Common Core State Standards:
Over the last several years, state after state has adopted what is called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards are research based and have been implemented in large part to develop critical thinking skills in children at an early age.
Each grade has a set of Mathematics Standards and English Language Arts (ELA) Standards. By the end of their kindergarten year, our first year students are expected to: (There are a lot, so I am going to summarize and condense the best I can. For a full list, visit www.corestandards.org)
- Count objects and compare different whole numbers up to 19.
- Understand simple addition and subtraction.
- Compare and sort objects by a measurable attribute.
- Identify shapes as well as compare and compose them.
English Language Arts (ELA)
- Ask questions regarding a text as well as identify key concepts and details such as characters and setting.
- Derive the meaning of unknown words from a text.
- Compare illustrations and stories.
- Scan a page from left to right, top to bottom, and page to page.
- Understand that words represent text.
- Recognize that words are separated by a space on paper.
- Identify and print all upper and lowercase letters.
- Pronounce and count syllables in spoken words.
- Produce the primary sounds of each letters.
- Read similar, yet different, sight words.
- Use drawings, text, and dictation to compose stories, opinion, and explanatory pieces.
- Use commonly used nouns, verbs, prepositions, and question words to form complete sentences.
- Use capitalization for first word of sentences and use punctuation at the end of a sentence.
- Spell simple words phonetically
As you can see, in kindergarten our students are learning the foundations of their educational careers. For this reason it is important to ensure they are using the most efficient methods and mechanics so that they may continue for the rest of their lives.
Kids typically are enrolled into kindergarten at the age of five; thus, I will be focusing here on the development of fine motor development that occur as a child reaches his/her 5th birthday. These skills will be geared toward beginning to compose written work including shapes, letters, and numbers. Before a child reaches school, much of what they do is unstructured and “free play.” As they start school, they will learn strategies to further their scribbles into shapes and letters.
One of the foundational developmental skills that I tend to look for first is whether or not a child has established a clear dominant hand. By age 5, hand dominance should be well established. While some children may appear to be ambidextrous, at this age they should really be favoring one hand over the other. Developmentally, it is more functional to have one hand that works really well, rather than both hands working moderately. At this point kids should be able to use their non-dominant hand to stabilize the paper they are writing on, even if they requires a cue from the paper moving to do so.
The second skill I look for is their grasp on a pencil and how they are manipulating it. Research has indicated that both a 3-finger grasp and a 4-finger grasp are considered functional (Schwellnus et al.). The key points to emphasize here are encouraging the child to hold the pencil with the tips or pads of their fingers and to keep an open web space between the thumb and index finger.
Finally, once I see that they have an established hand dominance and appropriate grasp, I look to see what muscles they are using to manipulate the pencil and write with. They should be using their fingers and wrist to manipulate the pencil rather than their entire arm. If a child is holding the pencil with a fisted grip it would be unfair to expect this because they would not be able to use their fingers to manipulate the tool. By giving a child the opportunity to write on a vertical surface (wall, chalk/white board, easel) they can develop an appropriate grasp and the finger coordination required to manipulate the writing tool.
By looking at these three prewriting skills in a child, a parent, teacher or guardian can help a child get a good start to kindergarten. If a child appears to have these skills down and is still struggling to trace simple shapes and letters as they progress through school, it may be an indicator that an Occupational Therapy screening or evaluation is appropriate.
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