Archive for the ‘kindergarten’ Tag

School Readiness   2 comments

A recent article in The Atlantic transported me to a kindergarten classroom in a well-to-do school in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky in the spring of 2000.  A friend of mine who was a former teacher in the area had arranged a visit for me.  I sat in for about forty minutes in the classroom.

I was favorably impressed by the play items in the area, that everything was clean, the room seemed cheerful and pleasant and that there were security procedures in place to protect the children.  But I did notice that, if I was remembering properly about my kindergarten experience in the early 70’s, some things had changed.

I remembered kindergarten as being mainly playing.  I think we even had a nap.  Toward the end of the year, we arranged to put on a play of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  A boy who was my friend suggested that I should be Goldilocks, which I should have taken as a huge compliment.  However, I was upset because I wanted to be one of the bears.

That’s what I remember, although I’m sure there must have been more to it.

In 2000, I sat in a classroom of about twenty children, while the teacher encouraged them to sit quietly on crosses of masking tape affixed to the carpet, while she read an inane story about the letter E.  There wasn’t much plot, mainly just an effort to include as many E words as possible.  When children got restless they were encouraged to stay seated on their personal masking-taped spot.

In the other classroom of kindergarteners across the hall with another teacher and an aide or two, the children were learning how to use a rudimentary picture dictionary.  As I type that, I think, “That can’t be right.  How could they use a dictionary when they hadn’t learned reading or alphabetizing yet?”  So, perhaps my memory is wrong.

I’m certain, though, that they were filling out worksheets based on information from some type of book.  As the aide moved among the children who were sitting at tables in the well-lit classroom, she urged one of the children to be careful to leave consistent, even spacing between the letters in her name at the top of the worksheet.  That injunction was the most important encouragement she had to give.

So, when I read the article this week, I realized that classroom I visited years before must have been on the cutting edge of the new early childhood education trends.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/the-new-preschool-is-crushing-kids/419139

According to this article, since 80% of teachers expect children to be able to read by the end of kindergarten, preschools have to prep kids with school readiness skills, or they won’t make it through kindergarten.  Some places, your child may not be allowed to go on to first grade if she isn’t ready enough.  A school I know of requires kindergarten students to read aloud from take-home readers every weeknight and then write a report about the book at the end of the week. First, they aren’t allowed to pick a book of their own choice.  Second, they have to reread the same book each night.  Third, they have to write a report about it.  I can’t think of a better way to get a child to dislike reading than to turn it into this headache.

However, the research showed children who had been subjected to more “school readiness skills” by the end of preschool actually exhibited lower skills in literacy, language and math skills by the time they reached second grade.  Researchers concluded that direct instruction and repetitive pedagogy were to blame.  Basically, the children who were forced to do seat work in preschool were worse off than those who could play and talk in open-ended conversations with adults.  Conclusions: “Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing…”

and

“We neglect vital teacher-child interactions at our peril.”

If that is the case, what a gift it can be for children to have meaningful conversations with engaged adults, during or outside of scheduled learning hours.  Whether children are homeschooled or at school, they benefit more from having the freedom to learn to read when ready and interacting with other people in small groups and one-on-one than from deskwork.

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Posted February 28, 2019 by swanatbagend in learning

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