Head of the Class
By Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
Question: We have been told by our son’s preschool teacher that he is ready for kindergarten, both academically and socially. He has a January birthday, so he will be five and a half by the time kindergarten starts. However, we have some reservations about sending him because there are confidence issues, as he is very cautious and somewhat reluctant to try new things. How should we factor in this issue when making our decision? Is there any downside to another year of preschool? —Too Cautious
Answer: The one certainty about the kindergarten readiness issue is the inability to see the future. There are more than three months before he will go to kindergarten—time for your son to gain more confidence. Furthermore, you cannot be sure another year of preschool would make him more confident.
You can start building his confidence by helping him learn how to handle new situations. For example, before he faces a new situation, such as an overnight stay at a friend’s house, talk over what is going to happen and play-act possible responses. And when he faces a new task, guide him in breaking it down into manageable units based on his past experiences.
The negative about another year of preschool is that it means an additional year of schooling. Also, since the preschool teacher believes that he is ready for kindergarten, another year of preschool might not be very challenging intellectually. In addition, your son will not be the youngest in his class next fall. This is a positive, as older children tend to do better in the first three grades.
Visiting the preschool to see how your son interacts with his classmates and does the schoolwork also could help you make this decision. You will probably notice that there are other students who demonstrate the same reluctance to try new things as your son does.
If you decide another year of preschool is the way you want to go, be sure to contact the school district to make sure that your son can enter kindergarten instead of first grade the next year. Some districts will insist that an older child enter first grade.
Ways to Improve Poor Listening Skills
Question: The teacher says that my daughter in third grade has poor listening skills. However, she had no suggestions when I asked for her input on how together we could improve the child’s listening. —Help
Answer: Fortunately, there are some things that you can start doing at home to improve her listening skills:
- Be sure to have eye contact with your daughter when you speak to her. It is an effective way to grab children’s attention.
- When you give directions, occasionally ask your child to repeat or rephrase them. When a task is completed, praise her for her cooperation.
- Avoid repeating directions, requests, and general information. Let your daughter suffer the consequences of tuning out what her family is saying.
- Play listening games with her like Simon Says and “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take a (name an object plus all the objects other players have mentioned).” The latter can be played at the dinner table.
- Start reading brief stories to your child, and ask her to tell you when she hears certain information.
- Read part of a story and ask your child to predict how it will end before finishing the story.
- Have many one-on-one conversations with your child. Be sure to ask for feedback so you know she’s able to process what she hears.
A conference with this teacher that includes your child could be helpful in finding ways to improve your daughter’s listening skills. Perhaps, the teacher could ask your child the first question in a classroom discussion. It might also be effective to have the child sit in the first row in the classroom.
Parents should send questions and comments to [email protected] or ask them on the columnists’ website at www.dearteacher.com. © Compass Syndicate Corp., 2015