October 19, 2022
A good kindergarten experience sets kids up for success in school and into adulthood. Students in smaller kindergarten classes are more likely to go to college than students from larger classes. And by age 27, students who had more experienced kindergarten teachers were earning more money than their peers who had less-experienced teachers in kindergarten.
Relatively older students have had more time to learn academic skills. To help younger kindergartners catch up with their older classroom peers, families can offer additional learning experiences. This includes engaging the children in more conversations and shared book reading. This can be started during the preschool years and throughout kindergarten.
Parents and educators can direct focus as much as possible on encouraging and praising the positive performance of relatively younger children in the classroom. If the feedback is mostly negative – in which the relatively younger child is always told to “hurry up,” “pay attention,” “do it the right way,” and all other variations of directives that include words like “no,” “don’t” or “stop” – they may eventually shut down and stop trying to follow instructions. To combat this, educators and parents can focus on emphasizing all the things the child is doing right, rather than wrong. A good goal is to be mindful of directing at least three positive statements to the child for every correction or redirection.
Parents of relatively younger children can meet with their child’s teacher early in the school year to discuss individual goals for the child. That meeting can discuss the child’s current strengths and skills, as well as areas in need of growth. The adults can establish reasonable, achievable goals for the child each week or month. That can help offset possible relative comparisons that may mask individual progress.
To follow up with the goals set at the beginning of the year, a daily or weekly check-in on behavioral or academic progress can help parents and teachers work best together. Waiting until the end of the school year is too long and leaves no time to change course if goals need to be modified. Frequent check-ins also provide opportunities to reward and praise the child for success.
Educators and parents may find it useful to remember that kindergarten is only one year of what is almost two decades of education for children on a college track – and age differences matter less and less in academic performance as children get older.