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The day I’ve been looking forward to and dreading at the same time is finally on the horizon—my baby girl Ember is going to kindergarten.  As a teacher for the past 13 years, you’d think I’d be more prepared for this moment. I swear, though, she was just a baby yesterday.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about her sitting in the lunchroom that first week, hungry because she can’t open her Lunchable but is too afraid to ask someone for help.  Or think about her playing by herself on the playground.  Or even having an accident because she won’t know she can just raise her hand and ask to go.

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I KNOW that teachers are prepared for this. I know that my child has been in daycare doing just this thing for years. I just didn’t realize how unprepared I was to have my own daughter enter school.  And the overwhelming anxiety that parents feel about every aspect of giving them to school for 7 hours a day.

Nothing has reminded me how precious these children are like having my own child.  When I finally became a mother and had to put my own child in daycare for the first time, I realized what trust these parents have in us.  When a parent says something like “I’m so grateful they get to have you,” it’s the greatest compliment in the world, because you know they are trusting you with the most valuable thing in their lives.

Today’s blog post is a little different.  When I’m writing my blogs, I am typically thinking about you and your kids.  But today, I’m thinking about my daughter and hoping that what I’m doing can give you some ideas for your own children or students.

So let’s talk about the things I’m doing to prepare my daughter to enter kindergarten.  I wish this weren’t true, but if children come to kindergarten with no knowledge of letters and numbers, they are at a disadvantage.  It doesn’t mean they cannot catch up, because they certainly can. But their lives will be easier if they have a head start.

The Setup

This summer, we will spend about 30 minutes a few days a week getting ready for school.

In order to make this successful, there’s a few things I’m going to do.  My daughter wants me to be mama, not teacher, so I want to make the “school” and “mama” times separate.

We’re setting up a work area for her.  That way, she knows when we are in that area, we will be doing school work. Other than that, I’ll just be mama (except when I sneak in learning “games” where she doesn’t realize she’s learning.)

I’m also planning on using a visual schedule.  This lets her know what we’re doing, and how much stuff we have left. The schedule will also give her some choice. I’ll allow her to choose the order she wants to do the different tasks.

ember kindergarten schedule

I made her schedule in Canva. (You can get a free educator account!) I searched for a visual schedule, then edited it to fit the needs of my child. In all, it took maybe 10 minutes to create it. I will laminate and then use Velcro dots to take the pieces on and off.


Properly Writing Letters and Names

My daughter is only 4, and I fear she’s already developed a habit that I have to work to rectify this summer.  She has decided she doesn’t know how to write a “little e” and so when she writes her name, she uses an uppercase E for both letters.  She gets upset when I try to correct her.

When children enter kindergarten, they will begin writing their name immediately.  Although teachers will work with kids on this, if they are proficient at name writing before they enter kindergarten, they are at an advantage.

If they have proper letter formation, that is a HUGE plus.  Many times children learn to write letters in a manner that is inefficient.  Practice doesn’t make perfect—practice makes permanent.  The more times a child writes something incorrectly, the harder it is to fix.  While the classroom teacher will definitely be teaching her how to write her letters, I don’t want Ember to enter into school with habits the teacher will have to help her unlearn and then relearn.

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I find the best way to practice is to trace (with an adult), followed immediately by independent practice (with feedback.)

This summer when we begin our “summer school” at home to prepare for kindergarten, we will work on both tracing and writing her name. I am not a huge fan of tracing because it is often used as an independent practice. If we want to ensure proper letter formation, then tracing must be utilized with a teacher present. Otherwise, those poor letter formations will persist. I find the best use of tracing is this: practice tracing (with an adult), then immediately practice writing it without the tracing lines while the adult provides feedback.

Letter Names and Sounds

Learning our letter names and sounds is of paramount importance this summer. Research has shown that it is letter-sound knowledge and phonemic awareness that are the two biggest indicators of how well a child will learn to read in the first two years of school. Luckily, Ember has had a lot of exposure in preschool.  We know that it can take hundreds of exposures before a child can remember a letter.  I’ve been trying to give her those exposures casually since she was 3. Now it’s time to be more intentional.

I would love if Ember entered kindergarten knowing all her letter names and sounds.  You hear about 4 year olds who are suddenly reading, and it would be amazing if that were my child.  But it isn’t, and I have to continuously remind myself that is okay too.  She doesn’t have to be reading at 4 to be a successful human. 

But I can keep giving her the exposures to letters that she needs to automatically recognize letters and sounds. We can do this through games, flashcards, and so much more. If you want more specific ideas for letter names and sounds, make sure you check out this blog for different activities you can do.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness instruction has a larger effect size when letters are added.  That being said, as a 4 year old who doesn’t even know many of her letters yet, I feel comfortable using a mixture of oral-only phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, and phonemic awareness activities where letter sounds are added.

