A common misconception is that children in kindergarten spend most of the school day simply playing, making kindergarten the easiest grade to teach. However, in reality, kindergarten classes are equally as purposeful as other grade groups, with highly specialized teachers that focus on developing their students’ foundational skills. So what exactly do they teach?
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach students the basics of English, science, math, art, and life skills to their students. These disciplines are further divided into significant development and academic subcategories like counting, writing, painting, and physical education.
Let’s explore these disciplines in greater detail below.
Teaching Foundation Skills To Kindergarten Students
In American kindergartens, teachers are required to teach the following subjects to their students:
- Life skills
1. Teaching English To Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach basic English literacy and language skills like:
- Letter recognition,
- Vocabulary expansion,
- Writing simple sentences.
Typically referred to as the “ABCs,” letter recognition involves teaching children the alphabet, including but not limited to the shapes, sounds, and order of letters.
Although teaching the alphabet in its correct order is possible, many teachers teach students letters that have importance and meaning, such as teaching students the letters in their own name before moving on to other letters.
Furthermore, kindergarten teachers are encouraged to associate letters with real-world animals and objects to help children associate the letters with words, things, and their corresponding sounds (e.g., introducing the letter “s” as “Sammy the Snake.”)
A challenge for young students is developing and improving their vocabulary. While there are various ways to build one’s vocabulary, bombarding students with multiple words and drilling exercises can be daunting.
Therefore, simpler and basic techniques like a “word a day,” used in everyday speech and displayed across the classroom, can help kindergarten students to learn and apply new words organically.
Because kindergarten students typically have very low literacy skills, teachers are encouraged to read out loud to their students while tracing their fingers over the words and letters to help students associate sounds, letters, and sentence structure.
Concerning independent reading, kindergarten students should be given age-appropriate books that use colors, pictures, shapes, and textures to help convey the meaning of a word to the student.
Writing Simple Sentences
Kindergarten children only progress to writing words and simple sentences toward the end of kindergarten before moving to grade school.
Consequently, using “fill in the blank” worksheets is an excellent way to introduce kindergarten children to the role of letters and words in sentences before asking them to write simple sentences.
2. Teaching Science To Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach basic science skills and phenomena like:
- Physical science
- Life science
- Earth and space science
Given the ubiquitous nature of computers and technology in the 21st century, children must be taught computer literacy skills from a young age.
The primary focus at the kindergarten level is on correctly using a mouse and keyboard and understanding its relation with a computer interface. These core skills are best taught using educational software to introduce students to computers in fun and exciting ways!
While the content of the software may vary, most software uses games that require children to develop their motor and observation skills, such as looking for hidden objects on a screen and reliving them by clicking on them.
Despite the use of games to teach children, they are seldom timed or points based; thus, children are encouraged to learn in their own time rather than being pressured to achieve a particular score or grade.
One of the best ways to teach kindergarten students about the weather is to try and elicit responses from them about the current weather.
Therefore, a simple question like “how is the weather today” is an excellent way for students to learn the words for different weather and how to accurately include these topics in daily conversations.
Once these fundamental words and phrases have been learned, students can begin engaging with the weather in more nuanced and exciting ways, like reading weather forecasts or explaining to their classmates what their favorite season is.
The understanding of weather forecasts can be better reinforced via the use of flashcards that show pictures of the weather and its name (such as thunderclouds for “stormy”)
Learning physical science in kindergarten involves observing matter, and understanding energy sources, location, and perspective. While these subjects may sound complex, kindergarten teachers must teach them in simple and engaging ways.
Therefore studying matter could involve changes to the material, like observing ice melting into water. Energy sources involve the differentiation of energy as food and electricity, while location and perspective could include games like “Hide and Seek” or “I Spy.”
Life science is often a favorite topic among kindergarten students, who usually enjoy being outdoors and learning about different animals.
Life science also involves studying living and non-living things. Once students explore the characteristics of what makes a living organism, they begin to look at animal groups, basic food chains, and habitats.
Earth And Space Science
Earth science includes the importance of protecting the earth, such as the dangers of pollution and the importance of recycling (which can be taught as a daily activity in class, such as cleaning up after every activity and using recycled materials where possible)
Space science is the introduction of our solar system. While books and videos can teach children interesting facts about space science, fun hands-on activities like building planet dioramas or bottle rockets will be extremely memorable learning experiences.
3. Teaching Math To Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach basic numeracy and arithmetic skills like:
- Addition and subtraction,
- Telling the time.
One of the best methods of teaching children how to count is using rhymes and songs. The inclusion of visuals enforces the shapes of these numbers with their names – allowing for accurate identification.
For this reason, the use of educational videos and YouTube channels like “The Singing Walrus” are excellent resources!
While learning shapes may have limited use outside of shape identification, understanding shapes is essential in helping children process visual information and develop their artistic skills, writing abilities, and basic mathematics.
Because many children organically learn about shapes at home when they are toddlers, most kindergarten students have a basic understanding of the most common shapes.
Therefore, kindergarten teachers must adapt their lessons accordingly to keep their students engaged and invested in learning about the properties and practical uses of 2D and 3D shapes.
Addition and Subtraction
The main goal of teaching addition and subtraction to kindergarten children is to help them transition from real-world to abstract mathematical models. Therefore, teachers must slowly introduce these concepts with real-world examples.
For instance, giving students pieces of candy and explaining how each piece of candy correlates to addiction and the use of the “plus” symbol, while eating candy correlates to subtraction and the use of the “minus symbol.”
It is also important not to include both concepts simultaneously; instead, teachers must make sure students have a thorough understanding of addition before introducing subtraction.
Telling the Time
Accurately telling the time requires a nuanced understanding of numbers, shapes, and divisions (such as the use of “half past” or quarter to.”) Consequently, telling the time is usually reserved for slightly older students.
