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Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

  • 1.  Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 06-28-2019 06:54 PM
    Some children just finished their Kindergarten year...Yeah.. but it seems more like the First grade I knew.  My daughter teaches Kindergarten and every day she shared what was required by the curriculum. Children found ways to play through the activities and my daughter had to sneak in some play... Wow!

    Over the last 20 years, there are more academic requirements that have crept into the K curriculum and less play.  Try to find a housekeeping corner in most K classes!

     While I'm not opposed to some academics through engaging learning activities and play...exploratory and free play are still so important to young children's development.

     Some researchers are concerned and others find that  5- 6 year old K children are just fine with the academics.
    RESEARCH:
    Bassok, D., Latham, S., & Rorem, A. (2016). Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? AERA Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858415616358

    Le, V.-N., Schaack, D., Neishi, K., Hernandez, M. W., & Blank, R. (2019). Advanced Content Coverage at Kindergarten: Are There Trade-Offs Between Academic Achievement and Social-Emotional Skills? American Educational Research Journal. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831218813913

    What do you think?

    ------------------------------
    Lynn Hartle
    Professor of Education, The Penn State University, Brandywine campus
    Media PA
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 06-29-2019 04:13 PM

    Thanks, Lynn, for bringing up this old problem of too much academics in Kindergarten.  What I don't understand is how and why it is still happening.  With all the research that supports children's need to play it simply does not make sense to me.  We learn from brain researchers, psychologists, and educators that children are wired to learn and that children learn best using their senses while they are at PLAY – self chosen play where they can play uninterrupted for long periods of time.  [And yes, children do have long attention spans when self-selecting and directing what they are doing.] We learn from nature research that children learn better when they have opportunity to be outdoors, exploring the world with friends, and taking risks to learn about their own inner selves and their ability to take risks and to be resilient.  We learn from researchers like myself that children need to be nurtured spiritually (through connections, moments spent in wonder and joy, and growing in responsibility and respect of others, become kind and empathetic) all of which happen when children play. Play helps children to develop their own sense of who they are in relationship to the rest of the world. This is the work of a young child. It lays a foundation for becoming a teenager. Academic learning oozes from play if we let it occur naturally.   In fact, learning happens alongside this important inner development and Kindergarten educators should not have to snick it in. Teaching only academics, in my mind, is a way of saying to the child, I do not trust that you can learn therefore, I must tell you what you need to know. I am saying, that children learn while they play because that is what they do! Of course, environment and caring adult companionship and friends are important too. But play is essential!

    There is another discussion happening on​ Hello about stress.  Naturally children are stressed. The world and the adults who live in it are not being particularly sound role models. On top of this, we are asking children to learn in a style that is not suited for their stage of development and they are robbed of playtime that might be a place not only for learning but also for emotionally release.

    Here is my question…Why are we, as early childhood educators not listened to by those who write curriculum and impose those curriculums onto educators. When do we stand up to children's right to play?

    And, how do we help a generation of educators understand what true play looks like…because that is a problem too….too much teacher guided activities and not enough freedom to really truly PLAY.



    ------------------------------
    Deborah Schein
    instructor and consultant
    Minneapolis MN
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 06-30-2019 03:27 PM
    Yes, kindergarten is the new first grade.

    I am quoting Ms. Schein: "And, how do we help a generation of educators understand what true play looks like…because that is a problem too….too much teacher guided activities and not enough freedom to really truly PLAY."

    It is not just educators who are the problem. It is policymakers and wealthy foundations such as the Gates Foundation with their emphasis on big data and standardization. Children are not widgets and teachers are not machines or machine operators - give me directions and all the children will learn.

    Curriculum writers respond to what they feel is in the wind - and that is an emphasis on academics with our youngest children. It is even happening in many prekindergartens that serve 3 and 4 year olds. I will use the universal "we" here and say that we, the professionals in early childhood education - teacher preparation folks, principals, and classroom teachers have allowed the focus of early childhood to be hijacked by those who have no idea about how children develop and learn, who have not spent a day in a classroom with young children. I sense fear in schools that I have visited, fear that if the children do not demonstrate what they know on the tests that they are given, their school will be in "trouble".

    My two children, who are in their 40s, did not attend a kindergarten that emphasized academics at the expense of the arts or play. Formal reading instruction began in first grade. Those who could read already were able to continue that in kindergarten. They and all their friends went on to universities and even were valedictorians. I attribute their success to the nurturance of their imaginations along with the provision of experiences and activities that built a foundation for them to learn to read and do math as well as other academics. It nurtured their curiosity and their sense of agency.

