On the child

"Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and other children." [loris malaguzzi]

Sunday, September 4, 2011

SCHOOL-READY, SET, GO! A Checklist for Kindergarten Readiness

This morning I was handed the most remarkable note from a 6-year-old. It reads as follows: “You have a sensitive humor. P.S. I am from Peru’.” This is what the note looked like to the untrained eye (mine):U r HF UHF A SSV HMR. P.S. I FAMB PA.The author is a new first grader and the daughter of a fellow early childhood educator. I spent an hour a week this summer working with this unique and brilliant child on her emerging handwriting, reading skills, sound spelling and storytelling. I had so much fun!

Receiving such a personal and creatively written note got me thinking about what I have talked to parents in my preschool classroom over the years about what I value and try to foster in children before they head off to primary school.

I recently unearthed a school readiness checklist I filed away some 10 years ago, when one of the authors of this resource - who was both a parent in my preschool classroom and a public school kindergarten teacher -shared it with me during her son’s parent-teacher conference.

Though I do not know the names of all the authors of this helpful and realistic tool, I would like to acknowledge Jana Walsh and the kindergarten teachers at Commodore Sloat School in San Francisco, CA for sharing their wisdom and their practice. Their handout is re-typed here verbatim.


We (the kindergarten teachers) recommend that your child know the following items on this list. In particular, your child should really know the items that are marked with an asterisk (*). Do not worry, your child will reach most of these goals naturally as you play, read, talk and do chores together. If your child does not possess the skills marked by the asterisk, please talk to us and we can recommend things to do to assist your child.


 Respect adult authority

 Follow rules*

 Learning to use good manners*

 Learning to control temper*

 Learning to be patient*

 Understanding that other have rights and feelings*

 Learning to take responsibility for own belongings

 Respects others’ property*

 Knows it is important to tell the truth*

 Learning to work independently and do some tasks for self


 Learning to sit quietly and pay attention*

 Leaves home and parents for a few hours without being upset

 Becoming confident enough to explore and try new things

 Plays quietly alone for a while

 Plays with other children


 Handles toileting needs without help*

 Washes hands and face*

 Dresses and undresses self*

 Helps care for own belongings*

 Learning to pick up after self*

 Turns faucets on and off*

 Knows how to use a tissue*

 Asks for help when needed*

 Knows key safety rules (e.g. looking both ways before crossing street)


 Recognizes primary colors*

 Understands position concepts (e.g. up, down, in, out)*

 Is curious and eager to learn

 Names familiar objects and their uses (e.g. chair, spoon, soap)

 Identifies some common animals (e.g. dogs, cows)

 Identifies some wild animals (e.g. monkeys, elephants)

 Names familiar places and explains their uses (e.g. store, playground)

 Knows and identifies familiar people by name

 Understands basic size words (e.g. big, little, long, short)

 Understands words for when things happen (e.g. now, later, never, always)

 Understands words for how things move (e.g. fast, slow, stop, go)

 Understands words for how things feel (e.g. hard, soft, hot, cold)


 Knows own full name*

 Knows own age*

 Names basic parts of body (e.g. head, hands, toes)*

 Knows own gender

 Knows parents’ and siblings’ full names


 Knows what an alphabet letter is*

 Recognizes own first name in print*

 Learning to print own first name

 Enjoys listening to stories and poems

 Looks at picture books

 Tells what is happening in pictures

 Scribbles and draws


 Speaks clearly enough for non-family members to understand*

 Follows simple (two- or three-step) directions*

 Communicates needs, feelings, and thoughts verbally

 Relates simple accounts of personal experiences

 Asks questions to gain information

 Answers easy questions

 Listens to a story being told or read


 Counts aloud to ten*

 Counts a few objects

How do you define school-readiness in your early childhood practice?


  1. This is a really interesting list - I'm always a bit wary of definitions of school readiness, but this list is more about being a member of a community than anything else, and I appreciate that. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Allie! Yep, you got it - I think, as did the authors of the list I shared, that practicing the skills needed to be a contributing member of any community and having those fostered by the adults that are there with you, is HUGE in the life of a child. This is regardless of the child's age and the educational setting!

    2. Allie, for more food for thought on the topic and more fleshing out of the ideas of community building and school learning outcomes that are really "life skills" check out: http://tomdrummond.com/16-capabilities - He rocks!

  2. i also appreciate the list, thanks! i am in the process of collecting checklists in order to decide what i will refine and then personally use as a tool. i agree allie re: the list being about being a member of a community - skills related to being a productive member of society are the skills i deem most important, especially for those who are 2-6.

    1. Thank you, Emily! I am glad to hear that the list I shared, and was passed on to me by one of the authors, has made it into your collection. Of course, I write this a year after you posted your comment, but if you are still on the look-out for great lists that will help you define what "school readiness" really is and should be all about, then check out the following one: http://tomdrummond.com/16-capabilities - so much more food for thought!


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