(From Curtis Vogel, TODAY Producer)
I'm the producer of Natalie Morales's new series called Class of 2020, in which we are following a group of students for 13 years, from their first day in kindergarten to their high school graduation.
The first part of our new series kicked off with the excitement and emotions surrounding the first day of school (naturally). When it came time to figure out the theme for the second piece, it was obvious almost immediately when the teacher, Mrs. Tepper, started assigning homework to her kindergartners. WATCH VIDEO
Homework? In kindergarten?
My memories of kindergarten include story time, coloring books, and recess. Within the first couple of weeks, these students were being asked to recite the alphabet, discuss basic concepts of math and recognize some words that I'm sure I never knew until at least first grade. That's why education experts like to say, "Kindergarten is the new first grade."
I'm amazed and impressed at the number of topics that these 5- and 6-year-old kids cover every day, but Mrs. Tepper always makes sure to inculde playtime, rest time and other activities to break up the intense learning times. She is a big fan of the full-day kindergarten program that they recently started at her school and highly recommends it to anyone who has a choice of school when they start their kids in kindergarten.
She believes the longer class time gives her a chance to give the kids a well-rounded education in that first year that includes not only required subjects but also helps them develop important social skills.
If you have a baby or toddler right now, there are a few things that you can do to help prepare them for kindergarten in a few years:
1. Develop their conversational skills at expressing ideas -- more than just answering yes or no to questions
2. Expose them to the alphabet letters and the numbers from 1 to 10
3. Develop their learning skills -- they need to be able to sit and listen without talking or being distracted
4. Social skills -- if possible, expose them to children and people outside your immediate family and friends to make it easier to meet 19 strangers on that first day of school
These are not requirements, but they'll help your child get a head start over other students in that first year of school.
In our second piece, you'll see that Zenzele's parents, Joy and Trevor, made a conscious effort to get her into preschool when she was 3 and worked with her at home on all of the skills mentioned above. As a result, Zenzele is doing great in kindergarten and having no issues with the transition from preschool to elementary school.