Therefore, the kindergarten level should focus on teaching children the concept of the passage of time, and the different times of the day, such as morning, afternoon, and evening.
Further to the above, teachers should also introduce students to the days of the week and calendar usage to help them understand how hours affect the passage of time concerning days, weeks, months, and years.
4. Teaching Art To Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach fundamental art skills, techniques, and identification like:
- Holding pencils
- Finger painting
Holding and using pencils and similar writing tools requires practice, patience, and guidance from kindergarten teachers.
Young children usually resort to a fist grip when holding a pencil and use their entire arm to draw; therefore, teachers should gently and carefully use the correct method of holding and using pencils to improve their fine motor skills.
An effective method is laying a pencil with the tip facing the child’s hand. Ask the child to pick up the front of the pencil with their thumb and forefinger in a pincer grip; after that, you can flip the pencil between their thumb and indexing finger in the correct resting position.
Tracing is a versatile activity that helps children develop their fine motor skills and learn the motions of unfamiliar shapes, numbers, letters, and images.
Tracing also allows students to draw pictures that interest them, like their favorite animals or cartoon characters!
Like coloring, finger painting helps students identify and combine colors in a fun and exciting way. It also encourages freedom of artistic expression and the mixing of colors, giving children a practical understanding of how colors interact.
Similar to coloring, finger painting helps students identify and combine colors in fun and interesting ways. It also encourages freedom of artistic expression and the mixing of colors, giving children a practical understanding of how colors interact with each other.
It is universally recognized that children enjoy playing and listening to music. The role of kindergarten teachers is to introduce music in a way that would be fun for the children.
Rather than focusing on theory or drilling musical techniques, kindergarten teachers should introduce students to various musical games, instruments, and songs to showcase the diversity of music and pique their interest.
Therefore, kindergarten music lessons usually focus on single instruments at a time, like xylophones, maracas, or tambourines.
5. Teaching Life Skills To Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten teachers are required to teach essential life skills like:
- Peer interaction
- Personal hygiene
- Concentration and focus
- Health and Safety
- Physical education
Kindergarten is when children regularly interact with other children for the first time. Therefore, it is inevitable that children will have a limited understanding of how to interact positively with one another.
Kindergarten teachers are encouraged to promote healthy interactions between children by teaching them the importance of sharing, empathy, compassion, tolerance, and teamwork.
Further to the above, kindergarten teachers have a duty of care to inform parents or child psychologists/social workers when children exhibit anti-social behavior.
As the foundational phase of a child’s social life and academic career, kindergarten is a space where children need to be made to feel welcome, wanted, and appreciated. Thus, kindergarten teachers must care to treat all their students equally with respect, patience, compassion, and empathy.
Kindergarten children should be praised and encouraged through positive reinforcement when they involve themselves in tasks while being softly and appropriately disciplined when they misbehave.
Kindergarten children need to be taught the importance of personal hygiene as it applies to their health and social interaction. Therefore, policies like frequent hand washing before and after tasks must be mandatory in kindergartens.
Personal hygiene during school hours is vital since many kindergarten students eat school lunches and may spread germs through constant physical contact with each other and their teachers.
Concentration and Focus
One of the biggest challenges facing kindergarten students is to keep children focused and concentrated on the task at hand.
Fortunately, there are some techniques kindergarten teachers can imply to help keep their students focused and motivated:
- Create clear schedules and routines in class
- Give clear instructions, and do not move on to the next step until all children have completed the task at hand
- Remain consistent with the time available for each task and communicate these constraints to the students
- Provide further challenges or alternative activities to expand on completed projects to keep the more able students engaged
In addition, kindergarten-aged children tend to have an attention span limit of between 10 and 20 minutes. Consequently, you’ll want lessons and activities to fall within this time limit to ensure that students remain focused on the task at hand.
Health and Safety
Although kindergartens should take the necessary precautions to provide a safe and healthy environment for children to study (such as exercise mats in PE classes or school nutritionists), children should also be taught the importance of health and safety.
Similar to other lessons, students should be given clear and concise step-by-step instructions to follow if they feel unsafe or if another child has harmed them.
Doing so allows children to feel safe speaking to adults while also allowing teachers to be informed of any issues that may require immediate attention.
Finally, kindergarten children must develop their overall physical health and fine motor skills. Physical education can take many forms, including but not limited to rhythm games, indoor physical activities, and traditional outdoor sports.
Ideally, kindergarten PE lessons should involve simple rules, minimal contact, and the incorporation of other skills and lessons.
Therefore, games like Musical Chairs and Four Corners are famous examples of games that use color recognition and rhythm while requiring physical movement.
Kindergarten teachers should ensure that they have many resources and lesson plans available to effectively teach the skills needed to prepare kindergarten students for their future academic careers.
Finally, kindergarten teachers must continue changing and evolving their lessons to ensure their students remain happy and engaged. This can be achieved by keeping up to date with developments in child psychology, early childhood education, and an ever-changing world.
If you are considering working in kindergarten, you are likely to be asked, “Why Do You Want To Be a Kindergarten Teacher?” Find out the top ten responses by reading the full article.
- Kindergarten Teacher Career Guide: Western Governors University
- Teaching Letter Recognition – What Order to Introduce Letters: How Wee Learn
- How to introduce kindergarteners to computers: eSchool News
- Funky Counting Song | Numbers 1-10 | The Singing Walrus: YouTube
- How to Teach Your Child to Tell Time, Step By Step: Verywell Family
- Focus: The Big Challenge in Kindergarten: Educaiton.com
- 31 Unique Phys Ed Games Your Students Will Love: We Are Teachers
- Kindergarten Science Curriculum and Lesson Plans: Time4Learning