (CVC and basic sight words).
  • Writes, Draws and Dictates about a variety of topics, including his opinion and descriptions of objects or moments and events in his life.

Writing Activities

  • Label Things: Create labels with your child for different objects in your house. For example, various books, places for toys, foods, objects in the kitchen, or clothes. You or your child can write the names of the objects and your child can draw a picture to go along with it.
  • Guessing Games: Draw a picture and have your child guess the spelling of that word. Give your child a few letters in a word. For example show your child “_AT,” and ask him to make as many words as he can with it.
  • Create a Photo Album: When you take pictures of events or people ask your child to label the picture. Glue the picture to a piece of a paper so your child can write a description of the event, what happened, who was there, etc. If other people were involved in the event, send them a copy!
  • Have a Letter Treasure Hunt: When you are in the car, at home or in the store, ask your child to find certain uppercase and lowercase letters. She can keep a list of all the letters she finds and write them down as she finds them. 

Math in Kindergarten 

In most kindergarten classes, math is woven throughout the day’s activities. This is especially effective because math becomes more meaningful when it is experienced in real-life contexts. Most importantly, your kindergartner will go beyond simply counting the numbers to understanding what numbers represent and actively using them to represent quantities. Daily kindergarten math activities include learning numbers, practicing counting, addition and subtraction, and learning concepts of time, measurement, and categorization. In addition, playing with puzzles, building toys, blocks, and games helps kindergarteners practice and build math skills in an enjoyable and engaging way, making their learning more meaningful and effective.

In order to build math skills, your kindergartner:

  • Understands that numbers represent quantity and uses them to do so.
  • Counts and writes numbers from 1-20 (and potentially higher).
  • Counts out and compare quantities, usually up to 20.
  • Counts out and groups objects in order to solve single-digit addition and subtraction problems. 
  • Begins to recognize and understand the meaning of the plus and minus signs.
  • Uses drawings, objects, actions and sounds to represent and practice addition and subtraction.
  • Practices beginning measurement and graphing skills, often through the creation of class-wide graphs, such as graphing favorite snacks or how kids get to school.
  • Learns about and begin to count to 100, specifically through tallying the days of school and a celebration on the 100th day of school (many but not all kindergarten classes do something like this).
  • Creates patterns.

Math Activities

  • Cook with Patterns: Patterns can be used in lots of cooking. Make patterns with cereal necklaces, decorate cookies, make layered sandwiches with bread or crackers, or make simple patterns using your child’s favorite colored candies.
  • Tell Math Stories: Use objects or even yourselves to practice addition and subtraction. If you have a bowl of 5 apples, ask your child to help figure out how many you will have left if you take away 3.
  • Build Things: Use blocks, Legos, or any other building toys to construct houses, towers, vehicles etc. As your child builds, ask him to count pieces, create patterns, and talk about the shapes.
  • Take a Poll: Ask family members a question and create a graph of the answers using numbers and pictures.
  • Find the Sizes in Nature: Go outside and collect things in nature such as leaves, stones, and pinecones. After you’ve collected things, count how many things you found and then talk about their sizes, which are larger, smaller, the largest, and the smallest. You can even add objects that are the same (for example, all of the leaves). 

Science in Kindergarten

Very often, teachers will give specific science lessons once to a few a times a week. During this time, the class will learn about a certain topic — for example, water, weather, animals, plants, or nature — through the use of books, demonstrations with actual objects, explorations outside, or interactive activities. In addition, kindergartners are natural scientists as they play and explore the world around them with their curious minds. Very often, science lessons overlap with math and literacy as teachers use tools such as books, graphs, and measurement to help students learn. Since specific science topics presented in a kindergarten class vary across schools, find out which topics your child will be learning about and find ways to explore and learn about these topics at home.

In order to build science skills, your kindergartner:

  • Is a natural born scientist, constantly exploring, observing, questioning, and experimenting as she plays and interacts with her surroundings.
  • Learns new facts about a variety of topics.
  • Explores and experiments with the world around her and with objects provided by the teacher.
  • Makes observations and records what she sees and learns using graphs, pictures, and words.

Science Activities

  • Observe Nature: Pick something in nature—plants, the moon a rain storm, etc.—and observe it with your child for a few days or even weeks. Ask your child to draw pictures of what she notices, such as patterns and differences between things. You can write things down as well. Do this repeatedly and keep a science journal of different objects.
  • Inspect Your Food: Cut open different fruits and vegetables and see what you find inside! Talk about the seeds, the difference between fruits and vegetables, and other things you notice. Try planting some of the seeds!
  • Make Science Collages: Use pictures from magazines, newspapers, or online (with supervision) to create collages of different categories of science objects, such as animals, plants, birds, and fish.
  • Learn About a Favorite Animal: Pick an animal your child loves and learn about it. Read about it, see it at a zoo or farm, or look at pictures online. Then help your child create a collage of she what she learned about that animal using pictures and texts. 

Social Studies in Kindergarten

Social Studies learning in a kindergarten classroom occurs throughout the day, beginning with a class meeting (often called “morning meeting” or “circle time”) at the start of the day. During this time, many classes review the calendar and the weather, the number of days of school, as well as any other “class news” for the day. Students may also share their own news during this time. Social studies continues throughout the day as kindergartners follow classroom rules and build their social skills, interacting with each other and learning to share, take turns, and work together, ultimately helping them become successful students and classroom citizens. In addition, most kindergarten classrooms in the U.S. include teaching children about their communities, outside of their home, and the American holidays. 

In order to build social studies skills, your kindergartner:

  • Works in groups, sharing and taking turns.
  • Develops conflict resolution skills.
  • Develops communication and conversation skills.
  • Learns about his community, outside of his home.
  • Learns about the calendar.
  • Learns about American holidays.

 Social Studies Activities

  • Study Your Community: Walk around your local neighborhood and help your child take photos, draw pictures, and write about what she notices. Encourage your child to talk to different people in the community and ask them questions. Then make a poster or short book about your town. Your child can then send this info to a friend or family member who lives somewhere else.
  • Take a trip: Compare your own town and community to ones around you. If you live in a city, visit a more rural or suburban area. If you live in a rural area or suburb, visit a city. Talk about the differences and similarities or make a chart of them.
  • Act it Out: Use role play to help your child work on his conflict resolution skills. Act out small situations of conflict, such as what happens if someone is playing with a toy you want or what happens if you don’t agree with someone about something. Help your child figure out specific strategies he can use in different situations.
  • Make a Group Plan: Work with other family members or friends on a specific task such as cleaning up a yard or room, cooking, or setting up a meal or party. Assign everyone specific roles and figure out how to work together in the best way possible. 

Recommended Books for Kindergartner

Here are some book picks for your Kindergartner:

  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate: This book is about a teacher getting her classroom ready for her students. It is just one example of a book about preparing for kindergarten; there are also many books about 1st days of kindergarten.
  • The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf: This book about a box of crayons that don't get along is commonly used in classrooms to help students talk about their relationships with each other, how they can work together, and how their differences can be beneficial.
  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert: This book is a great way to introduce your child to basic science topics such as gardening and plants. It also serves as an opportunity to get your child cooking and gardening with you!
  • My Five Senses by AlikiThis book helps teach children about their senses, a very important scientific concept.
What to Expect by Grade
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Elementary School