Today’s standard is: Listens and speaks for specific reasons. This kindergarten standard is taken from Fairfax County Public Schools. Fairfax County is located just outside Washington DC in northern Virginia. This standard has 24, very important language arts benchmarks that align with it, so I plan to discuss one of these benchmarks each Saturday until I have exhausted them (I selected one of the 24 benchmarks to discuss last Saturday, so this will make the second of the 24 to be discussed.). The benchmark to be discussed today is: Express ideas and needs in complete sentences and direct requests.
Wow, where to begin on this one? This is a kindergarten benchmark that should actually be met by 36 months of age! By 36 months, a child’s language is near adult levels. A child grasps all the basic child language development skills (e.g., sentence structure, tense, pronouns, etc.), but will, of course, continue to advance in vocabulary and grammar. By the age of 3, though, he can essentially be considered a fully fledged speaker and language user. He uses direct requests, rather than behaviors or inefficient, imprecise language, to get his needs met and to participate fully in the classroom setting.
Sadly, some children do not arrive to this stage by 36 months. They have not heard enough different vocabulary words to be considered a near-adult level language user. In fact, by 36 months, children of low socio-economic status families will have heard 30 million words less than children of high socio-econimic status families. These children will also present with sentence structures that are limited to simple ones (e.g., I see the dog.) versus rich, complex ones (e.g., I see the dog chasing the cat that lives next door because the cat stole his bone.). Rather than spending time learning crucial curricular vocabulary, expanding pre-literacy or literacy skills, or improving writing skills, these children must spend their time learning to communicate orally and to improve listening skills.
When a child arrives to kindergarten with this benchmark already achieved, he is one step closer to meeting the standard of “listening and speaking for specific purposes.” If he doesn’t have to expend as much energy on being able to listen and speak, he can spend more energy and time learning to read, write, understand math and process new information about social studies, science and health.