    Today, most kindergartens have relegated play to the edges of the curriculum for fear the children will not do well on standardized tests. At the same time, administrators have purchased packaged curriculum at great expense whose design and expectations are out of line with the development of our youngest children. Additionally, teachers are not provided time to think and are not prepared to defend appropriate practices for our youngest children. Teacher educators need to emphasize the reasoning behind the practices in the classroom, not just strategies to teach this skill or that. That is built up through professional development and experience. Those ideas can be found in the myriad education books published, including those published by NAEYC. We need to put professionalism back into the position of teacher, which begins by according teachers respect for what they do each day and for their expertise.


    ------------------------------
    Nora Krieger
    Associate Professor Emerita/ Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/ New Jersey Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 11:19 AM
    Thank you, Deb and Nora for your insights.  I think you, Nora, hit the nail on the head.  It is NOT just educators, but the policy makers.  I have been fighting this battle as an adjunct instructor at local colleges.  I can at least convince my students that it IS possible to learn and meet standards through play because I make them visit me at my private preschool, which uses a Reggio-Inspired Approach.  When college students leave my school they are inspired and encouraged and then.... deflated.  They come to me with questions of how do I afford the equipment, tools, materials.  Many discussions take place and sometimes they are still willing to believe that they can be developmentally appropriate.  And then.... they get hired.  This is the final straw.

    New teachers with appropriate teaching philosophies are hushed once hired.  They are told they are new and they will see that play doesn't really work.  They are given piles of workbooks to complete by their administration and punished for being off their schedule.  And they want to keep their jobs so they conform.

    I believe this is because of two things (probably more)...
    1.  MOST elementary school principles are not developmentally appropriate.  Furthermore, they often do not have any ECED knowledge.  They rarely know of NAEYC.
    2.  The curriculum decisions and text books and topic and just about everything else is chosen by the school board.

    I am a full time preschool teacher and part time college instructor, but my full time job is being a mother to 3 children (age 3, age 7, and age 10).  It is volunteering in their elementary school that I have learned the most.  Most of the teachers know they are not being developmentally appropriate.  Most teachers would like to go off topic.  Most teachers would like to tear down the stupid behavior chart on the board.  But... they are not in control of their classrooms.  The principle, board of education, and superintendent are.

    After struggling with this battle and watching my 2 older children grow to hate school and complain about not being allowed to get up and move I decided that I am going to try something new.  Politics.  Lord help me, but I am running for our city's board of education.  No one... NO ONE... currently on the board has any psychology or education background.  I believe that is the biggest problem.

    ------------------------------
    Jackie Saggio
    Co-Director
    Parma Preschool, Inc.
    Parma OH
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 01:39 PM
    First, I wish you the best of luck on your run for the school board. I was on our local school board many years ago. This is the place to start, especially because of your background and because you have spent time in your local school volunteering. You know what is going on.

    I think it is time to realize that a generic principal preparation program is not sufficient for becoming a principal of a school that young children attend. The same issue applies to principals who lead schools serving children of other ages. We need to add specializations or concentrations within the programs so that principals of ECE centers and schools with EC grades have well-prepared leaders who understand what should be happening in the classrooms. Running a school with a heavy hand when you do not understand the way young children learn and develop or the different appropriate approaches to teaching young children results in children learning to hate school and teachers who are well-prepared in early childhood education losing their professional ability to collaborate on good EC practices.

    Best of luck on your run for school board.

    ------------------------------
    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 04:46 PM
    Go Jackie. We need more politicians like you.





  • 7.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-01-2019 08:46 AM
    Deborah, may I use some of your comments in sharing information with parents who have expressed concern about their child's readiness for kindergarten?

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    Joanne Osterland
    Executive Director
    Christ Lutheran Preschool
    Dallas TX
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-02-2019 10:55 AM
    Joanne, yes of course you can quote me.  You might also be interested in viewing my webpage or reading books I have written on spiritual development.  For my doctoral research, I looked for a definition for spiritual development that could be used for all children, including those who spend time in public settings.  Therefore, no God or religion is mentioned.  What I found was language for wonder, awe, joy, connections, a developing sense of self, etc.  I have since been able to articulate that these qualities are present for children when adults in their lives are loving, respectful, offer stimulating environments that are rich in play and risk taking.  Take a look at Anji Play from China and nature education around the world.  Both are great examples of how natural play can build a child socially and within.  It does not need to cost lots of money to raise empathetic, smart, and fun loving human beings.  Side result of all of this is no narcissism, no bullies, no hate....maybe can lead to peace and healing our planet?! And yes, I am an optimist.
    Deb
    Growing Wonder

    ------------------------------
    Deborah Schein
    instructor for Champlain College, VT
    Consultant for Growing Wonder and Trainer for Minneapolis MN
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 06-30-2019 01:00 AM
    Yes, I totally agree to having Play as a key part of the children's day until they enter the formal age of education.
    We have tried to figure out a way as to how we can provide this opportunity for free play even while doing academics.
    We have divided children into groups who get their turns with the main teacher who takes care of academics while the co-teacher supervises the play(unfortunately chosen by the teachers). We are also making recordings of children's interactions and sending them out to parents. We encourage parents to talk to them about the activity they did at school and the inputs help parents to understand how the activity helped the child to learn and bring out the child's thinking.
    It is certainly difficult with the technology and so called essentials of 21st century skills expectations set in, to stick to what is right for our kids with the educators perspective and the parental expectations.
    We also send articles to parents relevant to this topic which focuses the need of things we do and their long term benefits as well as arrange workshops for parents with topics addressing this need.
    We should keep strong and keep doing what we do and we will get what we want is what I believe!

