2 Tips for Helping Kindergarten Teachers During the Common Core Transition
Kindergarten teachers have long been tasked with ensuring their pupils master a minimum of basic levels of math and language arts every year. But today, K-12 schools are straining to keep pace with demanding Common Core guidelines for essential reading, writing and math skills.
To help relieve some of the pressure of modifying lesson plans, teachers are giving parents an added assist by leveraging both a parent teacher association and email during the process of preparing classroom materials.
Start the Science, Please
Kindergarten teachers begin at the very beginning, reinforcing the basics by requiring children to fill in bubbles on a similar variety of colors as they would at the end of fourth grade. “When they’re a little younger, we start out with a whole alphabet and use those to help them learn by trial and error how to put a bubble together so it doesn’t disappear,” says Karen Crowley, superintendent of the Center School District in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The early weeks after school start can also be an excellent time to explore mathematics basics using a fun science activity and let the children explore that concept. “We can begin to see where they learn best, which subjects, and how they learn best,” Crowley says. She also suggests arranging a series of letters and then matching each letter with a difference in letter combination. Having the children share their discoveries with parents can encourage exploration, thoughtfulness and inquiry as they learn to make sense of these forces.
Ask, Then Say, Then Show
School may be breaking for the summer, but there’s still ample time to take a thorough look at year-old classroom assignments. “A lot of teachers let their notes and charts just pile up. It’s just too much information. If you want your students to remember what they need to when they enter kindergarten, let them know,” says Kelly Hoggatt, elementary school teacher in Salem, Massachusetts.
These give-and-take moments are also an excellent opportunity to catch students up on their reading. “In an eight-week period, kids read as much as two weeks late because they are stressed about their homework. But after eighth grade, reading is a practice in writing and how we represent ourselves.”
Push It When You Can, Rest When You Can’t
Pre-K classes can always use more reliable and authoritative information. And with all that’s at stake, teachers need to be sure they can credibly deliver that information. Parents’ questions are often well-intentioned and not unreasonable. But a lot of what parents want to know is not always obvious. For example, some questions will take the teacher longer to answer than you might expect.
School districts could also benefit from an extra set of eyes and ears at the school. “If you have an expert in a department that’s still doing things the way they’ve always done it, we sometimes feel we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” says Anne Nelson, superintendent of the Watchung School District in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
Use Advice to Keep Teaching
It’s good for parents to help parents with Common Core questions. But the schools have to be able to use the right method to prompt student performance. Different teachers are used to teaching different classrooms, giving them insight into their workflows. “They use some of our instructional strategies,” Nelson says. “We have tools and standards and tests to apply them.”
When a parent school district has a comprehensive year-round early childhood development strategy, there’s more to it. Read articles like “5 Ways Families Can Raise Their Preschoolers’ Literacy Performance” and make sure you and your children are ready to incorporate the content of the Common Core guidelines when school starts again in the fall.
Katrina Schwartz, K-12 School Culture: New Thinking in the Classroom for Kids