Get ready for kindergarten

Published 9:14 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

Because of the higher standards facing upcoming kindergartners, the teachers at United Preschool are jumping on board with a new assessment tool to ready their students for school.

The teachers recently received training on the assessment program, known as Individual Growth and Development Indicators, and have begun to implement it into their lessons and activities.

Based on University of Minnesota research, if students are able to meet certain benchmarks for pre-literacy skills, they’ll be on track to pass their third-grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests, said Audra Beussman, an early childhood special educator through the Albert Lea School District.

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The benchmarks for the 4- and 5-year-old students include naming 26 pictures in one minute, picking out 12 rhyming words in two minutes, picking out eight sets of words that begin with the same letter in two minutes, identifying 14 letter names in one minute, and identifying eight letter sounds in one minute.

In a recent baseline testing in January that tested this criteria, 90 percent of the students at the preschool involved with the program passed the assessment.

There are about 80 students involved and Beussman said the teachers were thrilled with how well the students are succeeding.

The testing is done one-on-one with a teacher and a preschooler.

She said since they’ve started better implementing these skills into their classrooms, the teachers have noticed students being more willing to participate in class and shout out answers. Many are also becoming more interested in books during their play time instead of going toward dolls or other toys.

They try to keep their ideas and activities fresh to keep the children entertained while still learning the important skills. They also adapt their lessons to adapt for special needs students.

On Wednesday at the preschool, the students divided up into small groups for activities.

At one table a teacher would show a flashcard of an item, and the preschoolers would pick out of a bag of letters the letter that the item started with.

At another table, students were playing a bingo game, which tested vocabulary and what letter different words started with.

During the activities, the teachers would also give visual articulation signals and engage the students based on their levels.

The teachers try to integrate into the activities the five emergent literacy skills of book and print rules, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, conversation skills, and vocabulary and background knowledge.

“As curriculums change and times change, these children need that foundation,” said another teacher, Jennifer Sorlie. “If they have that foundation, it will help them be more successful in education.”

Sorlie said she has seen twinkles come into the eyes of the children when they’re learning. She’s also seen changes in students from when they started the program to the current day.

“They’re so excited at learning,” she said. Some are even reading.

It’s not unusual for the students to sit down either by themselves or with a group of friends and want to read, she said.

The assessment tool is one that is also being implemented at other area preschools, including at Head Start, Building Blocks and Early Childhood Education, Beussman estimated.

The feeling of preschool has switched from being only about social activities for preschoolers to now being more of social and learning.

“It’s really about getting them ready for kindergarten in many avenues,” Beussman said.

For questions, contact the preschool at 373-6712. Registration for the preschool begins Feb. 9.