Kindergarten screener goes from pilot to full flight

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Caleb Leach stands on one foot with his eyes closed for paraprofessional Cathy Reynolds as a demonstration of his gross motor skills for the kindergarten screener at Science Hill Elementary School (Science Hill Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, July 30, 2013
Caleb Leach stands on one foot with his eyes closed for paraprofessional Cathy Reynolds as a demonstration of his gross motor skills for the kindergarten screener at Science Hill Elementary School (Science Hill Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, July 30, 2013

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Science Hill (Independent) Elementary School kindergarten teacher Linda Bruner  knew  the kindergarten screener would give her insight into the students who would be entering her classroom this year.

But she also wanted the screener to give her students an idea of what her classroom would be like as well.

“I wanted the process to be a representation of what it’s going to be like in my class, Bruner said. “I believe in positive reinforcement and the ability to try, so I wanted to go ahead and show the children that.”

Nearly 50 of Bruner’s students in her two half-day classes took the revised BRIGANCE Kindergarten Screener in late July.

Prior to the screening, Bruner sent a video message to parents and students. It served as a greeting and gave information regarding the screener and the school year. The student video used puppets to talk about the screener with hopes of eliminating any fears children might have with answering a question.

“Sometimes, they know the answer, but they’re afraid of being wrong, or they’re just shy,” Bruner said. “They worry about mistakes even at that age, but I always say in my class that we don’t worry about mistakes, because everything is a learning experience.”

When students finished the screener, Bruner greeted them with hugs. Each student also was allowed to pull a sticker out of a bucket and ring the magic bell, an electronic school bell that’s a staple of Bruner’s classroom.

“It’s just another way I want them to feel comfortable in my classroom,” she said.

Katie Williams, school readiness consultant and lead implementer of the screener for the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Next-Generation Learners, said that transitioning into kindergarten is “a critical step in every child’s education.” With children coming to school from many different settings and backgrounds, including those who haven’t yet been in formal school settings, Williams said it’s imperative that all students get any supports they need.

“It is important that schools reach out to their community partners, including the early childhood partners,” Williams said. “Transition activities may include having preschool or child care partners at open houses or before-school events so that the children will see familiar faces.”

Bruner agreed. “It would be great to collaborate not just with our staff, but with parents and other daycares, too,” Bruner said. “Expectations are higher this year, and everyone wants the children to come into kindergarten ready to learn, so we should all work together.”

Williams also recommends that schools, when possible, offer meeting time for kindergarten and preschool teachers together, and Head Start or child care staff can be included, too.

“If staffing and scheduling allow, schools may consider having their preschool staff available the first day or two of kindergarten to assist in a smooth transition for students,” Williams said. “Activities that provide children with an opportunity to visit or tour the school before school starts also is a great way to help ease the child’s and the family’s fears of that step of entering ‘big school.’”

Taking steps like these will ease the transition to kindergarten and may curve any nerves or shyness students have when participating in the screener.

Bruner, like other Kentucky teachers, was trained to give the screener to her students. She also participated in webinars and then trained other district personnel. Additionally, she consulted with a Laurel County school district teacher who participated in the pilot, and her advice was very helpful, Bruner said.

Admitting that she was initially skeptical of the screener because she felt it needed more speech guidelines, her early concern has since been replaced with knowing the information the screener gives her will be a valuable asset in guiding her instruction and making her a more effective teacher.

“I think it’s great that we actually know how prepared our students are not only for kindergarten, but it will guide them throughout elementary school,” Bruner said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting with parents to talk about their child’s results, so that we can work together to get them off to a great start with their education.”

MORE INFO…
Katie Williams, katie.williams@education.ky.gov, (502) 564-7506
Linda Bruner, linda.bruner@sciencehill.kyschools.us, (606) 423-3341
Beth Schaeffer, beth.schaeffer@warren.kyschools.us, (270) 781-1356
kindergarten screener
Click here to see a short video (three minutes) of a child being screened with the Kindergarten Screen.
Implementation Guide 2013–14

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