District 203 principal offers advice for kindergarten parents

Margeaux Leonard, 6 from Naperville, center right, works on creating a tree as fellow table mate Kaeden Smith, 6 of Naperville, center left, takes a look at his in Mrs. Simpson's morning Kindergarten class at Beebe Elementary in January. District 203 is starting all-day kindergarten at seven schools this fall. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Margeaux Leonard, 6 from Naperville, center right, works on creating a tree as fellow table mate Kaeden Smith, 6 of Naperville, center left, takes a look at his in Mrs. Simpson's morning Kindergarten class at Beebe Elementary in January. District 203 is starting all-day kindergarten at seven schools this fall. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

The rollout of full-day kindergarten to the remaining seven schools in Naperville School District 203 might be less than a month away, but parents still have time to prepare their would-be students for the big day.

In fall 2013, District 203 implemented all-day kindergarten at its seven schools that receive federal Title I funding to benefit students who receive free or reduced price lunch. Those schools include Ellsworth, Elmwood, Beebe, Naper, Mill, River Woods and Scott.

On Aug. 20, all kindergarten students in District 203 will start the school year with a sneak peek day followed the next day by the first full day of kindergarten at the Title I schools as well as Highlands, Kingsley, Maplebrook, Meadow Glens, Prairie, Ranch View and River Woods.

Ranch View Principal Suzanne Salness said parents can help their children make the transition to kindergarten in a number of ways.

Her first suggestion was to help children build stamina by getting kids to stay on one task for an extended amount of time. Salness said playing a game, coloring or drawing pictures, and reading a book are easy ways to achieve that goal.

Salness said parents also can work with would-be kindergarten students on recognizing print and learn how to distinguish between letters, numbers and symbols in various types of fonts.

Driving around town or on a trip, parents can point out words on signs and buildings that children can easily recognize, such as stop signs, McDonald’s or the stores where the family shops for groceries or school supplies. Salness said identifying words on signs helps children develop a larger list of sight words that they can recognize immediately when reading a book.

In addition to seeing print everywhere around, children should be reading with parents because literacy is integral to the Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by District 203 as well as schools across Illinois.

Reading aloud to children is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted policy last month urging its doctors promote reading along with dispensing routine immunizations and developmental advice.

Another critical element in Common Core is background knowledge, and Salness said children should be exposed to nonfiction text related to animals and places as well as traditional fictional storybooks.

When it comes to social and emotional development, children need to build patience and learn how to problem-solve by themselves, according to Salness. With many students in a classroom, a teacher may not be able to assist every student immediately so a students need to 0learn how to wait patiently for a turn at the teacher’s full attention or figure out a way to solve the dilemma at hand.

She also said would-be kindergarten students should learn how to advocate for themselves for something as simple as asking for a restroom break.

When it comes to motor skills, Salness said kindergarteners need to know how to button or zip and unzip their clothes as well as tie shoes.

Lunch will inevitably be a new challenge for all kindergarten students, who need to be able to open milk cartons, snack bags, fruit cups and plastic zip bags or puncture juice pouches with a straw, Salness said.

She added time management during lunch is necessary, and kids need to be able to sit down and finish eating in a timely manner.

Kids aren’t the only ones who need to prepare for all-day kindergarten.

Salness said parents need to have confidence that the teachers have their children’s best interests at heart.

“We have great master teachers who will handle their children with care,” she said.

Teachers also needed professional development to prepare for the change. Salness said they learned how to integrate more of Common Core’s reading, writing and number sense into the curriculum.

Teachers getting ready for the start of all-day kindergarten this fall also were able to tap a perfect resource in their own community: teachers from the other seven schools that already implemented full-day kindergarten.

“It helped alleviate any fears (the teachers) might have and confirm that all-day kindergarten is better at achieving goals,” Salness said.

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