Getting Ready For Your New Kindergarten Class
School is about to begin (again), and some of the parents of your incoming students may be first-time “school” parents. As you well know, the transition from preschool or home to kindergarten may be overwhelming and emotional for both children and parents. Below is a suggested guide to help you plan your first parent meeting soon after school starts. The suggested topics may ease the transition for new parents.
What essential information do you think needs to be communicated to the parents?
- How would they best communicate with you if they have questions about their child?
Provide a phone number and/or e-mail address. Include preferred times of the day that you can be reached.
- How and when will you communicate with parents? If you plan on sending announcements and notes home in the children’s backpacks, remind parents of the days to check and not rely on their children to tell them they have “something from the teacher.” If all announcements can be found online, make sure they have your web address. If you need to contact the parents directly, be sure you have all contact numbers.
- What procedure do you follow if a child becomes ill while at school? Make sure parents read the school’s manual and understand the procedure.
- When are parent–teacher conferences? Provide dates and times so that parents can put these on their schedules immediately.
- What types of questions do you ask another teacher, the principal, or a school counselor?
Parent involvement in a child’s life is a leading protective factor. Offer support and encouragement for parent involvement, large or small. There is a place for any parent regardless of their background, education, or time commitment. Promote parent involvement by:
- Having paper and pens available for signup sheets and a box for parent notes;
- Suggesting way that parents can become involved in the classroom and in the school;
- Encouraging parents to foster their child’s friendships in the classroom, and asking for suggestions on friends that their child may be compatible with; and
- Letting parents know how the students will be celebrating this transition in the classroom.
- Inform the parents about the classroom rules and expectations for behavior. Parents who know what will be expected in the classroom can coordinate their techniques with teachers, and so teachers and parents can achieve maximum effectiveness at school and at home and not work at cross-purposes.
- Let the parents know how their child will be disciplined and under what circumstances. It is always best to have parents aware of consequences for misbehavior so they may help their children understand what is expected.
- Describe the typical daily classroom activities. Parents will differ on what concerns them most, but make sure they know how much time the children will spend outdoors and engaged in physical activity and how much time they will have for unstructured or “free play.”
- Make sure parents have a list of school supplies, from crayons to tissues, of what their children will need to bring to school.
- What classroom needs might families provide? Emphasize that grandparent as well as parent volunteers are most welcome! Make sure they understand how much time and how often this help might be needed, but emphasize the value of the occasional “home” presence in the classroom, especially for young children. For example:
- Is anyone available to read with the children?
- Who can help chaperone class trips or provide technical assistance for class performances?
- Do any of the parents have a special skill or expertise appropriate to share in class, particularly during the holidays?
Unlike parents of students in the upper grades (PDF 1.75MB), parents of kindergarteners may be unsure of what their children are expected to gain by the end of the school term. Review with the parents the different lesson plans set for the year and expected achievements:
- Identify the school standards or learning objectives for the children. These should include academic skills in numeracy, literacy, social science, art, social, emotional and behavior skills, and physical development (strength, coordination).
- Review how skill development is measured. Mention techniques, but emphasize the need to measure a child’s growth based on improvement in skill levels from the time he or she entered your class.
Preparations at Home
Make sure parents feel empowered. Let them know the things they can do to help their children prepare for school. Some examples follow:
- Gather school supplies together. Every child likes to pick out special items for school. A trip to a “dollar store” can be magical when looking for new things to take to school; pay close attention to the child’s favorite colors and characters.
- Enforce a healthy bedtime routine. Most kindergartens do not have “nap times,” and the days can start early. Provide large clock face handouts for parents to use to help children see bedtimes and wake-up times. Remind parents that preparations for bedtime should start an hour before bedtime—turn off the TV, use softer lighting, have the child take a nice warm bath and brush his or her teeth, and, most important, read together.
- Pick out special books for the new school experience. Many wonderful picture books are available about going to kindergarten, having new school experiences, and making new friends. Local and school librarians can help choose appropriate books for families. Below is a suggested list of such books that you might want to share with parents.
Suggested Book List (PDF 130KB)
- The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Brother Bear is excited about going back to school, but Sister Bear is afraid to start. But some planning and a good first day change her mind about kindergarten.
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate. Kindergarten teacher Miss Bindergarten readies her class for the first day of school and makes it a delightful place to be for an anxious little girl.
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. It is scary starting at a new school where you don’t know anyone, until one person helps with the transition.
- Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum. A boy entering kindergarten comforts his nervous mom and reassures her that he is ready for school.
- How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Kransy Brown and Marc Brown. Dinosaurs explain the importance of friendship. Finding friends makes every new situation better.
Have a great school year!
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
Transition Planning Resources provides useful resources and planning tools to support children and families as they move from preschool or home to kindergarten:
- Effective Transitions to Enhance School Readiness gives parents and educators practical information about transition experiences and their effects on children.
National Institutes of Health
“The Effect of School-Based Kindergarten Transition Policies and Practices on Child Academic Outcomes” (PDF 436KB) is a study that examines the importance of parent involvement to ensure positive school-based kindergarten transition practices.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Building Blocks for a Healthy Future
Early Childhood Research and Practice
“Starting School: Effective Transitions” (PDF 99KB) identifies the significance of starting school for young children, their families, and educators.
Rhode Island Kids Count
“Getting Ready: Findings from the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative—A 17 State Partnership” (PDF 1.75MB) gives parents useful information on how young children’s earliest experiences and environments set the stage for future development and success in school.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro and National Head Start Association
Terrific Transitions: Supporting Children’s Transition to Kindergarten is a website that provides parents and educators with information and resources on how to help build continuity between children’s early care settings and an effective transition to kindergarten:
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