As kindergarten teachers, you are the first contact that many families have with their child’s educational career—they are so lucky to have you! Taking advantage of every opportunity to connect with families helps them to stay positively engaged in their child’s education, which has long-term positive impacts for children.
As you reflect on children’s progress over this year, families are eager to hear about what their children have learned in kindergarten, and what they can continue to work with them on over the summer. Your final conversations with families this year may be the most important in setting students up for success in first grade.
These meaningful conversations with families about their child’s progress over the kindergarten year can really help to motivate families to engage with their child in learning activities over the summer and help reduce the “summer slide.”
In this blog, we provide some strategies for sharing information with families about their children’s development over the year. Using the information that you gathered from the VKRP assessments in the fall in combination with your on-going observations of your students throughout the school year is a great way to share with families where their child started, how they have grown, and where they might still need more support. We also provide hand-out materials for you to share with families that suggest fun activities they can do over the summer to support their children’s literacy, math, social skills, and self-regulation!
1, 2, 3: PALS, Families, and Preventing “Summer Slide”
Looking to help families prevent that lurking “summer slide?” Let PALS data lead the way! As you know, the PALS Summed Score benchmark designates whether students are required to receive literacy intervention. However, in looking BEYOND the Summed Score benchmark, the information provided in PALS-K provides much more insight into a student’s strengths and needs when individual task scores are reviewed. When meeting with families and suggesting summer to-dos, PALS data allows you to focus on students’ growth during their kindergarten year and areas to develop over the summer. Here are 3 steps to follow when meeting with families:
Step 1: Provide data visually
The Individual Task Growth Report, printable by student, provides bar graphs of each task and shows student performance at each assessment window: Fall, Mid-Year (if given), and Spring. Teachers may clearly show:
- growth within a task.
For example, in the Letter Sound Knowledge task shown below, the student went from identifying 13 letter sounds to identifying 23 over the course of the year.
- skills that need further strengthening.
For example, in the Spelling task, the student made growth in segmenting words with 3 sounds by increasing her score from 5 to 15 across the school year. In the fall, the student only knew 5 initial and final sounds. Now, the student can identify and segment all 3 sounds, but is needing to firm her understanding of short vowels.
- the relationships among skills.
For example, you might point out that to achieve a firm concept of word, a child must apply knowledge of letter sounds and spelling to understand where words begin and end. As these skills further develop, concept of word will further develop, if students’ attention is drawn to beginning and ending sounds.
Step 2: Share progression of early reading development
It is helpful for parents to see where their child falls within the continuum of early reading development. Referencing the handout, Early Reading Development, identify whether each student is an emergent reader, transitioning from emergent to beginning reader, or a beginning reader.
The data from the Individual Task Growth Report supports your rationale. For example, using the above data, this student is transitioning from an emergent to beginning reader, leaning more toward the beginning reader. The student:
- knows all of her letters;
- knows the majority of her letter sounds;
- is able to spell words with 3 sounds; and
- is able to identify 4 words on the concept of word list
Why does sharing this information matter? By identifying where students are in their reading development, you can best offer suggestions for activities to prevent “summer slide” and promote skill maintenance, growth, and a love for reading.
Step 3: Provide activities for parents
First and foremost, encourage parents to read with their child daily. Whether it’s parents, older siblings, babysitters, or grandparents, daily book sharing exposes children to rich vocabulary, print, more complicated sentences, and models of fluent reading. Additionally, we’ve provided a resource to help you create a “one-pager” with a handful of suggested activities based on each student’s developmental needs. You can use the selected activities in the existing format or create your own by mixing and matching to target student needs even more specifically!
Click here to download the PALS Activities by Goals and Reading Levels resource!
By collaborating with families, you’re setting students up for success in the new year ahead! Instead of enduring the “summer slide,” students will achieve “summer success.”
End of Year Math Wrap-up and Summer Fun for Families
You have laid the foundation for students’ mathematics skill development. You have likely witnessed students’ moving from just learning to count at the beginning of the year to now being able to “count on” from numbers besides 1 and “skip count.” At the beginning of the year, students may have struggled with simple addition and subtraction problems, and now there are students who can use multiple different strategies to solve complex computation problems.
As you reflect on your students’ math skills at the beginning of the school year when they completed “The Party Assessment”— you may ask yourself: Where have they grown? Where do they need more support? Are they meeting first grade beginning of the year benchmarks? This is important information to share with families so that they can help their child continue to grow in their math skills over the summer.
The VKRP team has created a family-friendly handout (look for the link at the end of this post!) that highlights what math skills students have been working to master in kindergarten and what they will be working on in first grade. We have also highlighted fun math activities that will support children’s continued skill development!
Summertime Self-Regulation and Social Skills Activities
From taking turns and resolving conflicts to following directions and persisting on difficult tasks, your students have developed skills this year that will serve them well for years to come! These final weeks are an ideal time to review their scores from the fall self-regulation and social skills assessment and reflect upon whether children who had room to grow have made the gains needed for success heading into the next school year, and whether children who entered with stronger skills have remained on target.
Whether your students’ needs for this summer are to gain or maintain, there are enormous benefits to engaging families in continuing to foster their self-regulation and social skills! Our family resources handout (links below!) provides families with details about the social and self-regulatory skills their children have worked on this year, and how they’ll be building upon them in first grade. We’ve also included directions for some summer games and reading activities to help spark conversations and learning about emotions, friendships, and body awareness!