In my post, Excellence in kindergarten comes from 10 key things, I briefly covered 10 the areas it covers are still basic areas of study and behavior that should be paid attention to when coaching your kindergartner through their first year of school. Now that I’ve had a chance to get this information out to parents, I realize that I should go a little more in depth into each area. My aim for the following is to provide some more ideas as to how to prepare your kindergartner for their next years of school.
My Credentials (reprinted from my original post):
Let me state up front that I am not a kindergarten teacher nor any other grade teacher. I have a BA in English from Sonoma State University in California and started my teaching credential years ago before my career path took me away from school and into the working world.
My expertise on the subject of kindergarten (and the other lower grades) comes from over four years of volunteering in a kindergarten class at my kids school. I also have seen the end result of kindergarten by volunteering in a first grade class for almost three years before COVID shut down in person schooling in our area.
I wasn’t the typical volunteer. As soon as my children started school, I was in the classroom five days a week splitting between kindergarten and the upper grades as needed. I’ve been put in charge of tech education for kindergarten and have run multi levels of reading groups in first grade. I also worked on reading fluency with emerging readers and became known as the parent to rely on when given an educational task to accomplish in the classroom.
The two teachers I worked with most were seasoned professionals. My mentors were wonderful women who made teaching their life.
- The kindergarten teacher was one of the original teachers at our school which was founded in 1995. She transferred over from another school and while kindergarten is her niche, she also had taught grades higher up into elementary school.
- The first grade teacher I worked with had been teaching longer than I’ve been alive. She knew what kids needed to have in first grade and was great at evaluating how successful a kindergarten year was for a kid within the first few weeks of school in her class.
I might not be considered an expert because I don’t have a degree. I do believe my time in the classroom as well as being a mother myself helps me give a balanced view of things that will help your child succeed in kindergarten.
Area 1: Writing
Even before kids learn their letters, putting pencil or crayon to paper is something they will be asked to do.
Skill Needed: Hold a pencil (or any other writing utensil) properly
Let’s start at the beginning with the way your child holds a pencil. The most common approach to holding a pencil is using the tripod method. There are a few variations of this pinching grip on a pencil. None of them seem to be better than others, but the grip allows the writer to have control and flexibility at the same time.
As much as I’d like to say that this is a natural way to hold a pencil, it does take kids a little bit to get used to.
The most backwards grip I’ve ever seen caused me to ask the teacher about the child and it turned out that her hand muscles were super weak and they were working with her on hand exercises to help her hold things better.
My son, who happens to be dyslexic holds his pencil the correct way, but as you can see from pictured, his letters need more practice when it comes to legibility. If your kids don’t write perfectly at first don’t worry too much. It’s always been said that little boys are slower to gain fine motor skills than little girls but they eventually catch up.
The ideal pencil grip allows you to remain stable and flexible at the same time. The outer portion of your hand acts as a base to steady your stroke, and the thumb and fingers coordinate to make fluid, precise movements.A Gripping Tale: How to Hold a Pencil
Up until now I didn’t really think much about pencil holding, but as I started to research this a little I realized just how hard it must have been to get help from my parents. My brother and I are both right handed and my parents are both left handed. Seems simple enough, but everything is different for different dexterities.
Experts at the Handedness Research Institute recommend that left-handed students change their pencil grip and paper position for more efficient writing.
Try holding the pencil further up the barrel — around a 1 1/2 inch from the pencil point. A higher hold on the pencil will allow writers to see what they’re writing.— A Gripping Tale: How to Hold a Pencil
Skill needed: letter formation
I always have to remind my son who is now a second grader to form his letters very carefully. Kids at this age don’t realize just how important it is to be able to read their writing. Because of course, if another person can’t read your writing (when you’re older) then what’s the point of writing something down in the first place.
There is a big difference between an a and a, u and a, a d and a b.
If your child doesn’t form their letters properly truly the only way to get them to do it is to practice.
Don’t worry though. Times have changed when it comes to penmanship practice. Now a days, practice doesn’t have to be boring though repetitions like we had to do when we were kids.
Mix it up a bit:
- Pencil and paper ( Education.com has probably the most complete set of printable worksheets I could find online.)
- Repeat a letter using crayons in different colors.
- Write on white boards
- Trace letters in the sand or dirt write the letters out using a finger or a stick.
- When you see a letter on a sign or box or anything, have your child trace it with their finger.
The key to keep in mind with these activities is to help them form their letters correctly.
The other day someone posted a video on how their kids were learning to write letters and the order of the strokes was different than we had learned them as kids.
It might sound strange of me to suggest, but if you are having trouble remembering how to form the letters there are many letter formation worksheets out there to help learn how to form the letters.
If your child is having trouble with controlling their pencil, have them color preprinted pictures and stay within the lines. Start out with bigger sections to color then work on more detailed images.
The more fine motor skill action, the better. The kindergarten teacher I worked with had the kids use Twistable crayons with a fine point on them that helped let them do more precise work with their coloring usually by the middle and end of the year. Thinking back, I feel like this tiny work was more than just art instruction.
Bonus: Combining Movement with Learning
Especially with kindergartners, adding movement to their learning is important. WIth PE not being really taught much during the pandemic, here is a great mini lesson to add some action to their days… I found a mini workout that has no writing materials involved that helps kids learn their letter formations:
Find more great kindergarten educational videos on my YouTube playlist: Kindergarten Skills Videos
I’d love to hear—what are your favorite tips and tricks for teaching kindergarteners, or any student for that matter, writing?