Because my daughter is still so young, we also work on phonological awareness skills.  You don’t need to rhyme to be able to read. But rhyming will not hurt my kiddo, and it helps her to see that sounds can be manipulated, and to pay attention to the sounds in words. Rhyming activities are as simple as when I say, “The man had a tan” then bringing attention to the rhyming words. I’m not doing worksheets with her, but instead I am playing with language. Rhyming also lends itself to silly sentences that kids love repeating.

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I use a mixture of oral-only phonemic awareness tasks with my daughter, as well as incorporating letters as soon as possible.

We’ve been practicing beginning phoneme isolation for about two years now. And let me tell you, it did not go well in the beginning. I would say something like “say mom” and then ask her what the first sound was in mom. She would undoubtedly say “mom.” But now, after lots of practice, she is pretty solid in her ability to tell me the initial sound of a word.

You can give children a word (or a picture), ask them to tell you the word, and then ask them to tell you the first sound they hear. This will take a lot of modeling in the beginning, where you are doing all the heavy lifting and helping them hear the sound. Eventually, though, students begin to hear the individual sounds on their own.

The final phonemic awareness task I want to practice with Ember this summer is segmenting and blending words with 2-3 phonemes. Segmenting and blending phonemes are the two most important phonemic awareness skills to prepare her for reading.


I am not a math person.  I know, I know, EVERYONE is a math person.  But my inability to understand many math concepts has been a humbling characteristic of my existence for 36 years now.  When I was in 6th grade, I got put in the “high math,” which was a class two years ahead of the other students.  By the time I graduated, I had failed 2 math classes and ended up exactly where I should be.

I’m not looking forward to the day when my daughter’s math is too difficult for me to help her.  At least for now, I am still in the clear.  I asked the math specialist at our school what she would recommend parents work on before their kiddos get to school.  She gave me the skills below as an area of concentration.


My math specialist (I appreciate you Lisa!) said that we want to first work on our kids counting to 10, then move on to your child counting to 20.

This is one of those skills that can be worked on in both formal and informal settings. When we’re driving in the car, I will often challenge my daughter to count to 100. I will have to give her the decade (20, 30, 40, etc.) and then she can continue counting.

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Oral counting is a key skill to learn in kindergarten.

Rote counting is an essential skill. Kiddos need to orally count to 100 or 120 (depending on state standards) by the end of kindergarten.

To make it fun, I ask my daughter to count real objects, like how many goldfish are in her bowl or how many reusable water balloons we have.

You can use counting with almost any game. We recently taught my daughter to play the card game War (where you flip over a card and whoever has the highest valued card wins). At the end of the game, we count our cards. A game like Chutes and Ladders is perfect for counting. Any game that requires dice is going to give you practice with counting.

Just remember, you can practice oral counting anywhere!

One-to-One Correspondence

1-1 correspondence is interrelated with counting. It is “the ability to pair each object counted with a number word. Children begin to develop 1-to-1 correspondence when they match one object with another… As they combine their growing knowledge of the number word list with this ability, they begin to say a number in the number word list as they touch each object in the set”(Beneke, 2016, p.1).

Let me give you some examples. When my child goes for bike rides, she undoubtedly looks for rocks. When we get home, she will count those rocks. Her ability to touch and count each rock in the correct numerical order is an example of 1-1 correspondence.

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Finding opportunities to count objects will boost 1-1 correspondence.

Final Thoughts on Entering Kindergarten

I wish we could just let all kids enter kindergarten, and they wouldn’t have to know anything except for what it’s like to be a kid. But I can’t live in my dream world, I have to live in reality. And the reality is that children who enter kindergarten with some knowledge of letters and numbers have an advantage over children who do not.

Our job as teachers is to help our students catch up and reach grade level expectations. My job as a parent is to help her so that she doesn’t need to catch up. By practicing writing, identifying letters and numbers, and playing with sounds, I’m hopeful my child can enter kindergarten with the best possible chance of success.

Works Cited:

Quote from Teaching Preschoolers About 1-1 Correspondence by Sallee Beneke

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Picture of Savannah Campbell

Savannah Campbell

Savannah Campbell is a K-5 reading specialist. She has taught her entire 12-year teaching career at the school she went to as a child. She holds two master’s degrees in education from the College of William and Mary. Savannah is both Orton-Gillingham and LETRS trained. Her greatest hope in life is to allow all children to live the life they want by helping them to become literate individuals.

Picture of Savannah Campbell

Savannah Campbell

Savannah Campbell is a K-5 reading specialist. She has taught her entire 12-year teaching career at the school she went to as a child. She holds two master’s degrees in education from the College of William and Mary. Savannah is both Orton-Gillingham and LETRS trained. Her greatest hope in life is to allow all children to live the life they want by helping them to become literate individuals.

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