By Aimee Sawyer, Product Marketing Manager at Khan Academy Kids and former preschool teacher
There’s something about the back-to-school season that’s extra nostalgic. It tugs on memories of new shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, and the smell of school glue.
For parents and teachers, this time of year has a to-do list longer than your holiday chore/shopping/prep list. Parents are checking off supply lists, going clothes shopping, filling out paperwork, moving up bedtime, and figuring out lunch logistics. Teachers are decorating their classrooms, printing name tags, setting up tech, and submitting lesson plans. It’s easy to get lost in the required tasks and forget the big emotions that kids experience during this transition.
But we were there too once. We had new shoes on during a steamy day in August, but we were really focused on questions like: What shoes will everyone else be wearing? Are any of my friends in my class? Is my teacher nice? Many of us have lost the memory of our very first day of school, but the questions then were probably even scarier: Is my mom ever coming back? What are we going to do all day? Do I know a single person here? It’s a lot to navigate for young four and five year olds.
“The transition to kindergarten is a critical juncture in a child’s life that entails a host of social, behavioral, and academic changes.”
-Little et. al, Facilitating the Transition to Kindergarten (2016)
An easy All About Me activity introduced on one of the first days of school can support kids’ transition into the school environment in three key ways:
- Help teachers get to know their new students.
- Help parents and teachers connect.
- Help kids learn about themselves.
Scroll down to read about each one.
Download free All About Me worksheet
1. Help teachers get to know their new students.
When paired with a table full of crayons or markers, simple questions like “What’s your favorite food?” and “Who’s in your family?” are a great way for teachers to get to know their students.
Teachers can recall these facts in context to help students feel seen and to start building a connection. At afternoon pickup, teachers can say: “Oh, this must be Mom from your All About Me worksheet!” Or when reading the lunch menu, a food might stand out as someone’s favorite: “Tara, there are peaches today—your favorite!” Teachers can use this information as a jumping off point to learn even more: “Logan, did you get to play with Legos last night? What did you build?”
Displaying the completed All About Me worksheets on a bulletin board or in the hallway shows students you are proud of their work.
Image by Teacher Created Resources
2. Help parents and teachers connect.
It’s good for kids to have a healthy sense of discomfort around new people, but their exposure to strangers during the back-to-school season is intense. In many cases, kids are walking into a classroom full of 20 kids they’ve never seen before and one or two adults they’re told to trust but don’t know why or how the adults earned that trust from their parents. The CDC points out that one of the key stress points for kids is that they are “wary of strangers and want to stay close to their parents and…trusted caregivers.” (CDC, 2023)
One of the best ways to alleviate this anxiety is by building a strong connection between the adults in the child’s life so that strangers are no longer strangers. (The Early Learning Network , 2020) When teachers and parents have a strong relationship with one another, kids will feel more supported and secure as they navigate between home and school.
Once the All About Me worksheets are proudly displayed on a bulletin board or in the hallway, teachers can encourage kids to show their parents: “Jose, would you like to show your mom your All About Me worksheet? Let’s go look at it together!” Conversation is natural at that point. Parents may have questions for their kids about what they chose to write down—“Really?? You said broccoli was your favorite food?”—and teachers can jump in and engage—“I was surprised by that too! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had a student put down broccoli!”
As the first month of school comes to a close, it’ll be time to take down the All About Me display. Carefully place each child’s worksheet in a manilla envelope and make sure it makes its way back home. This is a memento parents and caregivers will cherish for years to come.
3. Help kids learn about themselves.
A child’s understanding of who they are as a person plays an important role in the things they find motivating, their behavior at school, their social relationships, and more. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009) During this critical developmental time, adults can create experiences that nurture children’s positive sense of identity.
Rebecca Parkinson, Sr. Director of Zero to Three, recommends giving children a space to share their perspective as a way to build identity. (PBS Parents, 2019) This can help them identify what their own interests are and proudly share them.
An All About Me worksheet is a great way to nurture a child’s positive sense of identity. Kids can fill it in with all of the things that make them who they are as a person. Teachers can take it to the next level by pairing students together and having them share their completed worksheets. Sharing pieces of their identity with a peer can help students integrate into their new classroom community.
Even with all the tips in the world, this is a big transition, and hiccups are to be expected! But when parents and teachers team up to support kids, the bumps will feel a little smoother.
We’d love to see children’s completed All About Me worksheets! Submit them here to share with the Khan Academy Kids team.
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“Helping Your Child Develop a Healthy Sense of Self Esteem.” HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019, www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Helping-Your-Child-Develop-A-Healthy-Sense-of-Self-Esteem.aspx.
Little, M. H., Cohen-Vogel, L., & Curran, F. C. (2016). Facilitating the Transition to Kindergarten: What ECLS-K Data Tell Us about School Practices Then and Now. AERA Open, 2(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858416655766
Parlakian, Rebecca. “Using Stories to Nurture Your Child’s Identity.” PBS KIDS for Parents, 16 July 2019, www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/using-stories-to-nurture-your-childs-identity.