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What Kindergarteners Should Know

Kindergarten Cafe

You can't teach the child without teaching the WHOLE child! Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe, LLC - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies to support you in teaching the whole child! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-Second grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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I know many parents and caregivers are curious about what kindergarteners should know so that they can support them as needed. It also helps to know what is typically expected for this age group. Teachers also like to compare what kindergarteners should know, because it is not always the same from school to school and state to state. For the most accurate list of what skills and content kindergarteners should know, please check your state’s kindergarten academic standards. That being said, I can give you a general overview of what kindergartners should know by the end of kindergarten. 

What kindergarteners should know before first grade

What kindergarteners should know

The biggest thing that first grade teachers look for in their incoming students is the ability to be a student. Can the students sit on the rug without reminders? Can the students transition to their seats and get started on their work right away? Or, can the students ask for help if they need it, as well as try some problems on their own or ask their peers for help instead of always going to the teacher? In addition to these important life skills, there are some foundational academic skills that first grade teachers look for in their students. 

What kindergarteners should know

What should my child know before first grade?

In terms of what kindergarteners should know about writing, first grade teachers want their students to be able to write a sentence or two on each page. Kindergarteners should leave kindergarten knowing how to think of an idea for writing, plan it out across some pages, and then write at least a sentence or two on each page. Punctuation is great, but will be taught again in first grade. Their pictures should be detailed and accurate. In terms of handwriting, we want to see students start to use more lowercase letters, if not all lowercase letters in their writing. 

In terms of reading, students should be able to read for about 10-20 minutes independently. They should be reading pages with a sentence or two on each page. They should be able to talk about the book they read and answer simple questions about the story. A great series for the end of kindergarten to beginning of first grade is Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems. Encourage children to sound like the characters and make their voices match the punctuation. 

What kindergarteners should know

How many letters should a kindergartener know?

By the end of kindergarten, really by the end of the first semester, kindergarteners should know all their letters and all of their letter sounds. Once they have a mastery of the letter sounds, they need to start applying the sounds to reading and writing simple words. We start with consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. Throughout kindergarten, if they are still mastering some of the letter sounds, that is ok, but by the end they should really know them all. In the meantime, you can have them use an alphabet chart to help remember the letter sounds and you can play letter sound games

How many sight words should kindergartners know?

This is a common questions that teachers and parents want to know. What kindergarteners should know are some of the high-frequency words that appear in their reading and writing most frequently and that do not follow a similar English pattern for sounds. For example, “what” doesn’t have the a say the correct a sound and the /wh/ is a digraph that the kindergarteners might not have learned yet. “What” is also a common word found in their reading and writing. Another example is “the” where /th/ is a digraph they haven’t learned early in kindergarten, e is not the correct sound, and they definitely read and write that word a lot. 

What kindergarteners should know


There are many different sight word lists out there for kindergarten. Each school and state has their own requirements for how many words they need to know. My school focuses on 25 words. Other schools focus on 100. Personally, I think 100 is unrealistic. This stresses the need for memorizing words instead of learning to read words. I teach one high-frequency word a week starting a few weeks into school. This routine works well for me and my students. I wouldn’t push beyond that. 

What math skills should a kindergartner have?

What kindergarteners should know

When thinking about what a kindergartener should know for math, there are a few key foundational skills that kindergarteners need. Again, please refer to your state’s specific content standards to see what your child needs to know in kindergarten. Children should be able to count up to at least 32 objects. They need be able to keep track of the objects and the numbers counted. Children should know what comes before and after pretty much any number up to 100. The decade switches are hardest, so it’s ok if they struggle a little with those. 

They should be able to identify and write numbers up to 20. Additionally, they should be able to break apart numbers into smaller numbers. For example, take 5 objects and hide some. The child should know instantly, without having to think about it, how many are hiding simply by knowing how many they started with and how many are showing. Our school goes up to 5 for number decomposition in kindergarten, but up to 10 by the end of first grade. This helps with beginning addition and subtraction. They should understand the concepts of addition and subtraction and know some strategies for solving problems, like counting on their fingers or drawing  to help solve. 

Conclusion

There are many key foundational skills for what kindergarteners should know by the time kindergarten is over. The most important skills however, are the skills of being a student and friend. Social and emotional skills will always be the most critical skills that students learn in school. First grade teachers can handle whatever academic concerns come their way – they are prepared to differentiate and support students. But they can be more successful with this if their students know how to learn, solve problems, share materials and work with others, persevere through challenges, and work independently. 

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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