At least in eastern North Carolina, the typical way to start kindergarten in public school is by staggered attendance over the first three days. One-third of the class comes on the first day to interact for the first time with their teacher and learn the daily routine, one-third comes on the second day, and one-third comes on the third day. On the fourth, all students begin coming to school together. I have often spoken up about my kindergarten teacher mother, and despite my fear that my constant rambling about her findings as a teacher are becoming repetitive, I will put forth yet another one of her experiences that I find insightful.
There are several ways to implement staggered start, though the one outlined above tends to be the most popular amongst teachers I know. This article outlines two potential methods of doing so, including the one I previously mentioned along with another, which essentially involves all kindergarten teachers in that grade grouping all students in one room so that they can see how all of the teachers operate. My goal here is to outline the various benefits of staggered start to kindergarten in order to express my feeling that the program is incredibly necessary in all kindergarten classrooms.
Staggered start isn’t just beneficial for students; teachers also gain a ton from its implementation. According to my mother, who just loves my constant prodding about her teaching life, teachers are able to use staggered start to get to know each student individually, something that is so important in all grades but especially for the first year of students’ schooling experiences. Teachers learn how students learn best and what works and what doesn’t. Teachers also have time to assess where each student is academically when they enter kindergarten, as well as where they need to go. More than anything, kindergarten teachers have the opportunity to connect with the wants and needs of each and every student, getting to know them as individuals before doing so as a whole class.
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Perhaps the benefits for students are a little more obvious than those for teachers. Through staggered start, students are able to learn the routines of their class, get to know their teacher, and prepare for their very first experience in K-12 schooling. More than anything, they get to become comfortable. Comfortable with their peers, comfortable with their classroom, comfortable with themselves as they begin learning.
Of course, I’ve provided a largely one-sided view of staggered start in kindergarten. And all of this is not to say that it is without its flaws. For example, it only allows students to initially meet a select group of their peers on that first day; students have to wait until their second day of school to meet the rest of their classmates. Another potential con to staggered start is that it gives students a false perception of what kindergarten is, painting a picture that is undoubtedly different than what they will see throughout the rest of the school year. As long as teachers and parents make sure students understand that kindergarten won’t be so relaxed all year long, this can be avoided.
Credit: Google Images
I don’t remember my own experience with staggered start, but I do see it every year through the experiences of my mom’s students. I believe its pros far outweigh its cons, and it should be utilized in every kindergarten classroom. Should I choose to become a kindergarten teacher, I will take advantage of this practice without a doubt.