PIQUA — It’s a familiar sight each fall: the brightly hued backpacks crammed with crayons and pencils and the carefully color-coordinated outfits — just two of the many ways in which parents prepare to send their little ones off to kindergarten.
Behind the scenes, however, there are many other ways parents can help prospective kindergartners get ready for the world of academia.
“Everyone’s role is important in preparing a child for the kindergarten experience,” said Mindy Gearhardt, principal at Washington Primary School, which kicks off its kindergarten registration and screening today, with a session from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“Kindergarten has changed a lot since most of us have been there. It’s important for us to get the message out that our kindergarten students will be achieving specific academic goals, as well as learning social skills during the school year. It’s our goal to make instruction fun for students with a definite purpose.”
For parents attending a screening for the first time, there is often a fear of the unknown when it comes to what the screening process entails. Some fear their children will be put through rigorous tests wherein they will be expected to know how to read and write, and that they will be denied entry if they don’t possess those skills.
This fear is unfounded, for there is no “pass” or “fail” when it comes to kindergarten screening. According to Section 3313.673 or the Ohio Revised Code: “A child’s screening and assessment data cannot be used to determine eligibility to enter kindergarten. The only criterion for entrance into kindergarten is age eligibility.”
What the screening will consist of is vision, hearing, speech and communication assessments, as well as screenings for medical problems and developmental disorders. “Schools must note that screenings are not intended to diagnose educational disability or to be used for placement procedures,” the ORC states.
Teresa Anderson, curriculum director for Piqua City Schools, said school nurses oversee the screenings for vision and hearing.
“Vision screening consists of checking visual acuity as well as color blindness. If problems are detected in these areas, the nurses inform the parents so they will have the opportunity before school starts to take their child to a doctor or optometrist for a more complete examination.
“Speech and communication screening includes looking for articulation errors as well overall language and vocabulary. If there are areas of concern, then the speech pathologists will follow up with either monitoring of the skills or a more in-depth evaluation which could eventually result in the child receiving interventions or speech therapy services.
“We look at fine motor and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills include things such as holding a pencil, writing letters or numbers, coloring, cutting. Gross motor skills includes things such as hopping, skipping, jumping, catching a ball and balance,” Anderson explained.
She added that the Miami County Dental Clinic also provides a dental screening for all children.
In the academic realm, teachers assess youngsters on pre-reading skills and basic math skills. “This assessment information is valuable for two reasons,” Anderson said. “One, if the child shows major deficits, we can work with the parents to offer suggestions on what to do at home. Two, the teachers can use the information to help begin planning instruction to meet each student’s needs.”
Stacie Patrizio, who teaches kindergarten at Washington Primary, said kindergarten teachers work together to create and administer the kindergarten assessment. “This assessment consists of recognizing letters, sounds, rhyming words, numbers and counting. Parents can start by helping children write their name and recognizing all of the letters in their name. After their children have those letters mastered, move on to the rest of the alphabet.
“We encourage parents to read books at home with their child and have their child look for the letters and listen to the sound the letter makes. You can even make it a game by reading the signs you see while driving and having the students repeat the sounds the letter makes or practice counting in the car or while they are at the store.”
What if your child is of age, but simply isn’t ready for kindergarten?
“Our teachers and administrators are very knowledgeable about child development. Just because a child is chronologically old enough to enter school does not always mean they are academically, socially and emotionally ready,” Anderson said.
“If a parent has doubts about their child’s readiness, talk to his or her preschool teacher or call the school and ask to have a conference with the principal or kindergarten teacher. There is nothing wrong with staying in preschool another year. Entering school ‘over-prepared’ is a far better scenario than entering when not ready.”
In addition to today’s session at Washington, other upcoming registration and screenings will be held:
• Washington: Tuesday, April 25, from 4:15-6:15 p.m. Call 773-8472 for appointment.
• Springcreek: Saturday, April 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; and Thursday, April 27, from 4:15-6:15 p.m. Call 773-6540 for appointment.
To register your child, you will need: the child’s certified birth certificate; parent or legal guardian’s photo ID; proof of residency; immunization records; custody papers (if applicable); and a physical exam by first day of school.