Alumni Insight: What your pre-K student needs to know about kindergarten

 In Alumni, Family Time Tips & Tools, Pre-K

Every day in our Day Early Learning classrooms, your child is learning important skills to prepare for kindergarten and beyond, but making that big step into kindergarten can be a little scary. To help Day Early Learning students, especially our pre-K friends, begin to prepare for their next big learning adventures, we went to an official expert on making the transition from pre-K to kindergarten: one of our 2018 graduates, Emerson.

Emerson started kindergarten in August 2018, and he’s learned a lot in the last several months. We chatted with him about what every child should know about kindergarten during a recent visit to our offices during spring break.

Make New Friends But Keep the Old

These Day Early Learning friends have kept in touch through play dates, one of the “keep the old” friendship strategies that Emerson recommends.

When we asked Emerson about what kids need to know to succeed in kindergarten, he began with social skills. He told us that finding “friends that aren’t mean” should be every child’s first priority. But how can new kindergartners achieve that goal? “Just talk to new people to make those friends,” he said.

For our expert, the flipside, and toughest part, of having to make new friends was saying goodbye to spending the day with Day Early Learning friends. His advice is to keep those friendships active with play dates and sleepovers. His mom (who happens to be a staff member at Early Learning Indiana) also shared that regular messages back and forth using technology such as texting or messaging on parents’ social media accounts helps keep those old and gold friendships in place.

One other important tip for making friends: “Know some cool dances.” Emerson believes strongly that knowing how to dap or floss gives every new kindergarten student an ice-breaker to use when making new friends.

Elementary School Is Different

Emerson told us that “kindergarten is different, really different, but also sort of the same.” So, we asked for some more details.

What’s different, according to him:

  • In elementary school, days can begin in many different ways. “Sometimes, I walk in with dad. Sometimes, I go to before care. And sometimes, I get dropped off or picked up in car rider line.”
  • Each classroom has just one teacher most of the time. But, he pointed out, sometimes, extra teachers and college students help teachers.
  • There are regular “specials” that students get to attend, and those specials have their own teachers. At his school, the specials include art, movement (also known as “gym” or “physical education”), library or “media”, and art.
  • There is a principal. According to Emerson, a principal’s job includes “keeping people safe and from doing bad things.”
  • The bathrooms are not in the classroom. Our expert told us that, instead of being in the room, they can be found “way further away, like 10 miles.” His mother reported that they were, actually, about 20 feet from his classroom door. Still, Emerson said that it can be “a little bit scary to be in the hallway by yourself at first.”
  • Students eat lunch in the cafeteria and get to pick from three different options at his school, which are all “pretty good.”
  • The kindergarten schedule has no designated nap time, though he told us that during classroom “quiet time” some children do take “really short, tiny naps.”
  • There are some very big kids in an elementary or grade school, which can be hard. The best part of that, Emerson says, is that sometimes, you get to do activities with those kids, and they help you out. At his school, they have reading buddies, through which upper grade students are paired with kindergartners to practice literacy skills.
But Elementary School Isn’t “Super” Different

Before starting kindergarten, Emerson got to tour his new school. Using that experience, this is the map he drew of how to get to his school, and a sample of the fine motor skills he developed at Day Early Learning.

He also told us that many things weren’t as different as he thought they would be, including:

  • “We still get to play in kindergarten.” Each day, his class has free choice time, where they can choose from a variety of activities, such as “reading books, doing activities and doing all that stuff.” Emerson’s favorite area is the “building area,” which sounds a lot like the blocks or construction areas in Day Early Learning classrooms. Other areas include the reading area, writing table and home living area.
  • They have classroom — and even all-school — meetings. In the morning meeting, they greet each other. “I even learned how to say hello in Spanish!”
  • Outside play time is a key part of the day, just as it is in Day Early Learning centers. “We call it recess, and we go out with our whole class and our teacher.”
  • Even though there is a school library, Emerson’s classroom also has a room library, just like his Day Early Learning classrooms had.
  • Classes have safety drills. While he was well-acquainted with fire and tornado drills from his time at Day Early Learning, Emerson’s school also does earthquake and lock-down drills. “None of those things happen normally, but we have to practice following rules and listening to our teacher.”
Daily Dos and Don’ts

For Emerson, success in pre-K boils down to knowing routines, knowing rules and knowing how to be a friend.

“Don’t make bad choices. Don’t hit people, say bad words, and don’t be mean to any one else. If you are mean, you may have to go talk to the principal. Try hard and focus on learning as much as fun. At my school, we are supposed to be kind, be peaceful and be thoughtful. That’s hard sometimes, but people want to help you do all of that.”

The number one rule for daily success, according to Emerson is: “Listen to your teacher. Mine is super-nice, she listens and is kind. Sometimes, she helps us make a better choice. More than anything, she helps. But my teachers did that at Day Early Learning too. That’s what teachers are there for.”

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