Transitioning from kindergarten to first grade is an exciting time for children but can also be frightening for many. They will be leaving the more sheltered, home-like atmosphere of their room and entering a more structured environment with teachers who will introduce many more skills and have increased expectations of them. Schools and parents can work together to help kindergarten students feel more secure about this upcoming change in their lives by communicating with each other and using various methods to make the transition easier for them.
Kindergarten students have become accustomed to sitting at tables where they are encouraged to interact, while a typical first grade classroom has desks and the teacher delivers most instruction from the front of the room. Parents can help their children prepare for this by taking them to visit the first grade classrooms at their school. Seeing the room ahead of time instead of on the first day of school can help alleviate fear of the unknown. If the first grade is located in a different building, a trip to the new school exposes the child to all the new surroundings so she will not feel overwhelmed in the fall.
Parents can help their child adjust to the academic expectations of first grade by reviewing skills they learned in kindergarten. During summer vacation, parents can take advantage of learning opportunities. For example, when looking at animals at the zoo, parents can review the alphabet by asking their child to say the letter that an animal begins with, like Z for zebra. A trip to the grocery store can be a learning experience with parents reinforcing number skills by having their child say the numbers they see on products at the store.
Increased responsibility and expectations are another major change for kindergarten students. They are used to having very little homework, and they are usually always in groups when working in class. First grade teachers will assign homework that is more challenging, and they will expect the students to complete most classwork independently. Parents can reinforce this by encouraging their children to complete homework by themselves and then bring it to them to check. Parents can also give their child a few more responsibilities at home like being sure his backpack is ready to go every morning.
Transitioning to first grade may not seem as frightening to kindergarteners if it is a shared experience with classmates and adults, including their parents and school officials. Parents can take opportunities to participate in school activities that will ease the transition for their child. Many schools have special days set aside for transition emphasis when parents can come to the school, meet the first grade teachers, the principal and the counselor. This is the time to ask questions about academic objectives and discuss any educational or emotional concerns they have about their child.
Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.