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Every Skill Your Kindergartner Needs to Know by the End of the Year, Direct From Teachers

September 29, 2020

by Elisa Cinelli for

Kindergarten matters! This first year of formal schooling sets the stage for academic success by providing a strong foundation, whether it's in a classroom or virtual this year.

Kindergarten is a time when kids learn basic academic skills like how to write their letters or what one hundred really means. Foundational concepts like this ensure that children are able to move on to the next level. For example, a child may be a wonderful storyteller but they need to master handwriting before they can put their creativity into words.

The kindergarten year is not just about academics, however. It is also a time for developing basic social skills like cooperation and good sportsmanship. Social-emotional development gives kids the skill set they need to do well in first grade and beyond.

So what exactly should your kindergartner be able to do by the end of the school year? We talked to two teachers to find out.

Identify Letters and Their Sounds

Kristen Ruth, a first-grade teacher in Missouri, says that she wants her students to show up to the first day of school knowing all of their letters. A graduating kindergartner should be able to identify all of the letters in both lowercase and capitals and know most of the letter sounds.

Understand That Words Are Made Up of Sounds

Ruth also wants her incoming first graders to have developed phonemic awareness. This refers to knowing that words are made up of sounds. Sounds are not the same thing as letters, for example, the phoneme /sh/ is made up of two letters but makes one, specific sound (the sh in shirt or shoe). She said that reading and talking to kids regularly helps support this development.

Write Their First and Last Name

Being able to clearly write their own full name is an important kindergarten milestone. It turns out that handwriting is about more than just repeated practice. Allison La Prelle, a Santa Paula Unified School District kindergarten teacher, told POPSUGAR that fine motor skills come before writing, and she suggested playing with play dough and doing pincer grasp activities like picking up and counting dry beans or cereal to support this development.

Tell a Story From Beginning to End

Ruth said that by the end of kindergarten, a child should be able to orally tell a story from beginning to end. La Prelle told us that this ability is best supported when parents read aloud to their children for at least 20 minutes per day, and pause to ask questions or point things out in the story.

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