Monday, February 20, 2012

National Teachers' Survey on Kindergarten Readiness Skills

There's a lot of talk about kindergarten readiness, and it's one of our priorities at Hands on Mom, so I was eager to get my hands on the results of the US Dept. of Education's national survey of kindergarten teachers on the most important skills for kindergarten students.  You can read the full report here and a synopsis here.

The survey was a list of skills.  Teachers ranked these, and statistical magic was used to compile the results into categories of importance.  Here's how it turned out:

1. Most important:  that a child be physically healthy, rested and well-nourished; be able to communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally; and be enthusiastic and curious in approaching new activities.

2. Next most important:  ability to follow directions, not being disruptive in class, being sensitive to other children's feelings, and the ability to take turns and share.

3. Less important:  knowing English, the ability to sit still and pay attention, and finishing tasks.

4. Least important of the listed skills:  good problem-solving skills, the ability to identify primary colors and basic shapes, the ability to use pencils and paint brushes, knowledge of the alphabet, and the ability to count to 20.

Fascinating.  As a speech-language pathologist I am delighted by the acknowledgement that the ability to communicate (even if it's not in perfect English) is of the utmost importance.  But what I find the most interesting is that self-regulation skills such as following directions, not being disruptive, being sensitive to others and taking turns were more important than the discrete "readiness skills" that parents tend to focus on teaching (colors/shapes/alphabet/counting).  

Know how kids learn these skills?  Playing with others-both with kids they know on playdates and kids they don't know on playgrounds.  They also need to see the adults in their lives model these behaviors, and when the kids struggle with these behaviors they need adults to coach them through sharing and sensitivity when difficulties arise. 

By modeling compassion (sending notes to someone who is sick), taking turns (by playing games together), sharing with others, and having high expectations for following directions at home, you are teaching some of the most important skills for kindergarten readiness. 

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