The retention of skills and knowledge from one school year to the next is crucial for students of any age, including children transitioning from pre-k to kindergarten. Since I teach in a school-year, not full-year, program, I make extra effort to get my class’s families committed to summertime learning.
I’ve seen first-hand what can happen when that effort and commitment are lacking. After my first year of teaching, I ran into a former student and her mother on the bus, right before the new school year began. In our conversation, I discovered that the child had regressed both academically and socially. Subsequent discussions with some of my school’s kindergarten teachers revealed that this child’s experience was not unique.
Once I moved past the initial frustration and disappointment, I began thinking about how best to ensure that the learning foundation established in my classroom did not crumble after Pre-K Graduation Day. My first thought was to recommend to families some summer programs for young children. It turns out, though, that my district does not offer such programs for pre-kindergartners, and affordable non-school-based options are scarce.
Next, I decided to create summer learning supports for families myself. In the past, I had sent home books and writing materials for the summer, but had not strategically designed tools to meet my students’ needs. Sure, I’d given parents their child’s assessment results and general tips for keeping their child engaged over the summer, but this proved insufficient as it meant more work for busy parents to choose and create learning activities based on this information. So, I now give families a homework packet with specific activities they can do with their children and the materials needed to do them. There are no dittos in the packet, but rather various opportunities for the children to review and continue to explore letters, words, writing, numbers, and shapes.
Judging by the my class’s high return rate for homework packets distributed at other school-year breaks (over 85 percent!), I am confident that my students’ families will work with their children on these activities during the summer. And, because of this family involvement, I’m hopeful that my students’ school readiness in the fall will be equal to or even greater than it was on their last day of pre-k.