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What do you expect new kindergarteners to know?

Grading | Assessment 


Senior Member
I retired from teaching first grade this year. A parent of a former student called me and asked me to tutor her pre-schooler who will be starting kindergarten this fall. She said his preschool teacher said he didn't learn anything in 2 years of preschool. I tested his letter recognition, and he knows all the letters that are in his name (Christopher) plus a couple. He knows more capitals than lower case. He can count to 20 with one to one correspondence. He can't write any letters or numbers correctly.
Can any of you kindergarten teachers tell me what you expect kindergarteners to know when they start in kindergarten? TIA


Senior Member
starting K

When I taught K, they came in knowing all the names of the upper and lowercase letters, and were strong in consonant sounds. Short vowel sounds needed some work.

I also expected them to be able to count orally to at least 50, and recognize those numbers. Knowing numbers to 100 was a bonus.

Holding a pencil correctly was huge. So was being able to hold a scissor and cut.

Have fun!


Senior Member
Some Thoughts

Our students entering K come with a wide range of skills. Some have never been to preschool, while others have had 2-3 years of preschool. Recognizing his name, recognizing the letters in his/her name (especially since he has a long name), knowing some letter sounds, being able to write some recognizable letters and numbers (not necessarily written perfectly and written without guidelines), drawing straight and slant lines, being able to copy shapes, drawing a 6 part person, oral counting to 10, and having one-to-one correspondence would all be developmetally-appropriate for entering kindergarten.

We tell our preschool teachers to focus on things like oral language development, gross motor skills, fine visual motor skills (not formal handwriting), visual and auditory discrimination, phonemic awareness, social emotional skills, things like being able to listen to a story being read, following simple directions, attending to a task, waiting for a turn, sharing, and self-help skills-especially toileting skills. The academic skills will come if these precursors are already in place.

Those precursors are important. For example, If a child has weak core muscles, he will have difficulty sitting and may have difficulty with attention because of having to shift position frequently. If a child has weak fine motor muscles, he will have difficulty holding and controlling a pencil. Iif a child has weak visual motor, he will have difficulty copying letters. numbers, and words. If a child has weak visual discrimination skills, he will have difficulty distinguishing between letters. If a child has weak auditory discrimination skills, he will have difficulty distinguishing between sounds. You get the idea why these are important.

I have students who enter K not knowing any letters or sounds, but catch up to the rest of the class once they are exposed to them because all the precursors are in place.

Can you check out what the standards are for the kindergarten that he will be attending and work from those? Sometimes they will show the prerequisite skills needed before doing that grade level or a district's website might share expectations for entering kindergarten.


Senior Member
Munchkins, you and I must teach in very different places.

Honestly, I assume nothing. Many of my students don't know a single letter of their name. Some count to 10, but just rote counting, not necessarily 1 to 1. About half of my students are beginning English speakers.

If I was tutoring for kindergarten readiness I'd think about oral language skills, listening to and talking about stories, fine motor skills, following multi-step directions, writing first name, identifying letters in name (then additional letters of the alphabet), number sense, subitizing, rhyming...
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Senior Member
Well, what we expect them to know and what we'd like them to know are two different things. Many of our kids come in with nothing, even those that went to pre-k. The official expectations are phonological awareness through the syllable level, being able to isolate ten "first sounds" in one minute for phonemic awareness (i.e. if I say cat, the student can identify that they hear /c/ first), 18 letter names and 15 letter sounds.

Phonological and phonemic awareness is super, super important and I would make sure to work on that every time. My struggling students in K can often learn their letters because we just provide them with millions of repetitions, but they still struggle because they're not picking up the PA skills, which in turn leads to not being able to use their letter sound knowledge to decode words.

I'd also work on letter names and sounds, and that should include writing letters with correct formation as well. Our pre-k team will often report that all students "know the letters in their name." Really, what happens is that students have learned to repeat the letters of their name in order, so when shown "Christopher," the student could easily say c-h-r...etc. Yet if shown an "h" by itself, the student has no idea what it is. So before moving on to other letters, I'd make sure the student really knows all of those in his name in isolation, including being able to write them from memory. As far as name writing, having the first letter be capital and the rest lowercase tends to be a big struggle for our K kids.

For math, I'd start with numerals 1-10- matching objects with a written numeral to start, and then have him start writing the numerals. If 1-10 are mastered from memory, go on to 20.


Senior Member
Thank you for your responses

I got sidetracked and am missing some tutoring, but this information will help when I get back into it.