Just one more day off and it's back to school. It's been a quiet February vacation for me and it's just what I needed.
The quiet gave me some time to re-think kindergarten. At least how we've been doing kindergarten.
Kindergarten has become very academic. Sure, we can blame No Child Left Behind, and the need to keep pace with children from other countries who most certainly will all become nuclear- physicist-brain-surgeon-astronauts.
But, like it or not, it's what kindergarten has become," the new first grade". I'm all for being progressive, but there are children in kindergarten who still need to learn to write their names, cut, play with Play-doh, glue, hold a pencil the right way, sit in a circle, pack up a back pack and walk in a straight line. Kindergarten has become developmentally inappropriate.
Yes,we still have Play-doh and finger paint, we have blocks and puzzles, we have a housekeeping areas, Lego, and sand tables, but these areas and materials are being used less and less all the time, it's not because we as teachers don't like to deal with the mess. We want our kids to make messes, messes help kids learn.
We are given packaged reading and math programs, some good, some not so good. Do kids learn this way? Yes, of course they do, but there is something lacking. Time. Time to play. Free play with minimal adult interaction helps children learn about each other and the world around them. Play helps children learn to share, socialize, solve problems, and negotiate.
Because we are given these packaged programs we are of course expected to use them. It is important to teach children to read and write, it's important to teach them number sense, how to add and subtract, measure, collect data, make patterns, and count by 5's and 10's.
This will be our 5th year using our current reading program, and frankly, I'm becoming bored with it. The same stories year after year, the same writing prompts, the same activities, the same themes. The fact is, if I'm bored with it, how are the kids feeling? I'm sure my practice is reflective of how I feel, you can't hide that from five and six year-olds, they are a very perceptive bunch!
So I've spent the past week planning. Planning to make kindergarten fun and interesting again. Fun for me, and in turn more fun for the kids. To make it more developmentally appropriate again because even the brightest of them need to learn those all important social skills.
I know, isn't this something I should have been doing all along? Yes, I've always differentiated my instruction based on the needs of my students, their academic needs. That's the difference. It's a delicate balance, planning activities that address both their academic needs with their social needs and the need to just have a good time, and to know that that's okay!
It has to be okay because, It's just Good Practice.