At the beginning of the school year, about half of Kristen Craig’s kindergartners know their alphabet.
By the end of the school year, students are reading passages like this one: “Look at the horses in the field. There is one big horse. There is one baby horse. There are two in all.”
Seeing their tremendous growth and the fun of fostering their progress in reading makes teaching the subject her favorite part of the job.
“I love to teach kids how to read,” says Craig, who works at Maple Grove Elementary in West Des Moines. “We have high expectations for reading. We set a high bar, and they meet it.”
There’s also the joy of seeing students’ pride in their accomplishments and their sense of confidence, as well as knowing she’s helping prepare them for their future schooling, Craig says.
But before they get to the reading, students have to get a hang of the school routine. The first two weeks or so of school are the most challenging for Craig. In the beginning, it’s about teaching them the basics, from how to line up to opening your milk at lunchtime. Once they’ve mastered those things, they can focus on the academics.
The most rewarding part of her job is seeing the learning gains in all of her students, the confidence that they can read and their strong foundation skills in math and writing.
Craig says there are several things parents can do to prepare their kids for kindergarten. Sending them to preschool is definitely one of them.
Not only will it help them learn their letters and letter sounds, it also teaches kids how to listen and follow directions independently, Craig says.
But there are things parents can do at home as well to help build such skills. For example, you can use family members’ names as a way to teach them the alphabet or try LeapFrog educational materials, she says. Have them practice following directions by giving them a simple set of steps, like: Put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and get a book.
“The best thing that parents can do is read to their kids,” Craig says. “Read, read, read.”