We have a decision to make soon. Our son has a fall birthday, but he still makes the kindergarten cutoff date. He is a bright child who already knows his letters and numbers, and definitely could handle kindergarten, according to his preschool teacher. But I’m torn about whether I should send him to kindergarten in the fall or enroll him in a transitional kindergarten program. What are the benefits of transitional programs?
It has been pointed out that today’s kindergartens are generally yesterday’s first grades. On the other hand, transitional kindergartens are more like kindergartens used to be. In them, academics take a back seat to socialization. Children learn how to wait their turn, share, and play with others. Most learning is done through hands-on activities. These programs are fun, and children tend to fall in love with school, which is not always the story when regular kindergarten academics may keep them at their desks doing worksheets.
As far as research goes on the benefits of transitional programs, most of it is positive. The only big negative seems to be that it can add a year of schooling. Positives include less retention, less need for special education programs, and higher achievement scores beyond grade three. Plus, children attending transitional programs will be older and more mature in high school and college.
Not all children can attend a public transitional kindergarten program. In some areas there is no funding available, or enrollment may be limited to disadvantaged children. The advantage of attending a public program rather than non-school-based programs is that the teachers are certified in public programs and the curriculum is aligned with the school district’s kindergarten program. At the present time, far more children attend non-school-based programs.
Put On Your Listening Ears
Why would a smart 8-year-old boy have trouble listening to his teacher’s instructions? His hearing is just fine.
Many children have never learned to listen. Listening and hearing are two different things. Hearing is a passive activity. For example, children hear thunder, the car engine, or bees buzzing. Listening involves active participation of the brain. What a child hears must register in his or her brain. Listening is an extremely important skill, one closely related to academic success in school.
First, be sure that you listen when your child is talking. Set a good example by making eye contact with your child and responding to what he or she says. Parents can improve their children’s listening skills through activities that are fun. Try some of these with your child to help him become a better listener:
1. Read to your child and pause to ask questions about what was said.
2. Make a deliberate error when reading and see if your child catches it. For example, call the cat in the hat a dog in the hat.
3. Play games like Simon Says, 20 Questions, and Junior Trivial Pursuit.
4. Share family activities at the dinner table.
5. Talk to your child about activities that interest him or her.
6. Clap your hands in different patterns, have your child repeat the pattern.
7. Start a story at the supper table. Each family member ends a sentence with “then.” The next person completes the sentence and ends it with “then” until everyone at the table has added something to the story.
If your child struggles with these activities, consider getting him tested.
Other questions or comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or ask them on the columnists’ website at dearteacher.com.