Private schools are interested in kids who demonstrate readiness for kindergarten and who, they believe, will be a good fit for their school’s educational philosophy. In order to determine how prepared a child is for kindergarten, schools want to observe their motor skills, language skills and a range of other developmental indicators. For example, the school will be looking to see whether kids raise their hands to answer questions when asked, if they can sit still, if they demonstrate patience by listening to the teacher, whether they will allow other kids a chance to talk and whether or not they can follow basic instructions. Remember, this day is only one aspect of a multi-faceted admissions process.
Visiting/Testing Day usually includes various activities. Circle/Story Time, where kids listen to a story read by a teacher and answer questions. Schools are not expecting kindergarten applicants to read, but many kids are early readers. Written tests are another common activity, and can include questions about shapes, colors, letters, fill in the blank. Schools will be looking to see if kids can answer the questions, as well as use fine motor skills to hold a pencil to write their name or ABCs. Outdoor play time on the school yard is something that can happen on testing day, too. Schools will watch to see which kids actively play and who takes more time to participate, who shares the ball or play space and who can follow directions.
Porcha Dodson, the co-author of Beyond The Brochure, has administered numerous testing days at two top Los Angeles private elementary schools. Her advice to parents is from the perspective of the teacher/administrator. Here are Porcha’s tips:
– Many private schools use the terms “visiting day,” “testing day” or “play date”. This is the opportunity for the school to observe your child in a mock kindergarten setting with other applicant kids. Telling your child the day will be like a fun play date or a visit to kindergarten with teachers and other kids can help them understand what to expect.
– Some schools prefer to visit applicant kids at their preschools and observe them in a setting familiar to the kids. The preschool director will let parents know ahead of time to make sure the child is at school that day.
– Don’t overdress your child! They should wear comfortable clothing that they can move around in. A suit and tie is too formal.
– Some families hire tutors to prepare their kids for written tests, but this isn’t required by schools. Helping your child learn to recognize basic letters, shapes and colors can help ease anxiety.
– If your child is having a bad day when you arrive at the school, try to gently encourage him/her to separate from you and participate in the activity. If he/she refuses, politely ask the teacher to help. If that doesn’t work, as a last resort, ask to come back another day. This happens occasionally and schools expect kids to have bad days.