    ------------------------------
    [Maya] [Agharkar]
    [Principal]
    [GIIS-GMP]
    [Pune] [Maharashtra][India]
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 10:03 AM
    Here is the missing piece....the children are actually learning academics while they play, especially if an adult is near by to interject a word or a letter or a number when needed.  Real learning, as sI see it, comes from internal pursuit not teacher chosen guided material.  Even more comes from play...children learn about themselves.
    deb

    ------------------------------
    Deborah Schein
    instructor and consultant
    Minneapolis MN
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-01-2019 09:48 PM
    I wholeheartedly agree with Deborah and Nora about the value of and neccessity for play in early childhood education. I had the privilege of teaching at and sending my children to a school where the pace of childhood was honored. Learning was hands on and experiential. Classrooms had large block areas through second grade and block play was integrated into many other curricular areas. Children had long outdoor recess.  Use of the imagination and open ended learning was the norm. Reading was not formally taught until first grade. This school sent children off after 8th grade to become self directed self assured and curious learners.
    I have since moved and find myself in a school district where the Kindergarteners are treated like first graders- I teach pre-K, but have visited the Kindergarten classrooms. Barely any free play time let alone open ended materials exist for these poor 5 and 6 year olds. My soul felt so sad to watch what was happening in these classrooms.
    I think part of the challenge is that early childhood educators must be better trained in how to facilitate play that helps children deepen their thinking and further their creativity, critical thinking skills, and curiosity about the world. Too often, open ended play in classrooms is shallow, repetitive, and does not help to expand the children's thinking or further their social and emotional development. The way we dialogue with children, the materials we choose to put out, and the types of challenges we provide are critical to deep learning.  Where I teach, I find that teachers think they are not teaching if they do not engage in academically oriented teacher directed activities and cycle kids through an activity even without thought to whether a child is deeply engaged in another part of the classroom, or whether the activity is actually interesting to children. We must train teachers in the art and science of how to set up, facilitate, and deepen children's play.

    ------------------------------
    Hilary Laing
    Teacher
    Orono Discovery Center
    Orono MN
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 09:15 AM
    I agree that the quality of children's "free" play seems to have diminished over the 25 years I have been teaching kindergarten. Play is frequently repetitive, shallow and media based. I am sure that this is due to a combination of many factors including the more closed-ended quality of many popular toys, the diminishing of unstructured playtime especially outdoors and of course, the increase in screen time. Teachers today can certainly benefit from increased training as to how to help children maximize their play without hijacking it.

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    Sharon Schwartz
    NY
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  • 13.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 09:37 AM
      |   view attached

    Here is an excellent current report (2019) that gives great support for PLAY in KINDERGARTEN called, Taking Back Kindergarten.  On the last page my favorite "take away" is that as early childhood educators, we should not be "following" but we should be "leading".  We should not be trying to emulate a public school model for older children which results in push down academics - we should be leading a developmentally appropriate child centered approach to education.  Play pioneers understand that play is thinking, play is research, play is rigor! We know that play offers an amazing model for life long learning and education, birth - college and beyond

    Please share this report!

    Carol



    ------------------------------
    Carol Murray
    Bard Nursery School
    Red Hook NY
    ------------------------------

    Attachment(s)

    pdf
    Taking-Back-Kindergarten.pdf   2.97MB 1 version


  • 14.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 02:20 PM
    Dear Carol, thank you so much for this article.  I must admit that I have not read the entire article but I did do a search on the type of play being referenced in the article.  As far as I could see, the only references were for guided play. This is where the adult chooses what is played with, when, and for how long.   I know that there is value in guided play but it is not the only type of play young children should be invited to engage in.  I would like to ask psychologists and researchers who produced the article to describe for me how a child  can develop a sense of self when the world they live in is always guided.  I want to suggest that very young children (and children of all ages, including ourselves) need time to engage in play that is self chosen, open-ended, and to engage in it for long periods of time.  I just read an article from NAAEE that shared that it is most important for children to spend long periods of time in nature as opposed to short spurts.  I am wondering if the same is true for authentic play that is self selected, done outdoors with others, and challenges and stimulates all developmental domains.
    Deb

    ------------------------------
    Deborah Schein
    instructor and consultant
    Minneapolis MN
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-04-2019 11:09 AM
    Yes. Thanks for the attachment. And it comes from folks who are in the K-12 world among other contributors.

