Kindergarten students across the state are packing their book bags and smiling for as they get ready to enter elementary school for the first time.
Kindergartners in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District have a staggered start, or three different official "first days," said Lisa Evans, a kindergarten teacher at . Her full class will share their second day in school, Sept. 5, but the class is divided up into three different groups that begin either Aug. 30, Aug. 31 or Sept. 4 to help them acclimate.
Parents accompany their children for part of the first day to help with the transition, she said.
"I always tell parents they need to say goodbye, give (their children) a big hug and say I love you and then they need to go," Evans said. "You have parents who are sad, and if mom and dad keep lingering then the drama continues."
Kindergartners attend a full day at CH-UH.
In Ohio, kindergarten students are given the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy test, or KRA-L, to help teachers identify each student’s early reading skills. These tests are not the pass or fail type, and how well a school performs does not impact its state report card. The assessments for the 2010-2011 school year can be found above by district. The tests are used to help teachers know which students need more help and which are a bit ahead of the curve and need extra enrichment opportunities.
To see how well your student’s elementary school did on the state report card last year, .
The Ohio Department of Education has a kindergarten readiness checklist on its website with suggested physical, emotional and social skills to work on, along with ideas for activities that will help children develop those skills.
Evans said it's important that parents allow their children to be independent to help prepare them for that first year in school.
"I really believe that they should be able to get their coats on by themselves and take care of their book bags. Sometimes it’s easy for mom and dad to do those things for them, but they should be allowing their child to make an attempt to put their coat on and make an attempt to zip it up," Evans said.
She also said that children should learn how to write their own names before the first day.
Parents should also read to their children every day and have conversations with them — that is one of the best ways to prepare kids for reading and vocabulary in kindergarten.
Evans said that if students seem nervous about the first day of school, parents can leave a photograph of the family in their backpack or another comforting item to help them through.
Evans reads The Kissing Hand during the first day of school, when students and parents are in the classroom together. In the book, the mother raccoon kisses her son's palm during his first day of school so that he can take that kiss with him for comfort.
"Then I tell the parents to give their child a kissing hand, and the children to give their parents a kissing hand. Usually we get the tissues out for the parents."
Here are some additional tips from local administrators:
- Julie Troman, principal at , said parents can really help students by remembering to model behaviors and point out learning opportunities in daily life. This may include counting plates and silverware out loud as parents are setting the table for dinner or highlighting what letters are on a sign.
- Reading to children is key, Troman said. Even if children can’t read on their own yet, repeatedly hearing stories helps them make the text-to-sound connection and realize that the words on the pages are the same as the words being said.
- Carla Calevich, the director of curriculum and instruction for , said one of the most important steps is to help children get ready for being apart from their parents. Children with experience in daycare or preschool may be used to it, but for those whom kindergarten is the first time away, there may be an adjustment period. Troman suggested talking to students about how exciting school can be.
- Calevich suggested parents help students work on basic skills—like using a pencil and scissors and buttoning and zipping their clothes—as well as practice following directions.
- And parents shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to the school with any concerns, before or after school starts. “You don’t ever get another first day of school,” Troman said.
*The information in the above database can be found on the Ohio Department of Education's website.