I try not to get up on my soapbox very often here. But I read this article posted on Twitter: The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten and if you were in my house you could have heard me talking to it repeatedly as I read it "Amen!". So I thought I would share.
Here in Texas we don't subscribe to Common Core, so I can't speak to that aspect of it. But I can say that every year more and more standards are pushed down to Kindergarten. Well, they are having trouble with regrouping in 2nd Grade, so we will start introducing it in Kinder. They are having trouble with high frequency words in 1st Grade, so we need to not only teach our Kinder kids more words but spend an enormous amount of time testing and re-testing them individually every 2 weeks so we can discuss their progress with hfw's. We no longer have objectives in our curriculum for fine motor skills (that used to be a main focus). So if an administrator walks in and my students are playing with clothespins and beading-I have no way to officially justify it. Guess what, year after year their handwriting gets worse! Probably because we are putting writing utensils in it before they have properly developed those skills.
This year money was included in our K curriculum. Money! Do you know how hard it is to teach money (a very abstract concept) to kids who have not yet mastered number sense? I can attest to the fact that I taught it in Kinder and to the same kids in 1st Grade and they are still having difficulty with it. Sure they can memorize the coins and amounts, but they don't really have a clear understanding of it; so they are unable to apply it. And guess what, the following year they have retained nothing of it. Guess I'm not doing my job very well.
I think we need to advocate for our Kinder classrooms! I fought to keep my housekeeping center and the dollhouse I have used for years. Why? I think there is nothing better to allow students to practice their speaking skills and vocabulary-which guess what, carries over to reading and writing skills. I hear them comparing family stories, using their imagination to create family stories-even my very shy, uncommunicative students communicate in that center. It's their favorite one!
They need to learn how to associate with each other. When kids enter Kinder they will spend 20 minutes arguing over who is the red piece in a game. I very often hear "he's cheating!" and when I question "how is he cheating" the response is "well, he's winning". They don't play games with people anymore. Most students that I talk to only play games online or on an ipad-by themselves. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure they are getting social skills. Tell me they didn't learn something from working together to build this? What objective does it meet-I can't name one, but I still think it's a valuable experience.
Now, if you read my blog regularly at all, you know I believe in high expectations. I teach creativity and critical thinking explicitly in my classroom every single day. I believe in rigor and in challenging the students. Rigor is not teaching more. Rigor is going deeper into their curricular objectives. There is a difference between challenging them on their developmentally appropriate objectives and teaching them things they are in no way ready for. I could teach multiplication in Kindergarten-they could memorize the math facts of 5 x 5=25, but they don't understand the why of it. They can't apply it in any kind of problem solving situations. So what's the purpose of taking time on that which could be used for something more valuable.
Yes, reading is important. But we could teach reading 8 hours a day for 180 days and some students still wouldn't be able to read. That light bulb hasn't gone off yet. They look at letters and it looks like gobblety-gook to them. And do not get me started on standardized testing! We not only take a standardized test in Kinder (supposed to be used to identify GT students) we are required to teach to that test. Our team was once told that we were not to teach writing until after testing was over-because that's not a subject that's tested. Do you know how long it takes Kinder kids to learn how to write? You can't just do it in a few months-not successfully anyway.
So if I have to sneak in art, music, science and social studies--I do just that! I am always ready to explain the benefit of movement activities and songs. I can put up objectives to justify housekeeping stations and sensory tables-it may be a stretch-but I can do it. We have to keep learning fun for these babies! That's how they learn at this age.