Kindergarten is an amazing year for children across all ranges of development. When my daughter first waddled into kindergarten, her backpack barely clinging to her tiny shoulders, it was hard for me to imagine her mastering a kindergarten curriculum in just a year. When I met her class, I saw many children who were barely learning the ABCs and how to write their own names. When I attended her kindergarten “graduation,” I saw an entire class of kids ready to tackle first grade– all of them literate, independent, and ready to meet the world of first-grade academics.
There’s a huge spectrum of normal development for kindergarten-age kids, so I spoke with several kindergarten-level teachers about what’s typically expected. Here’s the consensus on what most kids should be doing by the time kindergarten is over.
Reading and Comprehension
By the end of kindergarten, most children should be able to read many “sight words,” and most simple, phonetically spelled words, with some degree of fluency. Most schools expect children to read and comprehend at a Fountas and Pinnel Reading Level C or D by the end of the year– meaning that most should be able to read P.D. Eastman’s “Go Dog Go!” with only a little help from a parent or teacher. They should also be able to retell or summarize a story and answer simple questions about what happened in the story. A little variation is normal and some kids may be a little faster or slower to learn to read, but some level of literacy is expected before the end of kindergarten.
Writing and Fine Motor Skills
In general, kindergartners are expected to be able to write a short sentence or two by the end of the year. This requires an understanding of simple spelling rules, punctuation rules, and the basics of capitalization, and it also requires that the child be able to hold and use a pencil or crayon correctly. Most children should also be able to draw recognizable images and to skillfully use scissors and school-related craft items. Bear in mind that, while it’s fine and expected for children to make many mistakes with spelling and punctuation at this stage, most children should recognize the basic rules of writing a simple sentence.
Kindergartners usually solidify the basic skills for math that they’ll use throughout their lives. They usually learn to count to 50 or 100 by the end of the school year, often by ones, twos, tens, and fives. They should be able to count about ten objects and do simple addition and subtraction of numbers 1-10. Most children will also master basic math-related concepts, like “fewer” and “more,” and will be able to identify at least five geometric shapes by name.
Self-Care and Independence
Most children are fairly independent by the end of kindergarten. They should be able to dress themselves, possibly getting some help with zippers and shoelaces, and should be able to use the toilet completely independently. Most rising first graders are also able to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and bathe without help from a parent. By the end of kindergarten, children are usually very socially independent, as well, and will confidently find their way to familiar places in school and around the home without the direct help of an adult. While these skills may seem like they have little to do with school, independence is a very important milestone for rising first-graders.
Social Skills and Conduct
The majority of rising first graders will have mastered the ability to follow classroom instructions, understand routines and basic rules, and obey orders from teachers and other authority figures most of the time. They should be able to sit still and pay attention to lessons lasting 15-20 minutes and should not engage in harassment or bullying of classmates. Most children will also eagerly participate in cooperative games with their peers by the end of kindergarten and will enjoy using playground equipment and playing make-believe. Although these are not academic skills, they’re very important to a child’s overall success in school.
Your child may reach the end of kindergarten without mastering all of the skills typically expected by the conclusion of the school year. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to touch base with your child’s teacher about your concerns. Depending on how far “behind” your child is, your teacher may recommend supplemental learning over the summer or, in more significant cases, your child may need to repeat kindergarten so she’ll have time to master these skills. Most of the time, a mild delay or two in kindergarten is nothing to worry about, but it can’t hurt to stay on top of your child’s target curriculum and help her excel to the best of her ability.