My oldest will be starting kindergarten next August and I want to make sure he is prepared. I know August seems far away, but come on you guys, it will be here before we know it. I had never even heard of the kindergarten assessment until this past year and then I started to get more curious about it. With more thought, I decided to do some more research on what is expected of our future kindergarteners and figured who better to ask then some local kindergarten teachers! I’ve asked 2 local teachers questions and I hope their insight and tips help you as much as they have me!
Courtney Smith was a kindergarten teacher for a little over 5 years. She taught at a Coral Academy Charter School as a kindergarten teacher for 3 years and then taught Kindergarten at Agnes Risley Elementary School for 2, almost 3 years. Over the past two years, Courtney has continued to sub at elementary schools around the area. She also tutors a handful of kids in grades K-4 after school as well.
Heather Ryan has been kindergarten teacher since 2012 (minus a couple years when her beautiful babies were born ?). She currently teaches at Mamie Towles Elementary School. Kindergarten is her favorite grade because she loves seeing how much her students grow in a year.
1. What is the assessment?
Courtney: This is probably going to be a very long answer! There are so many elements to the assessment and I want to make sure I am thorough. Before I answer I do want to add that the district suggests and encourages certain elements be assessed. Each school and teacher can add more items that they want to assess as they see fit based on the child and/ their own teaching experience. The assessment is used to help teachers gage where students are coming into Kindergarten. Over the years the assessment has changed in many ways. However, the current assessment includes; the Brigance assessment, identification of letters and production of sounds, Fountas and Pinell assessment (reading test), writing their name and drawing a picture of themselves, counting, writing numerals, understanding that the last number said tell the numbers of objects counted and comparing numbers. The Brigance assessment assesses for the following skills; gross and fine motor, language, social-emotional, self-help and cognitive. To be honest, the test is newly required for teachers, I personally have not given the test, but have reviewed results of students I work with and haven’t found it super helpful. The Fountas and Pinnell assessment is a reading test that assesses what level your child is reading at. It checks for accuracy, self corrections, fluency and comprehension of the text. Teachers have students read until a text is too hard for them. As a former kindergarten teacher these assessments are great, but my main goal when assessing students is to make it fun and to really get to know them and help them feel comfortable. Kindergarten is a big deal and can be scary and kids can be nervous. This time together, to me and I would say most teachers, is to establish a connection with the child.
Heather: It’s called the Brigance. That’s the technical name for it.
When is it?
Courtney: The assessment is the week before Kindergarten starts. The school your child attends will call and set up a day and time.
Heather: The week before kindergarten starts. The first day of kinder is the week after every other grade starts. It’s because we spend that week testing everyone. When you register your child for kinder you will get your assessment date/time from the school secretary.
What should my child know going into kindergarten?
Courtney: Your child doesn’t need to know anything coming into kindergarten. However, from experience, it helps if your child is familiar with letters, numbers 0-10, holding a pencil, recognizing and trying to write his/her name. It also helps if your child is familiar with a school setting. Kindergarten can be overwhelming for kids who have never been to school. As a parent you can help prepare them by reading to them, practicing recognizing and writing their name, introducing the letters of the alphabet and counting objects with them.
Heather: There’s nothing really specific. The basics would be most helpful: able to count to 20, identify some letters and numbers. Know how to write their name! Some independence…it’s really hard for a teacher to zip up 20 jackets before recess and tie shoes all day. Read to them every day.
Do you have any ideas for families to ensure their kids are ready?
Courtney: I guess going back to the other question I would work with your child on recognizing the letters and trying to produce the sounds. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but some ideas are getting flash cards and talking about the letter, sound and picture associated with it and have them repeat a few. Make it fun and silly! Watch videos on YouTube about letters and sounds, write letters, use play dough to make letters and talk about the sounds. To help count and recognize numbers 0-10 I would suggest doing the same things as I mentioned above but using numbers instead. A fun activity you can do with your child to help recognize and practice their name is to write their name on an index card or construction paper and cut each letter out and have them build their name. After they build their name they can write it on a white board or chalk board. Again, just make it fun! There are tons of fun activities with names on Pinterest as well!
Heather: It’s not a test you need to study for! Most students do pretty well. It’s also nerve-wracking for these little kiddos to come into a new classroom with a teacher they don’t know yet and answer a bunch of questions. Teachers totally understand this so don’t worry if “they know that, they just didn’t tell the teacher!”
What if they don’t know anything or everything?
Courtney: It’s totally okay either way! Again, for most teachers, it’s about getting to know the child and making them feel comfortable. I have assessed many kids who came in knowing none of the things I have discussed. It’s okay! I have also assessed a handful of kids who were reading beyond the end of kindergarten level. It’s okay!
Heather: Totally fine! Kindergarteners grow like crazy! It’s so neat to see how much they learn. The assessment is just for teachers to get an idea where students are at.
Any other helpful tips or thoughts?
Courtney: Yes! If your child is 4 going into kindergarten (the cut off is September 30th) I would consider waiting to start them the following year. Waiting a year means more experiences under their belt to help them be that much more prepared for kindergarten. That means they could possibly go to preschool for a year and familiarize themselves with what a classroom community feels like. It means they have more interactions with the world around them to help build their background knowledge of what’s to come in kindergarten and future grades. Read, read, read! Read every day! This helps build so many skills! Talk and communicate to your child like they have no ceiling to their learning. Have you ever thought, “I’m not going to say that because he/she won’t understand?” Say it anyway and attempt to explain it to them. Be open and have that conversation!
Heather: I promise it’s not a huge deal. We reassess all throughout the year. I like to think of the assessment as a great time for the student (and parents) and teacher to meet each other one on one before the 1st day of school.
Have you had a child go through the assessment?
I’d love to hear how your kids experience was with the assessment and what other tips or ideas you would add. Or if you have a future kindergartner like me what else are you doing to help him/her get ready? Do you have any other questions you would like to see answered?
Kacey received her bachelor's in Psychology while cheering for the University of Oregon. They moved to Reno in 2014 and have loved it ever since. She is a dedicated homeschooling mother to her three children.
She serves on the hospital board for Northern Nevada Health Systems and is passionate about her community.
Kacey loves exploring with her family and finding family-friendly events and activities! A few of her favorite things include family adventures, traveling, working out, coffee, and dessert!