Parents, let's face it. The 2020-2021 school year has been rough in so many ways. Many parents not only had to face unexpected layoffs but had to quickly learn the daunting tasks of being their child(ren)'s primary classroom teacher. If they were ever so blessed to keep their jobs, some parents found themselves figuring out how to balance working-from-home and ensuring that all their children knew how to log into their electronic devices. Parents classified as essential workers had the challenge of finding someone they could trust to watch their child(ren) and assist them with virtual classes during school hours.
My heart went out to the families with Pre-K and kindergarten students. It saddened me to know that children as young as five years old were expected to sit in a virtual classroom to learn. I know that young children learn best with hands-on activities. How could these young scholars learn when they lacked the appropriate materials and activities? It must have been challenging and frustrating for them to understand math and reading foundational concepts basically on their own. No wonder some parents felt that this past school year was a total loss.
Have most virtual learners in elementary school even mastered much of the reading skills to go on to the next grade? With this thought in mind, parents, I urge you not to panic--especially if you have a child entering kindergarten next school year. There are simple at-home reading activities that you and your child can do starting today to prepare her for kindergarten.
We want to stress that you do not have to focus on letter recognition since we will teach that in kindergarten. Instead, your Pre-Ker needs to develop a trained ear to decipher various sounds in words. You can start by teaching your child to listen out for rhyming pairs. The more you expose your child to rhyming literature such as children's songs and poems, nursery rhymes, and books with rhyming pairs in each line (i.e., books by Dr. Seuss), the more adept your child will become recognizing and coming up with rhyming pairs words of his own. When your child has mastered this skill, he will be ready to listen for beginning sounds in words.
There are many ways to help your child recognize the beginning sounds of words. You can emphasize the beginning sound by showing your child a picture of an item and then emphasize its beginning sound. For example, you may say, "This is the /m/, /m/, moon," and show her other items that begin with the letter M. Of course, you would repeat this activity with the other letters within a period of days-to-weeks. Another interaction can be playing a guessing game where you describe an item and cite that item's beginning sound. For example, you can say, "I am thinking of an animal that begins with the /z/ sound. She is black and white and lives in the grasslands." Once your child masters recognizing the beginning sounds, then challenge him to listen for the ending sounds of words.
There is a plethora of creative rhyming and letter-sound activities on Pinterest. If you consistently work with your child to listen for rhyming words and letter sounds, then in no time, you will have a student who will be ready to blend sounds to make three-lettered words.