By age 5, most children in America will have been given some kind of intelligence test, whether it is for private school admissions, gifted and talented qualification, or public school placement in slow, average, and accelerated learning groups. These tests cover the 7-abilities educators believe children must have to thrive in the classroom. From Testing For Kindergarten, Karen Quinn identifies these abilities, explains why they are so important for school success, and offers tips for building them at home.
- Language – Receptive language is your child’s capacity to tune in to and understand the language she hears (and later reads) all day. Expressive language is her ability to use words orally (and later in writing) to express ideas and feelings in a clear, organized manner. Language pervades any class a student takes in school. She must be able to listen, pay attention, and comprehend lessons being taught. She needs to answer the teacher’s questions and follow her instructions. Tips: To build this skill, read picture books to your child as often as you can, asking her questions or expanding upon things that capture her interest. It’s also important to converse with her about everything and anything all the time. Children raised in high-language households have IQs scores that are 38-points higher than kids brought up in low language homes.
- Knowledge/comprehension is your child’s understanding of information, social standards of behavior, and common sense that children his age usually understand. To flourish in kindergarten, a child should know colors, shapes, seasons, fruit, farm animals – all the basic kinds of information kids are exposed to through picture books, preschool, and life itself. He should understand manners and have the sense to get along in the world as a 5-year-old. It takes time and a parent’s active involvement to acquire all this. Tips: Nothing beats real experiences like going to the doctor, visiting a beach, baking cookies, or taking a trip to the grocery store for acquiring knowledge. Concept books such as Richard Scarry’s Best First Book Ever cover all the basics kids are expected to know by kindergarten.
- Memory is your child’s ability to retrieve information learned recently or in the past. More memory is needed for school success than is required for any other career. In school, kids must remember spelling, vocabulary, rules of grammar, multiplication tables, history, and procedures for solving math problems. They must remember relevant facts and lessons learned in the past for new assignments and tests. Tips: To remember things better, kids must be able to take something long they hear or read and shrink it to a manageable size. After you read a book to your child, ask her to tell you the story back in her own words. Make patterns using Fruit Loops or colored beads, cover them up, and see if your child can recreate them.
- Mathematics is your child’s ability to work with simple computational skills and to do the thinking needed for higher order math work (patterning, sequencing, ordering, classifying, and comparing). From the time your child starts school, math operations will be one of his most important subjects. Higher order math work is the foundation for the critical thinking and problem solving challenges your child will face as he advances in school. Tips: Always build math into conversations you have with your child. “Dinner will be ready in five minutes.” “Do you want a whole cookie or a half a cookie?” Make a habit of counting everything – from your child’s toes to the number of days until your vacation. Let your child help you sort dark and light clothes when you do laundry. Post a chart of your child’s schedule so he can see the sequences of his own life. Put his stuffed animals in order of size from smallest to largest. Compare cheese pizza to pepperoni pizza or the Sponge Bob to Arthur.
- Spatial Reasoning is your child’s ability to reason and solve problems using pictures, images, diagrams, shapes – anything but words. When your child starts school, she’ll need to draw and recognize shapes in order to write and recognize letters and numbers. She needs to be able to work within page margins, start writing from left to write, and space letters appropriately. When she learns long division, she’ll have to be able to line up numbers to solve the problems. Tips: Working with puzzles and blocks is a great way to strengthen spatial skills. Look for visual challenges in Highlights Magazine, which always features hidden pictures inside other pictures, or read a Where’s Waldo book and let your child find Waldo.
- Cognitive Skills are all the brain functions that make it possible for kids to think, reason and solve problems. As your child advances in school, he’ll need to compare and contrast objects and ideas, make predictions based on patterns he has seen before, think conceptually when writing reports. He’ll constantly be faced with new problems to solve or experiments to complete. Tips: You can help him become a thinker and problem solver at home. When the ball rolls behind the console, ask him to come up with ways to retrieve it. When he can’t get dressed in time for school, ask him to think of ideas for getting ready faster. Pose thought provoking questions like, “What do you think would happen if a child were president?’ Give him a voice in making choices so he’ll become comfortable with decision-making. Finally, one of the best ways to build cognitive skills is to stand back and let your child play.
- Fine-Motor skills are your child’s ability to control his hands and fingers. He needs these for activities like cutting and folding paper, tying shoelaces, typing on the computer, writing and coloring. Studies have shown that 60-70% of children’s schoolwork requires fine-motor skills. Tips: Working with Play-Doh, drawing with crayons, and cutting shapes are wonderful ways to build fine-motor skills. Line up an assortment of coins, all heads up. See how many your child can turn over in thirty seconds. With more than one child, make it a race.