This time last year, I was putting together my beloved list of skills to work on with your kindergartener, alongside my beloved soon-to-be kindergartener. And in no time at all, it’s already time to share what me and my almost-first-grader will be working on this summer!
As a former first-grade teacher, I can tell you that the expectations for this upcoming year are a bit higher than you would expect. And there’s no time like summertime for your little one to accidentally regress. So I’m sharing eight skills to focus on during the break in hopes of preparing your baby for their next big step: the first grade!
Sight words are one very solid way to build your child’s reading ability and reading fluency. While the lists of sight words get pretty lengthy, mastering them can help your child jump reading level after reading level. A sight word is exactly what it sounds like: a word that, when your child sees it, they can instantly recite – no sounding out, no guess work. Sight words are broken down into various levels, and your almost-first-grader should actually have mastered two Dolch lists by now! Just these two lists together have 92 words, so summer is the perfect time to practice and review! You can use simple flashcards and practice between 8 to 10 words each week. You can scatter these flashcards around the house. Then, each time your child “bumps into one” have them read-spell-read the word. Or my favorite, have your child roll a letter di. Then they choose one sight word from the list that begins with this letter, and orally create a sentence that uses this word correctly. This website here provides perfect PDFs of each Dolch list, and videos of different ways to teach and practice them!
Beginning and End Sound Changes
On my list of kindergarten skills I include identifying beginning and ending sounds. But with first-grade babies, we want to take it a bit further. Follow me: say “cat,” now change the /c/ to /f/ – and the child should answer “fat.” Follow me: say “mat”, now change the /t/ to /d/ – and the child should answer “mad.” This can be a bit tricky, and some students may not master this abstract skill until later into the school year. But a good first step is breaking down the sounds of each word. You can use physical items like counters, m&ms, pretzels, etc., to count each sound of the word: c-a-t, m-a-d, l-a-g. Or you can simply clap or count on your fingers. Once a child can break the sounds down, they can then hear which sound needs to be altered, so definitely focus on this mini-step first!
During their kindergarten year, your child will most likely begin reading emergent books. These books have sentences that are made up of many sight words and single-syllable words to help ease the earliest reader into story reading. Head to the Scholastic store! Here you can sort their bookstore by grade and find kindergarten books that are perfect for practicing those fluency skills. It’s ok if they can’t read every word on each page. In fact, shared reading will help build their confidence and teach them to eventually recognize words that are above their reading level. So chime in when needed!
During their year as first-graders, children will learn how to put their thoughts and their words down on paper in sentences and paragraphs. This mental process is such a developmental one! But when the fine-motor skills behind handwriting have already been heavily tuned, they can focus so much more on the content of their writing! You can find a boatload of handwriting practice sheets with any Google search. Plus, the Target Dollar Spot almost always has little flip books of handwriting paper for your little one. I like to write words, their name, or even sentences in yellow highlighter. This makes it super easy for them to trace, yet keeps their pencil marks very legible! Then have your child rewrite the words or sentences below without a pattern to trace.
Most often, kindergarten reading levels don’t offer a whole lot of comprehension practice. It is such good practice for children to HEAR you read to them! This alone helps build their vocabulary as they hear a ton of complex words they wouldn’t hear when reading independently. It also models fluent reading, proper tone, and just good ol’ bonding time for you and your little. But you can take it even further by asking comprehension questions during AND at the end of each reading session! How do you think the story will end? Which character was your favorite? What did you like about him/her? Does this story remind you of any other stories we have read? Where did they visit, and do you think you would like to go there as well? Another google search for “kindergarten comprehension questions” can get you very far if you’re creative side is lacking!
Ordering Numbers 1-20
Understanding numbers and what they represent is so important for the tricky math strategies your first-grader will learn next year! You can have your child use counters, paper clips, food snacks, etc., to build groups of different numbers. This alone helps them understand that numbers hold values, and very different values at that! Once you give your child three numbers to represent, talk about which has more, which has less, and order them from smallest to biggest or vise versa.
Addition Fluency Within 20
During my time in the first-grade classroom we did something called Fact Ninjas. Throughout the year the students would have two minutes to complete twenty addition facts, scaffolded to plus-ones, plus-twos, plus-threes, and so on. And if they correctly answered all twenty facts, they became a “ninja master” of that number! The kids absolutely loved this. Start with 0, so 1+0, 2+0 and so on, be sure to mix up the order of these, and have them practice! You can begin practicing simple addition by using any object for counters until your child can pickup on each pattern. Then move to using fingers, and finally, rely on mental math!
Subtraction Fluency Within 20
Reverse, reverse! By now you’ve ran out of quiet reading time, because really, no mom gets THAT much. So before I pull you into another rant about this skill, you get the idea: the above paragraph, but with subtraction.
And there ya have it, eight skills that will help keep your soon-to-be first-grader from regressing this summer! Summer is such a sweet time of the year. I absolutely do not suggest picking skill practice over a day at the beach or a picnic under the tree. I plan to spend about six hours each week working with my little man. One hour per day, four days per week on various practice skills. And 20 minutes of shared reading at bed time – but only on the days that we are aren’t dragging ourselves into bed from a day of play.
Enjoy your summers momma. I saw a meme about how many you have left until your baby leaves for college. And somehow, among all the summertime chaos, it pounced on my heart. Well wishes to your little ones, their next school year, and your sanity!