Kindergarten is the new first grade. At least that’s been the conclusion after research the last few years into Ohio kindergarten readiness and standard developmental milestones that public schools expect kids to have by the time they start school.
Our Cleveland occupational therapists and homeschool teachers at Therapy & Wellness Connection are familiar with this research, including a longitudinal study that came out more than a decade ago compared kindergarten readiness standards in 1998 to those in 2010. They found that the standards for entering kindergarten in 2010 were on par with what was expected of first-graders in the 1990s. For example, in 1998, about less than one-third of teachers thought their students should know how to read entering kindergarten. By 2010, that figure jumped to a whopping 80 percent. Researchers expressed astonishment at the magnitude of changes in classroom expectations just in this 20-year window.
Standards for Ohio kindergarten readiness have only continued to climb. It’s one of the reasons our occupational therapists and intervention specialists are such ardent preachers of early intervention therapies if it appears a young child is falling behind developmentally. The sooner developmental delays and issues are addressed, the less farther behind they will continue to fall. They won’t have as much “catching up” to do by the time they reach kindergarten age.
What is Required for Ohio Kindergarten Readiness?
Every year, public school districts are in the Buckeye State are required to administer the Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Revised (KRA-R) to all first-time kindergarten students at the start of each school year. The test is not traditional pencil and paper, but rather looks at the child’s knowledge and abilities across four areas: Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being and Motor Development, and Social Foundations.
Some of what proctors are assessing:
- Language and Literacy: Make predictions/ask questions about the text of interactive read-alouds after looking at the title, cover, illustrations/photos, graphic aids or texts.
- Math: Count to identify how many objects in a set, compare categories with comparisons vocabular (greater than/less than, same/equal to, etc.).
- Social Skills: Can interact with peers in pretend play, plan and coordinate roles and cooperation.
- Physical Well-Being and Motor Development: Demonstrate locomotor skills with control, coordination, and balance during active play (hopping, jumping, running, etc.)
Your child’s scores on this test are going to determine how ready they are for kindergarten instruction, though it can’t be used to prohibit them from starting. But kids who develop stronger age appropriate behaviors, skill, and knowledge when they start kindergarten are going to be more likely to excel on their academic track.
Developmental Milestones to Pay Attention to as Your Child Approaches Kindergarten
Developmental delays of all ages should be promptly addressed at the time you notice them, some developmental milestones you should pay careful attention to as your child reaches kindergarten age:
- Do they speak clearly? Kids need to have a base-level of communication in order to thrive in kindergarten. They need to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly and be able to understand when others are communicating with them. Not only will this help academically, but will help them to form stronger connections with their peers. If your child is approaching kindergarten and struggles forming sounds or words, seems confused when directions are given, doesn’t ask questions like other kids their age, or otherwise seem delayed, they may need some additional help. Speech-language disorders are pretty common around preschool age, but it’s a good idea to seek a consultation with a speech therapist if this is the case.
- Do they understand questions? It’s important that kids are able to understand how to ask basic who-what-when-where-why questions, and be able to answer them in return.
- Do they recognize their numbers and letters? They don’t necessarily need to have a mastery of the alphabet or be doing algebra, but schools will typically expect them to know how to count to 10 and understand basic math concepts (greater/less than, etc.). And they should be able to recognize most letters and associate sounds with some of them.
- Do they understand the basic concept of time? This is a tough one for a lot of kids, but it’s not really about being able to tell time. Your child should, however, have a basic understanding of before, now, soon, yesterday, tomorrow, later, etc.
- Can they tell a story? They’re not expected to be little Shakespeares, but they should be able to tell simple stories with what most would recognize as a beginning, middle, and end.
- Can they recognize patterns? Can they recognize patterns in shapes, sizes, numbers? This will be important to basic math concepts.
- Do they have basic fine motor skills? They don’t necessarily need to know exactly how to hold a pencil and write when they enter kindergarten, but they should be able to pick up a marker and reliably make marks on the paper. If your child is struggling with these skills, take time to practice with them every day – coloring, using utensils, pouring juice, etc. to help them build up their muscle strength and coordination. (There are TONS of fun crafts too that require fine motor skills that you can incorporate too. The more fun you make it, the faster your child will learn!)
Keep in mind that all kids develop at different rates. If your child hasn’t reached every single milestone, that’s Ok. A little extra practice may go a long way. But if you find they’re still struggling the closer you get to kindergarten age, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about a consultation with a speech therapist and/or occupational therapist to help bolster these skills. We want them ready to take on the world!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, Ohio Department of Education
More Blog Entries:“
Late Talkers” Who Get Early Intervention Speech Therapy Have Better Long-Term Outcomes, April 13, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy & Occupational Therapy Blog