Saturday, April 26, 2014

Full Day Kindergarten Should Not Have Academic Focus

Kindergarten art work
When I began teaching art in 1995, I was assigned to all three early childhood centers in our school district. This was before the NCLB and Race to the Top/Common Core education reform debacles. In the 1990's I served on the DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practices) curriculum development committee at Wilson early childhood center in the Allentown SD. What I see happening now in most Kindergarten classrooms conflicts with how I was trained to teach, and conflicts with the well established research in child development. (See Piaget).

A full day kindergarten that has an academic focus is a bad idea and will cause more harm than good. And what's even worse is how schools target those so called academically "at risk" kids for full day K. Many of these children are not developmentally ready for a full day of academics. Every young child should be given the chance to progress at his or her own rate. I don't believe children will fall behind if they are not reading and writing at age 5. The current misguided trend of imposing "college and career ready" standards in the primary grades, is completely absurd, and not age appropriate. These standards were not created by early childhood experts. Kindergarten is now like 1st or even 2nd grade.

When I attended Kindergarten, we played, snacked, and napped, we did not have guided reading or writing in journals. The teacher did not follow scripted lessons. There were no worksheets, benchmark assessments, or requirements to learn 100 sight words. We weren't constantly tested and timed for nonsense word fluency. The teacher did not sit at an overhead projector, she sat at the piano. There were class plays, dress up, dolls, blocks, kitchen sets, hula hoops, jump ropes, singing, show and tell. There was a big slide right inside the classroom! These are the things I remember.  I was ready for 1st grade. I turned out okay. Young children need time to play and explore. They naturally want to play because that's how little kids learn. Five year olds should not be forced to stay in their seats and then scolded for not being able to sit still or focus. They are babies. The focus of Kindergarten should be socialization, adjusting to being at school, and building a foundation for literacy.

Seems like full day K was designed to help parents more than children. I don't care what the research or data says about standardized test scores, or how children of poverty benefit from full day K. I see the same behavior issues in every full day K class that I have taught. They cannot sit still. They cry because they are frustrated and their little bodies need to move. The expectations are unrealistic. Let them play. All full day K programs should include an afternoon of napping, snacking, unstructured play, outdoor recess, singing, dress up, toys, blocks, painting at easels, and the classrooms should be set up in this way. That's not happening everywhere, and it's a tragedy.


Mrs. Dottie said...

I really believe Kindergarten should be focused on socialization and learning how to be in school environment. Too much focus on academics is completely inappropriate and harmful. Yesterday I taught a full day K class at end of the day and they were crying for their mommies, falling off of stools, dancing around, making loud noises, laughing, it was impossible to teach them, and it became unsafe.I It wasn't just a few kids, it was all of them. finally had to stop and tell them to stand up so we could play simon sez. 45 minutes is too long for them to sit and listen. I have had problems all year with full day K behavior, It's just so obvious that it is too much, and the wrong kids are being targeted. Why are we doing this to these children? Yet the district wants to add more full day k!

Ebony Kleinman said...

I completely agree that a full day kindergarten shouldn't be focused on academics! I always saw kindergarten as a small step forward in getting the kids ready for an academic environment. I read books voraciously because I loved to read. We did a lot of coloring and crafts. We did the alphabet. There were some academia-based things that we did, but the focus was on making it fun.