Over the past several years, there have been lots of changes to Kindergarten programs all over the country. There have been so many changes, I worry we are asking more of children at a younger age than we ever have before. Laurie Levy, founder and executive director of Cherry Preschool in Evanston, IL believes there is much to worry about as we deprive children of more and more of their “ability to socialize and play” (two big elements of Kindergarten just 40 years ago) in order to provide additional opportunities for even more “testing and drilling of facts regardless of their developmental needs.” Like Levy, I would love to give teachers more tools and resources to create spaces where meaningful learning can take place. I share Levy’s opinion that Kindergarten should be “a time for play and experimentation and the sorting out of self that leads to further learning.” But the question is how do we get back to that place? How do we create this kind of learning environment for all young learners? Levy shares some easy ways to create the right learning environment where young children can truly thrive:
- Ensure time to learn through play and time to play for fun: Provide opportunities for socialization; this is vital for young students as they transition from me to we.
- Grant permission to color outside of the lines: Encourage creativity and self-expression during the early years.
- Employ educators who have patience with developing skills: Likewise give teachers the time and space to work with young children; helping them as they develop and grow more independent
- Understand that not all kindergarteners are going to be developmentally ready to read, write or take tests: Meet students where they are and those light bulb moments will happen for every child
- Expect [and accept] occasional squirrelly behavior: Once again this is one of those developmental milestones that develops differently for every child.
- Insist that teachers are trained in child development: Like Levy, I believe “the best tool a kindergarten teacher can possess is the ability to look at this wide range of behavior, development, experience, skill, and maturity through the eyes of someone well-trained in child development.”
- Realize that the hardest parts of kindergarten have little to do with academic learning (parents too!): Transitions can be difficult for any elementary age student particularly a five-year old. Like Levy, I believe having the “correct faculty” in places inside and outside the homeroom is essential.
- Develop a kindergarten curriculum that meets the developmental and social/emotional needs of 5-year-old learners: Like Levy, I believe “the curriculum should still be based in early childhood best practices, not merely a push down of what was formerly first or second grade work. Teaching kids in large groups and expecting them to sit for long periods of time is unrealistic. Learning activity stations and play-based activities are definitely the way to go.”
- Welcome parents as part of a team working in the best interests of the child: Developing a home-school partnership is essential to the health and wellness of every child.
- Be sensitive to the child who is chronologically young or has special needs: Differentiated instruction is essential for every child.
For more details from Laurie Levy’s article in the Washington Post, check here. tlb