I came across this article the other day: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/08/sweat-shop-kindergarten-its-maddening/
Although I think that comparison is not exactly apt (kids working in sweatshops is a real problem in the world today)-I do understand what the author is talking about. Even Kindergarten has become much more academic. Administrators often don't understand Early Childhood and how it is developmentally appropriate for children to learn. I actually once got marked down in evaluation observation because in the middle of my whole group lesson I put on a Dr. Jean video (one that taught vocabulary I might add). The comment was that the kids could "get their wiggles out" at recess-I should have kept the tone more serious. Anyone who has ever taught young children knows-they can't wait until recess and I'm sorry but if I have them sitting on the carpet for more than 15 minutes at a time-we get up and move in between-go ahead and deduct for that.
So we know kids learn best through play and discovery. How can we sneak that in to our daily routine? And I say "sneak" because that's what it has come to for many of us. Unfortunately the standards get more and more stringent every year. In our district the promotion standard for 1st Grade includes being able to read 75 of the high frequency words-that is now expected to be accomplished by the end of Kinder. That data is the focus of many a PLC meeting-how many words are they reading, why aren't they reading more? We are teaching time and money-very abstract math concepts. Even with writing, our report cards (even the 1st 9 weeks) ask if they are "using correct punctuation and capitalization in their paragraphs" *cue hysterical laughter.* Most kids are still making that letter/sound connection-we're lucky if we can get a sentence out of them!
How can you make sure the kids are still learning in a developmentally appropriate way? There are ways.....
Housekeeping Stations-my admins tried to get rid of ours when we moved to new building-I pulled it out of the trash pile! I can connect it to objectives for print awareness and math:
matching words to foods
Tell me he's not learning something!
Sam's sells those order pads in bulk-I buy them with my school supplies every year. Taking orders
writing words, adding up prices.....
Art-we learn about famous artists (historical figures) and then we write about what we create:
Workstations: I know many people are moving toward the Daily 5-which I don't have a problem with for older kids, but I think the younger ones need to move around and discuss more. So we have workstations:
Practicing beginning sounds
Practicing their letters and sounds-they can spell words if they are advanced.
Games-someone walks in and asks what they are learning-critical thinking is what I hope they will answer!
Snacks-they are following directions (sometimes I even write them out on index cards as they move table to table reading what they should do) and in some cases even practicing measurement! :
Creativity at work!
Songd-we sing every day! I put up some little songs that go along with our weekly theme and we read/sing them together. Went a training with fluency guru Tim Rasinski who showed research that I can quote of how this helps fluency instruction.
Movement-my district unlocked YouTube to us this past year! Yeah! Some of our favorites-that are still working on learning objectives:
So even if the powers-that-be want the focus to simply be about test-prep and seatwork-we can still be little rebels and sneak in ways to still make learning fun! I am always ready with an objective standard to justify it, if need be and make sure the kids know that as well.