Back to school: Kindergarteners may need extra help due to pandemic social disruptions

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

MURRAY — Kindergarten teachers in the Murray City School District have noticed some changes with kindergarten students since the pandemic began.

"Kindergarteners coming in since the pandemic are very different than before," said Susan Wright, the district's kindergarten specialist.

Wright said teachers across the district have seen more tears, shorter attention spans, less maturity, and difficulty sharing and taking turns.

"The 5-year-olds weren't acting like typical 5-year-olds," she said.

Normally, Wright explained, kindergarten classes settle into routines by October and can then start really focusing on learning. But over the last two years that process has sometimes taken until January or February.

"We believe it's because their socialization opportunities have not been the same," Wright said. "They didn't have the preschool opportunities or the church group opportunities, playgroup opportunities, or even classes that a lot of kids typically went to where they learned those skills."

Marci Allred has taught kindergarten for 11 years and noticed the pandemic's impact right away.

"We started noticing kids are coming in less prepared," Allred said. "They weren't ready to sit and listen. They weren't as socialized, sharing, taking turns."

So, how can parents, grandparents, and other family members help incoming kindergarteners?

"It's easy stuff," Allred said. "Can they follow multi-step directions? Can you put your shoes on and go get your coat?"

Allred said parents can help kindergarteners learn how to share, wait their turn, stand in line, and verbalize emotions and when they need something.

"These are skills that every kid needs for their whole life," she said.

Allred said parents don't need to worry about having flash cards or formal lessons to help kindergarten students prepare for the upcoming school year.

"Just talking to them throughout the day. What they see. What they hear," she said. "What sounds do you hear in a word? Can you count how many objects there are? How many goldfish crackers do you have? Just simple things."

Even if there aren't other kids around, Wright said kindergarteners can still learn sharing and taking turns with adults in the household.

"Like playing games and having opportunities to take turns," Wright added. "Having those situations where you have to wait for something."

Both Wright and Allred said reading to kindergarten-aged children is key to improving attention spans.

"Just being able for them to sit to hear an entire story can be new for a lot of kids," Wright said. "That can be a really long time — five to 10 minutes — to sit and listen to something."

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