    Nora

    ------------------------------
    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 02:21 PM

    What are you thoughts on the Play Spectrum by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek?

    "The science tells us that there is incredible power in playful learning, an approach that brings together the action and fun of play with key elements of skills building and learning."

    Play Spectrum



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    Sally Williams
    Director/Education Specialist
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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  • 17.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 06:35 PM
    The "Playful Learning Spectrum" is a good model for playful learning but I am not sure that child-initiated free play/free exploration has no educational goal. The teacher manages the environment so that the choices that children have are controlled by the way the environment is planned/structured. In Reggio Emilia, the teacher might put something out, a provocation, to see whether children are interested in the item(s) and whether they ask questions as they explore the new item(s). So, even though engagement in free play may be up to the child, the teacher has put out something to provoke that interest, for which the teacher may have a learning goal.

    ------------------------------
    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-03-2019 07:32 PM

    Oh no! I do have to comment on the play spectrum. I need to challenge this notion that free play does not hold explicit goals. 

    When children engage in free play - directed by a child and initiated by a child there are MANY explicit goals.  The goals include choice making, invention, scientific thinking, negotiation, SYMBOLIC THINKING!  Pretend and imagination is the FOUNDATION of symbolic thought.  This is the kind of experience children need to form mental images, to link ideas into sequences, and to understand that the locus of control and true motivation to learn comes from within.  These are the explicit goals I hold for children when they engage in free play in my program.

    To say there are no explicit goals during free play shows a very limited understanding of the child's brain at work during free play.

    I do understand that this spectrum is trying to make a point about the importance of intentional teaching through play but I fear it is miss-leading.

    I agree with Nora - the teacher's role can be quite limited during free play although she may have a great deal of intention with preparing the environment and creating invitations and provocations.

    I think to argue this "spectrum" I would ask for more clarity about what is meant by "educational outcomes" and how those are being measured and I would want to enter into a discussion about the difference between academic skills and intellectual growth.




    ------------------------------
    Carol Murray
    Bard Nursery School
    Red Hook NY
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-05-2019 12:46 PM
    As always, Carol, you make important points and ask compelling questions.  I wonder if you've written any articles or contributed to any publications as I think teachers could learn a lot from your articulate and clear explanations.

    ------------------------------
    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
    she/her
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-05-2019 01:11 PM
      |   view attached

    Aw -Thank you Aren!
    I really appreciate everything everyone says on this forum. I am actually doing quite a bit of writing and so when I am on my computer, I find HELLO to be both a good break as well as a motivating and inspiring resource. People give so many great ideas and share important questions here. Thank you everyone for participating in a supportive network where we can think together.

    On the topic of play, I am thinking an awful lot about how we can shape society's view of children playing - so that we see play - real child initiated, child driven play as deep thinking and learning.  One workshop I am teaching now is about the connection between play and literacy.  Play is story telling in action.  Teachers can really grow an emergent curriculum curriculum by viewing themselves as "story catchers" as they observe play themes unfold in their classrooms.

    I am attaching my favorite article on that topic. I am developing a view of myself as a story catcher and trying to capture children's stories and write them down or just tell them to parents - as a way to build an appreciation for the worlds children invent and the deep thinking they do while the play.  This is a gigantic educational outcome (story telling, authorship, linking of ideas, complex problem solving, language, vocabulary, research, discovery, shared inquiry) that is often over looked.

    More and more children spend their days- long days- in our early education and care centers. We are the places that must preserve play - real deep child initiated play. If we are not protecting play and making space for play in the lives of children or if we are letting play be replaced by teacher directed goals with closed ended educational outcomes, we are denying children the right to play.

    Carol



    ------------------------------
    Carol Murray
    Bard Nursery School
    Red Hook NY
    ------------------------------

    Attachment(s)

    pdf
    story catching (1).pdf   32K 1 version


  • 21.  RE: Kindergarten play is being replaced by Academics, mixed findings

    Posted 07-05-2019 03:09 PM
    When children are engaged in free play or naturalistic play (where play is self-initiated and takes place for long periods of time), the parent or educator have an important role - to stay close, offer up language when asked, support the child by their quiet presence, offer addition tools for play when needed, but otherwise stand back and observe.  From such observation an adult can assess children's knowledge, determine what to add or change in the environment, notice children's questions which can be quite profound, and take pleasure in sharing joy and wonder with the child.  So much can take place while a child engages in such open-ended play.  It is a small window into the child and a privilege to observe!

    ------------------------------
    Deborah Schein
    instructor and consultant
    Minneapolis MN
    ------------------------------